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It's time to dig into the past again and dig up some memories. In the cast of another volume in the series Lost Broadway and More, it's mostly coulda-woulda-been memories had the times or the Times been kinder to shows that closed quickly but had some appealing songs. Most are on the light and bright side, with a sense of fun.

Lost Broadway 3MICHAEL LAVINE AND FRIENDS
LOST BROADWAY AND MORE, VOLUME 3

Original Cast Records

Call out all ye fellow sleuths tracking down little-known, neglected nuggets from the Broadway goldmine: Another newly recorded volume of dusted-off, long-lost-in-the-shuffle Lost Broadway and More songs has emerged. The series comes from Bruce Yeko's Original Cast Records, the label with a long history of releasing full cast albums of shows that might otherwise be lost in time and live just in the memories of those who saw them. This third volume, unlike the others with varying musical accompaniment and accompanists, has the unifying element of all numbers being arranged by musician/vocal coach Michael Lavine, who is the sole instrumentalist, playing piano for everyone, with verve and affection for the material, and singing with the same qualities on several of the 24 tracks. Lavine was a prominent contributor to the previous two albums and his love for the material, not to mention his renowned sheet music archive and encyclopedic knowledge, make him the man for the job. Top that off with his own helpful, concise liner notes, and you have more than one reason to tip your hat to this man who wears more than one hat. He's recruited some musical theatre singers for the presentations, the majority being solos, but there are also duets and group numbers.

Things don't get very heavy or deep here; the ballads are rather straightforward and sincere, and most other selections are more on the plucky and playful side, with a higher carefree and innocence quotient than sharp wit or laugh-out-loud humor. Cheer is here in abundance and love songs are lush in a light way and generally boasting a clear-eyed or jaunty rather than jaundiced eye's view. Jillian Louis and Megan McGinnis do the honors twice in balladry, honoring the songs' more earnest aspects. Something More!'s ballad, "Better All the Time," is one of the better, richer choices. This thoughtful love song of appreciation of a long term relationship that keeps growing is a welcome example of the craft of lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman with an attractively luscious melody by Sammy Fain. Singing with heart, Leah Horowitz embraces the gratitude and awareness of the song from the very short-lived 1964 musical. In perkier turns, she pairs with smooth-voiced Andrew Samonsky for both "Dame Crazy" and "Baby, Baby."

"Growing Up Is Learning to Say Goodbye" comes from the musical version of The Yearling, with a bountiful score by Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin. The lovely melody and pensive lyric are somewhat upstaged—at least at first—by the performer's impressions, as it is sung twice here, in the indulgent styles of both Cher and Barbra Streisand (who championed and recorded other numbers from this score) by Steven Brinberg. The oldest number is "I Could Be Happy with One Little Boy" from George White's Scandals of 1919, a cooing, coy kind of thing, wisely assigned to Sarah Rice, an expert at vintage material. Although she throws herself into the dated, doting lyric with devotion, the most appealing part of the track is when she's showcasing her soprano sound just on open vowels. Barefoot Boy with Cheek, a peppy musical taking place at a college, is represented by two songs: a sweet ballad called "I Knew I'd Know" sung with joyful innocence by Melissa Dye, and the trio number "It's Too Nice a Day to Go to School." Heather Mac Rae is the one performer who turns up with a number from a show she was actually in on Broadway, Here's Where I Belong, a musical version of John Steinbeck's East of Eden. And it's a real highlight: she sings "Waking Up Sun" with much emotion and tender phrasing, making it an evocative and engaging piece.

There are times when I wish keys had been lowered or things were either a bit more relaxed or the choice had been made to go full out in the upbeat numbers or more dramatic and exploratory in serious numbers. A middle ground seems to be the preferred territory and a bright, bright vocal sound the preferred auditory option. Such decisions perhaps are more in line with the "old school" and happy-go-lucky Broadway blitheness and bounce and sweetness being recreated with respect. So be it. The feistiness-with-a-wink in two group numbers is welcome relief near the beginning and end of this generous package: we get a cut song from Goodtime Charley, "Tomorrow's Good Old Days," and a deliciously delivered number called "If Jesus Don't Love You." The latter was added to revivals of Take Me Along, and here Michael Lavine is joined by strong character performers with flair, nailing a glib and brash number: Christine Pedi, Michele Ragusa, and veteran lyricist Sheldon Harnick.

Lavine delivers some of the most overall terrific, spot on work here himself, not only with his clean, lean and forceful (in a good way) playing, but with vocals that vary to suit each number and make him sound at home, no matter the period or mindset. He's entertaining and energetic with each entrance, from "Hammacher Schlemmer, I Love You"—zippy in both senses of the word, as it lasts just 30 seconds—to two merrily-rolling-along numbers from two different Merrily We Roll Alongs, an incidental song ("Life Begins with Love") used in the original non-musical and one of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics ("Thank You for Coming") for his melody used throughout the show ("Good Thing Going," etc.), also presented as a brief, brisk instrumental opener for the CD.

This valuable CD series already has more tracks in the can—and I can hardly wait for more with Lost Broadway and More Four.

Also see Rob's reviews of Lost Broadway and More and Lost Broadway and More, Vol. 2


- Rob Lester


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