The Holidays are fast upon us and you know what that means - time to start figuring out what CDs we want to order so that we can get them before the season is over! With so many available, it is hard to decide, especially when there is a plethora of albums available which let us spend the holidays with our favorite Broadway and Cabaret performers.
The folks here at Talkin' Broadway asked me to compile a list of albums which are in some way related to either Broadway or Cabaret (I guess they figured that out of my 60+ holiday albums, at least a few of them would fit that description), so here goes! To make things easier, I have split the list into two categories: solo albums and group/show recordings. Most are available at your neighborhood music store, on-line, or at Footlight Records. A few are available through Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as well; if you purchase the albums through BC/EFA you are helping a worthy organization (and part of your expenditure is a tax write-off).
To help you decide if these albums fit your needs or tastes, I have tried to include information or mini-reviews if at all possible. If no information is listed, it is an album that I not only don't own (surprising as that may seem) but also which I was unable to find further information on.
So grab a cup of cocoa or cider, crank up Vince Guaraldi (had to plug the best Christmas CD ever produced somehow!) start making that list (and check it twice).
Michael Ball - Christmas (Amazon, Footlight) - A mix of standard songs ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Silent Night" with Irish vocalist Brian Kennedy), and some unusual choices ("From a Distance, " Joni Mitchell's "River," ABBA's "Happy New Year). The album also includes a duet with Elaine Paige, "As Long as There's Christmas."
John Boswell - Festival of the Heart (Amazon) - While John is well known in the cabaret world as a producer and arranger (especially for those on the LML label), he is even more celebrated for his atmospheric/"New Age" compositions. In Festival of the Heart, John has put together a soothing album of traditional favorites.
Ann Hampton Callaway - This Christmas (Footlight) - Swing! star Ann Hampton Callaway is at her jazziest best with this swinging Christmas album. Primarily comprised of familiar standards, it features a beautiful ballad ("This Christmas") written by Ann, as well as another song ("Manhattan in December") written by Ann and Lindy Robbins.
Rosemary Clooney - White Christmas (Amazon, Footlight, BC/EFA) Features guest vocalists Nick Clooney and Michael Feinstein. The album contains mainly traditional Christmas songs, and features several by the Bergmans'. Most of the album is orchestrated by Peter Matz, who also conducted a full orchestra for it.
Rosemary Clooney - Songs from White Christmas - Amazon) Rosemary Clooney sings two songs from the film plus other Christmas songs, accompanied by Gene Autry, The Mellomen, and Gail Clooney.
Rosemary Clooney - Christmas Classics (Footlight) As it says, Christmas classics (like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Christmas Song," "Little Drummer Boy," "Jingle Bells," plus "White Christmas" and "Count Your Blessings from the film White Christmas).
Michael Crawford - A Christmas Album (Amazon, Footlight) - A very spiritual album that focuses on the religious aspect of Christmas. Michael is backed by a large orchestra and choir, and has put together a good mix of traditional religious carols and contemporary songs.
Blossom Dearie - Christmas Spice So Very Nice (Amazon, -Footlight) Delightful Christmas album by one of jazz and cabaret's premier singers (best known as the voice of "Adjectives" and "Figure Eight" in the original Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons). The CD is a great alternative for those tired of hearing the same old songs over and over again, as all but one are unfamiliar (and probably are first time recordings). The songs are primarily written by Blossom Dearie, Jay Leonhart, Duncan Lamont and John Wallowitch. This is a mellow CD, and is a perfect mood enhancer for a romantic evening in front of a fireplace.
Linda Eder -Christmas Stays the Same (Amazon, Footlight, BC/EFA) - After finding success with a CD single of "The Christmas Song" last year, Linda Eder expands her holiday repertoire into a full-length holiday album. Featuring the Broadway Gospel Choir and two new songs by Linda and her husband, Frank Wildhorn.
Carols of the Millennium
Sam Harris - On This Night (BC/EFA)- Selections include "O Holy Night" and "Santa's Blues".
