News: Seth Rudetzy’s Vote-a-thon has quite the line up

Join Seth and James as Stars In The House hosts an Election Day Vote-A-Thon featuring Iain Armitage, Colleen Ballinger, Laura Benanti, Annette Bening, Stephanie J. Block, Brenda Braxton, Betty Buckley, Laura Bell Bundy, Andréa Burns, Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Tom Cavanagh, Michael Cerveris, Will Chase, Javier Colon, Gavin Creel, Marcia Cross, Charlotte d’Amboise, Darius DeHaas, Dana Delany, Colin Donnell, Jill Eikenberry, Melissa Errico, Victor Garber, Peri Gilpin, Josh Groban, Sean Hayes, Marilu Henner, Megan Hilty, Carly Hughes, Jeremy Jordan, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Judy Kuhn, Anika Larsen, Laura Leighton, Beth Malone, Melissa Manchester, Terrence Mann, Andrea Martin, Michael McElroy, Lindsay Mendez, Laurie Metcalf, Ingrid Michaelson, Lisa Mordente, Jessie Mueller, Patti Murin, Julia Murney, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Adam Pascal, Lauren Patten, Christine Pedi, Rosie Perez, Anthony Rapp, Caroline Rhea, Alice Ripley, Chita Rivera, Jenna Russell, Lea Salonga, Glenn Scarpelli, Marc Shaiman, Martin Short, Elizabeth Stanley, Ben Stiller, Michael Tucker, Jenna Ushkowitz, Vanessa Williams, Schele Williams, Marissa Winokur, BD Wong, Tony Yazbeck and Bellamy Young.

Album Review: Laura Benanti – Laura Benanti

A canny choice of material means you’re as likely to find Selena Gomez as showtunes on Laura Benanti’s excellent debut studio album Laura Benanti

“I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again”

Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti has long been a performer I’ve loved, I’m always a sucker for such a legit soprano, so it was a bit of a surprise to clock that Laura Benanti is actually her debut studio album. Over the years she’s been a part of some top cast recordings and released a cracking live set, but with this release, she has created a marvellous album that feels equally at home in the cabaret club as it does reclining at home on your chaise longue with a Manhattan in hand.

It’s a varied selection of tracks to be sure, with musical references from Rufus Wainwright to Rosemary Clooney, Sondheim to Selena Gomez, Julie London to the Jonas Brothers. But remarkably, it all feels so beautifully, smoothly cohesive, a collection truly united by the interpretative skill of a genuinely engaged and engaging performer. Continue reading “Album Review: Laura Benanti – Laura Benanti”

News: Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Vanessa Williams to give online concerts

Playhouse Square will host a three-part streaming series, Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway, featuring Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Vanessa Williams.

Cost for the series is $75 ($30 each) and includes an additional 72 hours of on-demand viewing of the performances. Proceeds from the sales will benefit Playhouse Square. Continue reading “News: Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Vanessa Williams to give online concerts”

Review: The Sound of Music Live (The Show Must Go On)

Despite great work from supporting players like Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti, The Sound of Music Live isn’t a great advert for The Show Must Go On

“Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her”

In some ways, turning to the series of live TV musicals to continue The Show Must Go On now that Andrew Lloyd Webber has exhausted the content he is willing to give for free, for weekends at a time. The problem is, its opening salvo – The Sound of Music Live from 2013 – really isn’t a good example of the form. 

Directed by Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy-Miller, it has all the requisite component parts and as a piece of live entertainment, it is all very competently done. There’s an impressively capacious set, slick camerawork and a well-drilled ensemble who barely put a foot wrong throughout the 2 hours plus of the show. Continue reading “Review: The Sound of Music Live (The Show Must Go On)”

Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

On the one hand, so much to love with such an inordinate array of talent assembled to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday. But on the other, where’s the editor, there’s a real sense of the rambling here too. Fortunately as this has been put together in lockdown (and very well too) it is easier than ever to skip to the bits you want (in the spirit of these times, I ain’t telling you who disappointed me).

