Lucie Jones had been playing ‘Waitress’ on the West End when she took a small break when Sara Bareilles took over the role temporarily. But if course, the pandemic happened, and now we don’t know if Jones will get back to her role. During that time, Jones staged a concert at The Adelphi (where ‘Waitress’ was) and this disc is a remembrance of that night.
Jones is a belter, so you can just imagine what that concert must feel. The recording captures her stunning voice, and the wonderful energy of her audience. There is no shortness in belter character songs: ‘Don’t Rain. On My Parade,’ ‘Into The Unknown,’ you know the type. She sings these effortlessly, reaching for the highest notes much to the delight of the crowd. I was listening to it on my morning walk and it’s certainly an exhilarating listen.
But I wish there was more meat. We have heard all these songs before, sung this way before. Even the ‘unconventional’ picks are not original. Her ‘Bring Him Home’ has been done better by Kris Chenoweth and ‘A Piece Of Sky’ was predictable, And even when has to be ‘quiet,’ like in ‘Moon Rover,’ it just doesn’t work. But she can definitely sing, so I hope it becomes a vessel for something more original soon.
Parry Ray is a London based everything – she is a singer first and foremost, a blogger, an influencer – and she even likes perfumes as I do, so I feel an instant connection to her. And she sings show tunes, which make me love her even more. And based on her new album, ‘Out Of The Shadows,’ it looks like she can sing. I saw her song selection and gasped – wow she has chosen some of my favorites: ‘All That Jazz,’ ‘You Will Be Found,’ and she even does ‘Losing My Mind,’ and let’s see how she does that.
And while her rendition is not very Sally-like, I like it. Ray has a full-bodied voice that is clear, and she sings in a very direct manner. It’s very cabaret, although her arrangements have a bit of a jazz setting. She definitely evokes more mood than rhythm, though. She knows how to express these songs concisely – she doesn’t give as manic interpretation in ‘Losing My Min d,’ but more ‘losing my mind over love for you’ stand. I dig it. Her songs skew more ballad, and I don’t have a problem with that, though listening to the album non-stop could be somewhat of a downer. But I think she’s swell, and this is a much listenable album. I bet she would be great live.
Covid 19 has instilled some artistic inspiration from some artists, and I understand why – the whole pandemic instills emotion, and I imagine that could be a powerful way to express artistry. Melissa Errico has released a two song EP, titled ‘Two Spring Songs For Summer,’ and she picks two songs that give some meaning to the times we live in. First she sings Alec Wilder’s ‘Blackberry Winter’ and it speaks to how the pandemic has surpised us, halting our lives. On the second song, ‘You Must Believe In Spring,’ the Bergmans add additional lyrics to update for our times now, but the message of hope is still there, conveyed, that if we just believe, everything will be alright. Errico sings with tenderness and hope in both, and it soothes.
Kate Rockwell is a big Broadway belter. She knows how to sell a song theater style, and this album came out in 2018 but I am aghast at myself for just discovering it. Titled ‘Back To My Roots’ the album is fantastic, and is the type of album I used to listen to incessantly, It’s a Show Girl album made especially for Show Queen. Its’ an album full of character songs, and she gives her all to sell these songs, shouting them to the rafters so even the guy at the last row gets it! She selects songs from what she calls ‘the second golden age of theater’ which she categorizes as the era from the late 70s to the late 80s. But nonetheless, the choices are all inspired, from somewhat obscure (‘Hey There Good Times’ from ‘I Love My Wife) to the uber populars (A Schonberg/Lloyd Webeer Medley that cull songs from Les Miz and Cats) Some of them, one just needs to sing perfectly to pack a punch, like ‘I’m Breaking Down’ from Falsettos and ‘Bring On The Men’ from ‘Jekyl and Hyde.” And of course any album that has ‘Song On The Sand’ gets my attention, but it isn’t the best track – she upped the tempo and it felt more like a sprint in the sand, not a leisurely walk. And there’s she’s nto subtle enough to sing Sondheim, as she breezes through ‘Now You Know/I Know Things Now.’ And the album, as a whole, seems frenetic, though it ends on a slower note, an acoustic ‘Times Like This,’ from Lucky Stoff (a hidden track from CD versions, I find out) There are people who will not like this album (they will call her a screamer) but for me it is a great frenetic listen.
I discovered Emma Lindars’ album ‘As We Grow Older’ last Holiday season because I was looking for versions of Mariah Carey’s ‘Miss You Most At Christmas,’ and she has one in this album. I researched her and found out she is a UK-based theater performer. I liked her version of the Holiday song just fine, but asked myself – is there a reason for the cover version to exist? While there is no doubt that she can sing, she follows all of Carey’s inflections and melisma. In this album, she does mostly the same to most of the songs – do we really need karaoke-ready versions of ‘Chandelier,’ or ‘Rolling In The Deep,’ for example. I perfked up a little bit that she chose to sing ‘Aint It Good’ from ‘Children of Eden,’ and I can tell she can do subtle with her version of ‘With Every Breath I Take’ from City of Angels. But she really doesn’t do much with her versions besides sing them. She sings them well, but…there has to be more, I think.
