By Ben Rimalower
06 Apr 2014
I'll never forget the first time I heard Alison Fraser's voice. From the moment I put the March Of The Falsettos cast album into my CD player, I rarely took it out, playing and replaying Fraser's tracks over and over and over again. Around the same time, I saw her giving a totally different performance on Broadway in The Secret Garden. Trina (in March Of The Falsettos) was a leading lady, while Martha (in The Secret Garden) was a cross between a kind of comic relief second banana like Ado Annie (in Oklahoma!) or Carrie Pipperidge (in Carousel) and an inspirational mother figure along the lines of the Mother Abbess (in The Sound of Music), to put it in classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical theatre terms. And of course, Trina was a New York Jew, whereas Martha was an English chambermaid with, in Fraser's hands, an accent thick as Yorkshire pudding.
But, no matter the role, Fraser's vocals are unmistakable. Her voice is an expressive, high-placed contemporary belt/mix, set somewhat in the Streisand mold, although it opens up in her higher register kind of like Patti LuPone and has a pre-war crooner vibe reminiscent of Bernadette Peters. There's also a folky quality that infuses honey sweetness throughout Fraser's range and adds an extra layer of emotion and personality. This instantly recognizable and versatile singing has made Fraser indispensable in a wide range of roles in musicals (as well as straight plays) over the last 35 years. This week, Ghostlight Records releases her third solo album, "Tennessee Williams: Words And Music."