For me, I loved the unexpectedness of Katrina Lenk’ ‘Johanna’, the cuteness of Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt’s ‘It Takes Two’, and the energy of Alexander Gemignani’s ‘Buddy’s Blues’. And of the heavy hitters in the finale, Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone nailed ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ respectively, and there’s huge fun (if not finesse) in Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald giving us their ‘Ladies Who Lunch’. Continue reading “Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”

Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical

This trio of album reviews covers Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018 Film Soundtrack) and Vanara the Musical

“Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores”

Regardless of your politics, Singing You Home: Children’s Songs for Family Reunification is a really rather lovely album of bilingual children’s songs. But in this day and age nothing is not political and the current US administration’s policy of child separation is a genuine atrocity that it is hard to know how to respond. Laura Benanti had the nous to conceive this project though and produced it with Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Lynn Pinto, and a whole host of the great and good of the American musical theatre. Thus this is more than just your usual set of lullabies – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mandy Gonzalez crooning on the Mexican song ‘Cielito Lindo’, Audra McDonald shining on Jason Robert Brown’s ‘Singing You Home’, Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, well worth the investment for this uniquely exceptional cause. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Singing You Home / Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Vanara the Musical”

Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

This trio of album reviews covers Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, The Maury Yeston Songbook and There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

“You don’t know what you do to me”

There’s something of a deliciously old-school feel about Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, these vignettes of song that recall even Noël Coward in their ability to capture mood and tone as well as telling a damn good story. David Hyde Pierce’s ‘Goodbye to Boston’ is probably the best, most heart-breaking example, Gavin Creel’s ‘Greenwich Time’ coming a close second. There’s levity and humour too, ensuring the collection doesn’t become too downbeat, but there’s definitely a musical and lyrical gift here that deserves to be more widely known. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates”

Album Review: Laura Benanti – In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention – Live At 54 Below

“She speaks in sorry sentences
Miraculous repentances”

Appearances may be deceptive but the force of personality that Laura Benanti brings to all her work, whether tweeting or tearing up the Broadway stage, makes me think that she’s just a top human. Witty and irreverent on the one, committed and forceful on the other – either way round, she’s a one for forging her own path.

And that’s in evidence on the song selection for her 54 Below cabaret show In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention. From showtunes to the showgirl herself Lana Del Rey, rewritten classics to self-penned ditties, it’s undoubtedly an eclectic mix but one that is held together by the huge warmth that Benanti exudes, whether in performance or in the (frankly hilarious) patter where she proudly details her flops. Continue reading “Album Review: Laura Benanti – In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention – Live At 54 Below”

Album Review: She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)

“Thank you, madam. Please call again. Do call again, madam“

Those outside of Broadway were lucky enough to have the opportunity to see She Loves Me last month as it became the first show there to be livestreamed (here’s my review) but if you missed it, never fear as a cast recording has been released which captures much of what made it an absolute pleasure to watch and to listen to. Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s Fiddler on the Roof may be better known but I’d argue that Roundabout’s revival makes a strong case for this to be the better show.

Orchestrated beautifully by Larry Hochman and played expertly under Paul Gemignani’s musical direction, it’s hard to imagine the show ever having sounded this lovely and fresh. From the thrill of the overture through the entirety of the score which allows pretty much every character to have their moment in the limelight, She Loves Me has a deceptive simplicity that seem disposable but its old-fashioned charms are revealed in all the splendour here, delivered perfectly by an ace cast. Continue reading “Album Review: She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)”

Album Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2011 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

I’m feeling kinda woozy. I’ve been crying for an hour,
And my boyfriend has an ooze and he doesn’t clean the shower”

David Yazbek’s musical take on Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown hasn’t had the best time of it really, managing four months on Broadway in the winter of 2010 and then repeating a run of a similar length in the West End in 2015 in a retooled version that evidently did little to help. The Spanish director’s work is so richly musical that one might have thought musical theatre would gel easily with it but the reality is far more complex and difficult.

And so the result is something really quite challenging, often on the cusp of making the breakthrough to become the musical it ought to be but all too rarely making it. The main problem lies in a distinct lack of purpose to both Yazbek’s score and Jeffrey Lane’s book, even as it cleaves closely to the original film with its web of Madrid women with intricately connected love-lives circling around the same feckless men over the course of a tumultuous 48 hours. Continue reading “Album Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2011 Original Broadway Cast Recording)”