The musical theatre actor and cabaret artist also has an interest in pop music from the 1970s, as evidenced by his solo recording debut, "Shiny and New," released this spring on the LML label.
The 14-track disc is comprised of cover songs from the mid-1970s, a far cry from the Jerry Herman tunes he's singing in Hello, Dolly!
On the disc, you'll find tunes by James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Tom Johnston, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Don McLean, Neil Young, Billy Joel, Cat Stevens, John Denver, Kenny Loggins and more.
"Shiny and New" is produced and arranged by Dennis Curley, Dan Chouinard (the chief arranger and pianist) and Rayson himself, and backed by musicians from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, where Rayson lived and worked prior to moving to Manhattan. On Broadway, he appeared in the recent Little Shop of Horrors (also on tour) and A Year With Frog and Toad.
Although the disc was released in April, and can be found at Amazon.com, at Tower Records and other retail outlets, including iTunes, Rayson hasn't had a CD release party yet. The spring was busy for him, he said, and his hope is to eventually launch the CD at an event that is part party and part concert. The Omaha native moved to Minneapolis after high school, and spent a decade building his career in professional regional theatre and cabaret. In 2003, he relocated to New York City.
The album title comes from the Clint Holmes song "Playground in My Mind," which has the plucky lyric: "My name is Michael/I've got a nickel/I've got a nickel shiny and new." (A snippet is heard on the final track of the disc.)
When he was a kid, "Playground in My Mind" was his signature song and he used to perform it with his father's cover band.
The new CD includes "Summer, Highland Falls," "Listen to the Music," "Like a Sad Song," "A Love Song," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," "Brighten Your Night With My Day," "And I Love You So," "River," "Birds," "I Need to Be in Love," "Beautiful," "Rainbow Sleeves," "Part of the Plan," "Oh Very Young"/"Souvenir." He told Playbill.com he gathered pop songs with deeper lyrics; he wanted to "delve into emotion" rather than simply sing bubble gum songs. The range is soulful, celebratory and searching.
Rayson has honed his song stylings in New York cabarets, performing a solo show called Alchemy of the Heart (directed by Sally Mayes) at the Firebird Café and singing as Andrea Marcovicci's special guest at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel.
Sound clips from "Shiny and New" can be heard at www.JonathanRayson.com.
For more about Rayson and his CD, read his April chat with Playbill.com columnist Wayman Wong by clicking here.
Hello, Dolly! starring Tovah Feldshuh continues at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, through July 23.