Composer Steve Schachlin turned each of his experiences living with AIDS and its side effects into song: a hospital stay in 1995 became "Connected," as in connected to IV's and needles. Schachlin then took the stack of songs and with the help of his life partner and book writer Jim Brochu, created a life-affirming musical. The result was the musical The Last Session, which recently played Off-Broadway's 47th Street Theatre to critical and audience acclaim. A recording of the show's vibrant, rock-edged score is now available from EMG Productions and includes powerful singing by the show's talented five-person cast. Standouts include Bob Stillman's gospel-tinged vocals on "Save Me a Seat" and "At Least I Know," Stephen Bienskie's tour-de-force performance of "Friendly Fire," Amy Coleman's throaty delivery of "Somebody's Friend" and the entire cast on Session's anthem, "When You Care."
One of the season's biggest hits is the musical adaptation of E. L. Doctorow's classic novel, Ragtime. With a book by Terrence McNally and a score from the Once on This Island duo, Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), the lavish production recently christened the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. While the musical's many fans await the upcoming two-CD recording of the entire score (on RCA Victor), those who are Ragtime hungry can satisfy themselves with Ragtime: Themes from the Hit Musical, a new release from Varèse Sarabande. Produced by Bruce Kimmel, the CD features musical arrangements by Brad Ellis played by The Brad Ellis Little Big Band. Flaherty's score, which runs the gamut from beautiful ballads to ragtime delights, stands up exceptionally well without lyrics, and it's a perfect recording for either cocktail time or solo listening.
The cast recording of the London production of Stephen Sondheim's Passion is available on First Night Records and features a thrilling, intense performance by British stage star Maria Friedman as well as terrific vocals from Michael Ball. . . Tony winner Diahann Carroll's latest solo album, The Time of My Life, is available on Sterling Records.
West End stage actor John (Sunset Boulevard) Barrowman (at left) recently starred at London's Donmar Warehouse in the premiere of a new rock musical, The Fix. Set against the backdrop of political ambition and political scandal, The Fix featured book and lyrics by John Dempsey, music by Dana P. Rowe and direction by Sam Mendes. The cast recording, which has just been released in the U.S. on the Relativity Records label, boasts dynamic singing by Barrowman, who gets to show off the many sides of his voice, as well as nice work from Kathryn Evans, a former Evita and co-star of London's Anything Goes and Mack and Mabel. One of the highlights of the recording is the opening number, "One Two Three," which is reminiscent of the score from The Who's Tommy. Other notable tracks include Barrowman's political anthem, "I See the Future," and Evans's second-act solo, "Spin."
-- By Andrew Gans