LIFE STORIES: The Life the new musical from David Newman, Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman led the Broadway pack in Tony nominations this season, garnering 12, including nods for Best Score and Best Orchestrations. The cast album (Sony Classical) features some of the best voices in the business singing Coleman's tunes, which run the gamut from jazz and blues to standard Broadway fare. Lillias White, who won this year's Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, gets to show off her incredible vocal range in the show-stopping "The Oldest Profession," and she tugs at your heartstrings in the touching duet, "My Friend," with co-star Pamela Isaacs. Other standouts include the female chorus in their rousing anthem "My Body" as well as the strong-lunged Sam Harris and company in "Use What You Got."
PLAYING ON Although Play On! recently departed The Great White Way, Varese Sarabande has just issued the original cast recording, which boasts the music of Duke Ellington with orchestrations by the legendary Luther Henderson. Play On! was loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night relocated to Harlem in the 1940's and starred Tonya Pinkins and Andre DeShields, who were both nominated for 1997 Tonys. These two performers are joined on the recording by the equally talented Cheryl Freeman and the rest of the Broadway cast, and they deliver great takes on some of Ellington's most popular songs ("Take the 'A' Train," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Mood Indigo"). Creator Sheldon Epps recently said, "It was our intention to pay homage to the performance styles of the great black performers of the 1930's and 40's." And pay homage they have.
SOUND BYTES The recent Off-Broadway hit No Way To Treat a Lady, with a book and score by Douglas J. Cohen, has been preserved by Varese Sarabande. Adam Grupper, Alix Korey, Marguerite MacIntyre and Paul Schoeffler comprise the multi-talented cast that gets to interpret Cohen's captivating and often humorous score. Highlights include the comical "So Much in Common" and MacIntyre on the ballad "One of the Beautiful People." . . . From Sony Classical comes the most complete version of Kurt Weill's Lady in the Dark ever released. Digitally remastered from its original source, the recording features the original 1963 studio cast recording (Rise Stevens, Adolph Green, John Reardon and Lehman Engel) as well as tracks from Danny Kaye, who starred in the 1941 Broadway production. Spotlight: Colm Wilkinson:
Colm Wilkinson took Broadway by storm in 1987 when he starred as Jean Valjean in the megahit Les Miserables, repeating his acclaimed London performance. Since that time he has appeared in the Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera and in the tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night. Now, RCA Victor is releasing an album of show tunes sung by Wilkinson that had previously only been available overseas. Backed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Wilkinson lends his rich, powerful tenor to a host of theatre tunes, delivering soaring versions of "Pity the Child" from Chess, The Phantom of the Opera's "Music of the Night" and, of course, "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables. Other shows highlighted on Stage Heroes include Man of La Mancha, South Pacific and West Side Story.