PS Classics, the independent label devoted to composers, American pop standards and the heritage of musical theatre, will release the 11-track disc March 4, 2003. The recording is produced by Jeffrey Lesser and has musical direction and arrangements by Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Brown.
The album, "Lauren Kennedy Sings Jason Robert Brown," will feature songs from Parade, The Last 5 Years and Songs for a New World, plus songs not attached to musicals, and one new song written for Kennedy. Brown sings with Kennedy on "I'd Give It All for You."
The songlist includes "And I Will Follow," "Pretty Music," "Letting You Go," "I Can Do Better Than That," "Christmas Lullaby," "I'd Give It All For You," "If I Told You Now," "Flying Home," "Goodbye Until Tomorrow," "When You Come Home To Me," plus one more. "And I Will Follow," "Letting You Go" and "If I Told You Now" are all orphan songs, not necessarily attached to shows.
Kennedy steps into the Broadway company of Les Misérables Nov. 4, playing Fantine. She appeared in London as Nellie Forbush the Royal National Theatre's South Pacific (and is heard on the cast album) and is remembered for standing by for Emily Skinner in the Broadway musical, Side Show. She met Brown when she auditioned for The Last 5 Years, and was cast as the wife character in the world premiere Chicago-area staging of two-handed musical about a dissolving marriage.
As early as the 2001 Skokie, IL, run of the show she and Brown had talked about her singing an album of his work.
"I think his music so interesting, the way he draws from folk and pop influences as well as theatre," she told Playbill On-Line. "I've always wanted to do an album of theatre music, but I always wanted to do a contemporary pop album as well."
The disc was recorded over a number of months and includes simple piano-vocal presentation, as well as fuller and richer instrumentation, she said.
"For it being one composer, it really runs the gamut of styles," Kennedy said, adding that they didn't want to repeat songs exactly as they had been previously heard on cast albums. Some lyric tweaks have also been made along the way, particularly to "Pretty Music," from Parade.
Kennedy said she and Brown hope to play a concert of the show that will coincide with the disc's release in 2003.
Tommy Krasker, the founder and executive producer of PS Classics, told Playbill On-Line: "Lauren presented me with a working version of the CD over the summer. Needless to say, I enjoyed the performances, the songs, and the sound — but what most impressed me was the sense of collaboration between Lauren and Jason, and the fact that it had a strong point of view. Jason knew Lauren's voice and talents so well, and clearly admired them so much, that he had tailored lyrics and rethought music to best suit her — and that collaboration infused it all with a kind of joy."
Discs from PS Classics so far include "Philip Chaffin: Where Do I Go From You?," a big-band flavored vocal album of film and pop music from the mid-20th century; "Windflowers: The Songs of Jerome Moross"; a studio cast recording of Vincent Youmans' obscure 1932 musical, Through the Years, with Brent Barrett and Heidi Grant Murphy; Jessica Molaskey's lauded "Pentimento," songs from the '20s and '30s; Ricky Ian Gordon's song cycle, "Only Heaven," which musicalizes works by Langston Hughes; Darius de Haas' "Day Dream (Variations on Strayhorn)," songs of Billy Strayhorn; and Christine Andreas' tribute to Broadway divas, "Here's to the Ladies." Still in the future for the label are world premiere recordings of Rodgers and Hart's Spring is Here and Michael John LaChiusa's First Lady Suite. For PS Classics information, visit PSClassics.com
— By Kenneth Jones