Nancy LaMott - Just in Time for Christmas (Footlight, BC/EFA)- The biggest casualty in the battle between producer David Friedman and her estate is the loss of this album from the general catalogue. It's available at Footlight Records and through Broadway Cares, and you may still find copies out there in stores. If you see it, grab it, as it is one of the best Christmas albums around. Highlights include a fantastic rendition of "Christmas Cliches" and the title song by David Friedman.
Karen Mason - Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! (Amazon, Footlight, BC/EFA) - Recorded live at the Laurie Beechman Theater in 1998, this album perfectly captures Karen Mason's celebrated Christmas cabaret show. Largely upbeat, big, and bold (this is Karen Mason, after all!), when she pulls back, Karen shows a touching gentleness and emotional honesty.
Andrea McArdle - Andrea McArdle's Family Christmas (Amazon) - Arranged by her husband, Edd Kalehoff, and featuring performances by Andrea, her daughter, Alexis Kalehoff, and her brother, Michael McArdle.
Maureen McGovern - Christmas With Maureen McGovern (Footlight)- Broadway and Cabaret star Maureen McGovern has released a great mellow CD containing a pleasant mix of traditional and contemporary songs with some killer medleys.
John Pizzarelli - Let's Share Christmas (Amazon, Footlight)- MAC Award winning jazz artist John Pizzarelli swings in this jazzy Christmas CD. From the big band sounding "White Christmas," to the delightfully jazzy "Sleigh Ride," this is a great album for your Holiday Parties.
Ben Sears - Rest You Merry - A Holiday Cabaret (Ben and Brad Website) - From Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Ben Sears and Bradford Conner have been doing holiday cabaret shows for years, comes this live recording of one of their shows. The CD contains many surprising finds, as they have unearthed many rare Christmas songs, including several by Irving Berlin which receive their premier recording on this album.
Barbra Streisand - (Amazon, Footlight)A Christmas Album - Another I'm sure you all have already. If not, get it just for her version of "Jingle Bells" (or you'll make me upsot).
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (Amazon, Footlight) - The album of Disney's direct-to-video Christmas follow-up to Beauty and the Beast features the voices of the original movie cast plus Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters. A quick glance at the chorus also reveals the names of Broadway vets Rebecca Luker, Howard McGillin, Gregg Edelman, Judy Kaye, and Victoria Clark. Most of the album is devoted to Paige O'Hara singing traditional carols.
Broadway's Greatest Gifts - Carols For A Cure 2000 (BC/EFA) - featuring the casts of The Music Man, Kiss Me Kate, Chicago, and others.
Broadway's Greatest Gifts - Carols For A Cure 1999 (Footlight, BC/EFA)- Recorded at St. John's Church in Greenwich Village, this disc features carols from the casts of Cabaret, Fosse, Swing! and more.
A Broadway Christmas (BC/EFA, Fynsworth Alley)- Originally released by Varese Sarabande, this CD has been picked up by Fynsworth Alley. It is one of their best compilation CDs and features a great mix of Christmas songs from Broadway shows, ranging from the traditional ("We Need a Little Christmas" sung by Lynette Perry and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" sung by Liz Callaway) to the obscure ("Christmas Gifts" from Sheldon Harnick's A Wonderful Life and winningly sung by Jason Graae) and even includes cut songs ("Christmas Eve" from She Loves Me, perhaps the best cut on the album).
Broadway Kids - Broadway Kids Sing Christmas (Amazon, Footlight) - The kids from Broadway have a CD which is largely devoted to well-known songs. While your enjoyment of this CD will depend on your appreciation for children's choirs and Annie-esque belters, it is a well put together and performed album.
Cabaret Christmas (Amazon, Footlight)- Contains sterling performances by many of cabaret's finest performers (several of whom also happen to be some of Broadway's top stars as well). Highlights include Billy Stritch and Ann Hampton Callaway's "Winter Wonderland," Karen Akers and Andrea Marcovicci singing "Silent Night," Karen Aker's laser-sharp "I Don't Remember Christmas," Julie Wilson's sentimental "Season's Greetings," Barbara Cook's "White Christmas..." One of the best Christmas CDs out there and a must-have album to get you through the holidays.
