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Now Playing: Compilations; 'Redemption Songs'; 'Because'

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The release last week of Divas – a compilation of songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes sung by the likes of stage greats Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone and Elaine Paige and pop icons such as Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand – leads me to create a compilation review, offering miscellaneous thoughts on a number of releases from the past weeks and months.

I'll begin with another compilation disc – Falling in Love is Wonderful, Broadway's Greatest Love Duets.  On one hand, discs like these in the days of digital music, iTunes and iPods seem a little redundant.  For instance, if I wanted to create a 'hits' playlist of duets, it's a simple drag-and-drop away.  At the same time, who has time for this?  Also, if I just want to throw a disc into the player and have a lovely set of background tunes while I'm working, well, the playlist has to be burned – unless I've got my digitized music hooked up to the stereo system.

As you can tell, I'm leading to the chief asset of a disc like "Falling in Love," it's a great timesaver.  This disc brings a pretty terrific array of music – from Broadway's Golden Age to the 1990s – with tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein ("If I Loved You" from the OCR of Carousel), Frank Loesser ("I've Never Been in Love Before" from the recording of the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls),
Jerry Herman ("It Only Takes a Moment" from the OCR of Hello, Dolly!) sitting alongside a couple of songs by Jason Robert Brown ("All the Wasted Time" from Parade) and William Finn ("Sailing" from A New Brain).

Mind you, there's nothing new here, but for some, there will be tracks of revivals that might not have made it onto the CD shelf – for instance I don't own the 1979 Broadway cast recording of Oklahoma! so hearing
Christine Andreas and Laurence Guittard singing "People Will Say We're in Love" was a treat for me. 

The same can be said of the Webber disc, where Shirley Bassey's "All I Ask of You" and Dina Carroll's "The Perfect Year" were new discoveries to be enjoyed alongside the timeless performances of Buckley, LuPone and
Glenn Close as Grizabella, Eva, and Norma, respectively.  If there's one quibble with the Webber disc, I would have truly enjoyed them placing the songs by three very different Evas next to one another, but even so, as an overview of interpretations of this ubiquitous composer's work, Divas satisfies.

Shifting gears completely, let me talk a little bit about
Daphne Rubin Vega's Redemption Songs.  This rock-infused disc from original Rent-er and soon to be Broadway's Fantine in Les Miserables grandly demonstrates Vega's superlative emotional prowess when delivering a song.

Listeners will find that the disc is a terrific mix of the singer's own songs and works from the likes of Bob Marley Silvio Rodriguez and even
Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, whose "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie closes the 10 track disc on a lovely, bittersweet note.

While this track may be a favorite, simply because of my own familiarity with the song, I find myself gravitating to two of the other tracks in particular, the strangely haunting "Citizens of the World" which opens the disc and Vega's gently defiant performance of Marley's "Redemption SONG."  Of course, I would be remiss if I left out her soulful interpretation of Rodriguez "En Estos Dias" and a particularly moving original composition (written by Vega with Morris, Morris & Shane).

Finally, let me briefly mention that PS Classics has released the original cast recording of Joshua Saltzman and
Ryan Cunningham's I Love You Because," which ran off-Broadway last season.  While I enjoyed this comic musical romance greatly when I saw it last year, I must say that the cast recording has made me even more appreciative of Salzman's catchy pop tunes and Cunningham's clever lyrics (where rhyming often has some grand surprises).

For those who did not experience the show off-Broadway, "
I Love You" focuses on an unlikely romance between Austin, a greeting card writer who's just found his girlfriend in bed with another guy, and Marcy, a quirky photographer, who is the polar opposite.  Even as these two insist that they are not falling in love, their best friends, Jeff and Diana, are embarking on a friendship (with benefits) that is also turning into love.  It's a terrific story of what love and dating can be like these days.

Performances that were charming in the theater seem to be only more so on this new disc, particularly
Farah Alvin, who delights and touches as Marcy.  I also find that on the PS Classics recording that David A. Austin's naughtiness as Jeff is even more appealing than it was in performance.

The disc is accompanied by a classy, full-color booklet with plenty of photos, a synopsis and notes from arts writer
David Hurst.  I think that this recording will not only be a great way for those of us who say 'I Love You' to relive its musical jauntiness, but also serve to extend its life.  I imagine that regional theaters and community theater groups will find that there are many reasons to bring I Love You Because to their stages. 


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From This Author Andy Propst

Andy Propst is founder of AmericanTheaterWeb.com (ATW), a nationally recognized theatrical news and production database. In addition to his writing for and editing of ATW, (read more...)