Broadway and cabaret stars enter a second day of recording Nov. 5 for the new "Maury Yeston Songbook," expected in spring 2003 from the PS Classics label.
Performers singing theatre, pop and art songs by the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist of Nine, Titanic, Phantom and Grand Hotel include Christine Andreas, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Brent Barrett, Liz Callaway, Philip Chaffin, Christine Ebersole, Eden Espinosa, Christopher Fitzgerald, Sutton Foster, Michael Holland, Brian d'Arcy James, Howard McGillin, Alice Ripley and Johnny Rodgers. The planned two-day session began Nov. 4.
Grammy Award-winner John McDaniel is musical director and co-produces the 18-to-20-track CD with PS Classics founder and producer Tommy Krasker.
The disc's release is expected for spring 2003, coinciding with the new Roundabout Theatre Company staging of Yeston's Nine on Broadway. Krasker said the disc — the first all-Yeston studio songbook recorded — will include a mix of the better known songs by Yeston, whose stage works include the Tony Award-winning Nine and Titanic, and Tony-nominated Grand Hotel, plus songs from projects that have not yet made it to Broadway (Phantom, In the Beginning), numbers from his respected cycle known as December Songs, and his art songs and pop songs.
"We started out with 150 songs and whittled it down to 30 and then to 20 favorites," McDaniel told Playbill On-Line. "I think he gets to the emotion of a song in a beautiful way, I keep being stunned. I wasn't familiar with his Phantom, but the song, 'Home,' I can't get out of my head — it's sweeping and lovely..."
Although Yeston has suggested songs for the disc, the composer told Playbill On-Line the programming of the CD is up to McDaniel and Krasker.
Krasker explained, "I think people will find lots of great surprises on this CD — songs they've never heard from shows they didn't know about, songs in different versions than the ones commonly performed. That doesn't mean that we won't include plenty of Maury's best-known tunes as well, but John and I are hoping even the most devoted music theatre fans will be constantly surprised and pleased. We'll be using some original orchestrations, but in other cases, some of our favorite colleagues are stepping forward to provide new charts."
The exact songlist has not been announced, but Krasker said, "I want to be able to say to people who only know Maury's Broadway shows, 'You think you know the Maury Yeston songbook but you don't.' There's so much else we're going to be including."
Krasker and Yeston have a professional and personal past: "My first job in New York was rehearsal pianist on Nine in 1981, although I had met Maury about five years before that, when he was head of the music department at Yale," Krasker said. "I continued to assist him on most of his projects through the mid-80s, and it was probably sometime around 1985 that I first said to him, 'You know, there really should be a recording of all of your best tunes.' Finally, 17 years later, with PS Classics, I'm finally in a position to help that recording happen."
For more information about PS Classics, visit PSClassics.com.
— By Kenneth Jones