FOR THE RECORD -- November 1997
PRESENTING KAREN AKERS
Possessed of arguably the most unique voice on the cabaret scene, a contralto that has been likened to "silver bells wrapped in velvet," Karen Akers (r.) has released five solo albums to date. Because cabaret is an experience that is largely based on the interaction between a performer and his or her audience, it is surprising that none of Akers's previous albums had been recorded live. So it is very exciting to announce that the latest effort from the statuesque chanteuse was recorded live during her stint at Rainbow & Stars last May, and the singer/actress has never sounded better. Simply titled Karen Akers Live, the new CD shows just why Akers is a favorite on the cabaret circuit, delivering honest, emotional renditions of an eclectic collection of songs.
From the moment she begins, with a wonderful medley of "Fun To Be Fooled" and "How Little We Know," it's clear that Akers is at the top of her form, in great vocal shape and one of the best interpreters around. A highlight of her program, which finds the singer performing in English, French and Italian, is the little-heard "Chanson" from The Baker's Wife. Here, Akers takes Stephen Schwartz's charming song and turns it into a highly-moving experience about finding different shades in everyday life. She also delivers a stirring version of "My Brother Lived in San Francisco," a beautiful tune from the musical Angels, Punks and Ranging Queens that explores the aftermath of a brother's death from AIDS.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS (AND THE GIRLS)
Just listen to the way the three "songbirds" Debbie Gravitte, Rebecca Luker and Sarah Uriarte Berry soar through Rodgers and Hart's "Sing for Your Supper," and you'll realize why the Encores! presentation of The Boys from Syracuse was one of the highlights of the theatre season just past. Now available on DRG, the recording also boasts "Falling in Love with Love," gorgeously sung by Luker; Malcom Gets's beautiful delivery of "The Shortest Day of the Year"; Gravitte's jazz-influenced and belty version of "Oh, Diogenes"; and Davis Gaines's full-voiced "Dear Old Syracuse."
Two of the more engaging male cabaret singers have each recently released solo albums: David Campbell and Christian Nova. Campbell, an Australian actor who has taken the cabaret scene by storm, has entitled his second CD Taking the Wheel (Philips), and his material spans the gamut from old chestnuts ("I Got Rhythm") to brand-new material (John Bocchino's "Grateful"), and he sings both with a knowing intensity. Nova's disc, Walking Happy (Original Cast Records), also spans many generations of composers, and he lends his rich baritone to the works of Berlin, Sondheim and more.
Spotlight: Michelle Nicastro
Fans of the modern musical theatre will be happy to peruse the song list of Michelle Nicastro's latest CD, On My Own. This Varese Sarabande recording finds the original Eponine of the Los Angeles production of Les Miserables singing songs from a plethora of current and recent musicals, including Jekyll & Hyde ("This Is the Moment"), The Phantom of the Opera ("All I Ask of You"), Song and Dance ("Unexpected Song") and Rent ("Seasons of Love"). Nicastro has a sweet, almost childlike voice that is perfectly suited to the sentimentality of "Sun and Moon" from Miss Saigon, yet one that is rangy enough to deliver an emotional version of Les Miz's "On My Own."-- By Andrew Gans