Cabaret Noel - (BC/EFA)If you get any Christmas CD this year, this one should be high on your list. Produced by DC Anderson for BC/EFA, this two CD set features many of cabaret and Broadway's brightest stars, including Brian (Stokes) Mitchell, Karen Akers, Howard McGillin, Tommy Tune, Alix Korey, and Karen Ziemba. How can you resist the chance to hear B.D. Wong sing "Wishing You a Drag Queen Christmas?" You can't. So go to BC/EFA's website and order it.
A Christmas Carol (1995 Original Broadway Cast) (Amazon, Footlight)- Written by Alan Menkin & Lynn Ahrens, it features Walter Charles, Robert Westenberg, Mary Stout and Emily Skinner. A Madison Square Garden holiday perennial, it's best known song is the lovely "A Place Called Home."
Christmas Survival Guide (Amazon, Footlight, 2Die4Music)- A wonderful mix of comedy and traditional numbers (soon to be a cabaret concert) with a stellar line-up which includes Bryan Batt, Roger Bart, Marin Mazzie, Sally Mayes, Christiane Noll, Emily Skinner, Mary Testa and Alice Ripley. Highlights include a wickedly funny "12 Steps of Christmas," and novel rethinking of "Silver Bells".
King Island Christmas (Amazon, Footlight) - A stirring Christmas oratorio written by David Friedman about Christmas on a small island in Alaska. The cast includes performances by Marin Mazzie, Chuck Cooper and Paolo Montalban.
Mrs. Santa Claus (Amazon, Footlight)- Angela Lansbury is divine in this Hallmark TV musical. While Jerry Herman repeats the songs a few too many times, it is a joy simply to have him writing music again. The album also features Terrence Mann, Michael Jeter, and Charles Durning. (and yes, there is a video available as well).
NBC Celebrity Christmas: Your Favorite Stars And Holiday Songs - (Wal-Mart) - Since there are so many Broadway actors on TV right now, it shouldn't be any wonder that they are well represented on this CD which is only available at Walmart or through their website. Tracks include "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (Bebe Neuwirth and John Lithgow), "The Christmas Song" (Sean Hayes, who's Just Jack is a cabaret legend!), and "Wonderful Christmastime" (Martin Sheen, John Spencer, Stockard Channing).
Save the Children; Christmas Carols and Festive Songs - I think this 2 CD set is out of print (there was also a single CD 'best of' album released), but if you can find it, it's well worth getting. The London, New York and Sydney casts of Cats, Starlight Express, Follies, Phantom, etc. joined forces for a CD benefiting the Save the Children Foundation. While the group numbers are rather lackluster, as they usually lack harmony, the album contains solos by Colm Wilkinson, Michael Ball, Michael Crawford, Elaine Paige, Julia McKenzie and Frances Ruffelle. Interestingly enough, Showtime showed clips from this album in a show called A Broadway Christmas.
Simple Gifts - Carols From The Abbey (BC/EFA) - The nuns from the Broadway revival of The Sound of Music got together for one of their better habits - caroling (ok, that's from the BC/EFA website, but it's such a good quote I had to steal it!). Traditional Christmas carols sung by the nuns and children, with guest appearances by Patti Cohenour, Rebecca Luker and the 'von Trapp Children.'
Winter Moon (Amazon) - This CD is very hard to find and is a celebration of gay and lesbian singers and songwriters (and friends). It's more seasonal than holiday themed, but contains Lea DeLaria singing David Friedman's "The Truth About Christmas" and Howard McGillin singing "Just in time for Christmas."
Beverly Hills - Playin' Little Reindeer Games - This was released as a benefit album for BC/EFA and it may be out of print (but I did see it in some gay bookstores not too long ago.) It is worth getting if only for two things: the cover (a take off of Into the Woods with three naked 'reindeer') and the almost X-rated "O Come, All Ye Faithful."
Patrick Stewart - Performs Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol - This album records his one-man adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which won a New York Drama Desk Award in 1991. Well worth getting, as it displays Patrick Stewart at his best (the Cratchit's dinner scene alone, with him playing close to a dozen characters, is absolutely spellbinding.)