Jazz singing and theater vocals can sometimes be on opposite sides of the spectrum. But sometimes, they do merge together. Katie Britill can seemingly do both, and very well. She has a version of ‘Baby Dream Yuor Dream’ from Sweet Charity that made it to my “Ultimate Favorites” playlist and it was nice to see her release a new EP for the New Year. This new release is titled ‘Something’s Coming,’ and I am glad it has come. The one thing that first attracted me to the recording is the song selection – it’s very theater-centric! It starts with the title tune, and it has ‘I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning’ from Annie Get Your Gun. She does slightly swinging versions of both – you can sense her grasp of good rhythm. But, you can also tell that she has great flair for interpreting the lyrics. She brings her stage roots here, and you can tell she totally understands what she is singing about from a character’s point of view. I think this recording is so worth it even for just one track: her version of ‘No One is Alone’ from Into The Woods. I always pay attention when someone is singing Sondheim because they either give it justice or fudge it. She nails this song, essaying its meaning without diluting it. She would be a great Baker’ Wife. I think this particular track will be going on my Ultimate Favorite playlist. I read in her website that she performs in London – maybe one of these days I am able to see her live.
Stephen Sondheim is known for his theater songs’ wit and intelligent internal rhymes but sometimes people forget that he writes some of the most tender and bittersweet melodies. Melissa Errico mostly focuses on those songs on her appropriately titled album ‘Sondheim Sublime.’ I have always had a fondness for Errico as a theater actress and singer, and I do think she has a very distinct voice – you hear her sing a note and you recognize is at hers immediately. She sings these songs with appropriate longing and needing and wanting that these songs deserve. Just look at the array of songs: ‘Not A Day Goes By,’ which is paired with ‘Marry Me A Little.’ And I have always had a fondness for ‘No More’ from Into the Woods, and she sings that perfectly here. I can’t think of any track here that isn’t well done, although I do have to admit that perhaps it is a little on the ‘too tender’ side if seen as a whole. But this is perfect for a playlist. This should blend well perfectly with my ‘theater covers’ one and randomly played will bring out golden moments.
There’s a sub-genre of musical theater related recordings that I particularly love – albums by female theater artists. I think Spotify knows that as well (based on my listening habits) because they recently recommended an album” ‘A Piece of Lisa,’ by someone named Lisa Stokke. ( I learn later that album is from 2006) I have no idea who she is, so I googled her. Ahh – she is Norweigan singer/actress, and was in the original London Cast of Mamma Mia. She also sang the official Norwegian version of ‘Let It Go,’ so I know she can definitely sing. And she has a great theater repertoire: ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Someone Like You,’ ‘The Sound of Music,’ among others. She sings them capably well, though at times, I wish she would out her own stamp in them. I still think it’s kind of weird for an adult to sing both ‘Maybe/Tomorrow’ from Annie, but hey, whatever crumbles your cookie. And I am kinda glad she sings ‘Macavity’ here because not a lot of people do (but should she?) All in all, I can listen to this with no guilt.
It’s Sutton’s World, we are just living in it. Sutton Foster is a different kind of triple threat – she is great in ‘Younger,’ and of course has won multiple Tonys, and now has released her new album, ‘Take Me To The World.’ And as I listen to her new album, I realize more and more, and it is very evident in this album that she falls more under ‘actress who sings.’ In each of these tracks, we get a glimpse of a character, and she tells the story of the songs via these characters. My favorite track is a slowed-down emotive ‘C’est Magnifique,’ which turns that song upside down. This isn’t a joyous can can interpretation of the song. Here’s what I get – we see a contemplative woman singing by Montmarte about love lost. It is quite dramatic, and never feels heavy handed. The rest of the songs have the same feel, with her medlettes (a fun ‘Everybody Says Don’t/’Say Yes’) and theatrified pop songs (Paul Simon’s’ Old Friends/Bookends’) She has great takes on showtunes old and new: a simmering ‘Stars And The Moon,’ and joyous ‘If I Were A Bell,’ and she does a great balance on classics old and new. This is a great album, one that grows more with each listen, and I hope to play it often.
Another Sinatra tribute, ho-hum. When I first played Laura Dickinson’s album ‘One For My Baby: To Frank Sinatra With Love,’ I thought to myself, this is more a theater voice. For anything Sinatra, my test-drive song for a singer is ‘All The Way,’ and when I heard her version, my first thought was there isn’t a lot of subtlety here (and that’s not an insult) She infused a lot of drama in her rendition, and with her soaring voice reminiscent of Linda Eder’s, I felt the song more of an aria. And that’s good. I can now calibrate how I am going to appreciate her music.
Looking at her bio, it looks like she is a Southern California native with theater credits, so everything makes sense – she has a sunnier disposition in dealing with the songs, and yes, there’s the drama. Listen to ‘One For My Baby’ and you feel like it’s a one-act drama. Her ‘Indian Summer’ full of down-on-my-knees pleading. Some of the arrangements kind of got on my nerves – trying too hard to be different – and I could see how I would tire of too much interpretation in some of her readings. But all in all, I like the album – it’s beautifully aced, and you can truly sense her love of the material (She grew up listening to his records) Her disc can easily be lost in the shuffle but if it stops, pay attention.