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Here are two cast albums with new scores that have a satiric bent. In between, a look at a CD that includes some classic show tunes with a jazz twist.

I Love You BecauseI LOVE YOU BECAUSE
ORIGINAL OFF-BROADWAY CAST

PS Classics

The fear of commitment can be a very real thing, but have no fear of how it's handled in I Love You Because -  because it's really entertaining.   Singers and songs are full of wit and personality, and after they warm you up with laughter, guess what? They warm your heart.   The sparkling score is well served by its original Off-Broadway cast, with portrayals that display quirky and hesitating or gushing phrasing for a comic or dramatic payoff.  Ryan Cunningham's polished and playful lyrics are full of such opportunities.  They're packed with character-centric, eccentric excesses with situation-specific exchanges and observational humor.   The in-character singing grabs hold of this, resulting in some phrases that blare or rage a bit, rather than erring on the side of reserve.  Larry Hochman's orchestrations for the five-person band capture the up and down moods, and add to the comedy and drive especially well. 

The contemporary, youthful sound is consistent; nothing feels awkward here.  It's modern bounce and ballads as opposed to rock or overblown pop.  Unfortunately, there are no overture or instrumental tracks among the 18 cuts to give separate focus to Joshua Salzman's melodies.   Larry Gates is the record producer and the sound is bright, with good balance between band and vocals. 

Farah Alvin and Colin Hanlon as the textbook example of "opposites attract" have sufficient variety of sound and approach in their many numbers.  She can be a belty powerhouse but can pull back for the thoughtful moments.  He's delightfully defensive and can also burst with pleasure.  Their duets "... But I Don't Want to Talk About Her" and "Coffee" where their idiosyncrasies come to the fore are super.  David A. Austin is a master of high-energy confidence and zingers, managing to be sarcastic without being the least bit nasty.  He and savvy Stephanie D'Abruzzo have a field day with "We're Just Friends," with its string of well-timed asides about being pals with "benefits" (translation: sexy doings, not dental insurance).  The support group for surviving/advocating the single life and couplehood are breezy Jordan Leeds and Courtney Balan, completing the cast.                

The plot is summarized in a booklet with several photos of this talented cast, and complete lyrics are available on the CD's page at PSClassics.com.  

Although the characters have hesitancies and anxieties about entering one, I think audiences will have a long-term relationship with this very likeable musical in future productions (it's coming to Florida and Korea!) and on disc.  It holds up well and stands out.  

Available now on the PSClassics.com website, the I Love You Because cast recordings will be officially released in stores this coming Tuesday, October 3rd, the same day the artists on the next album begin their New York engagement.  

The LyricJIM TOMLINSON, FEATURING STACEY KENT
THE LYRIC

O+ Music

Five years ago, tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson released an attractive CD called Brazilian Sketches with eight melodies by bossa nova super nova Antonio Carlos Jobim, and a couple of other Brazilian exports popular in the 1960s.  There was also a Cole Porter song with a touch of Rio.  Vocalist Stacey Kent, Jim's wife, appeared on four tracks.  This new CD feels like the logical extension of the sketches, with a different balance:   Stacey sings on almost all the tracks, there are three Brazilian beauties (two by Jobim) and again one Cole Porter tune.  And this time, there are several Broadway classics.  Pianist David Newton, who played on three tracks on the other CD, is featured throughout the album; he plays with great sensitivity on ballads and cuts loose on solos.  

A moody and graceful instrumental version of composer Luiz Bonfa's theme from the film Manha de Carnival opens The Lyric.  Stacey comes on next with Jobim's "Corcovado," singing its English lyric by Gene Lees, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars."  That's Stacey all right: a quiet star - her singing style is now well-established after several albums.  She tends to use very little voice, preferring tasteful understatement.  It's not whispery or talk-singing for the most part; she's extremely musical and in control.  She just doesn't go in for holding notes much, or showboating.  Her phrasing is often fresh and natural, somewhat conversational.  She can pull you into a song because she's quiet but very focused.  Her "I Got Lost in His Arms," the Annie Get Your Gun ballad, has a sense of reverie with as much comfort as awe, making it delicate wonderment.  There's a distance in its tale being related in the third person and past tense, whereas the present tense "Something Happens to Me," a song directly addressing the lover, is livelier, more comfortable with the tingle felt "in your arms."  She swings freely on this number. 

Jim's sax is only occasionally more assertive.  There's no extended wild wailing or tour de force playing.  They seem to be Mr. & Mrs. Very Tasteful.  But there's nothing standoffish or cooler-than-thou - they certainly have their fun with the playful and sly "If I Were A Bell" from Guys and Dolls and Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," which originally belonged to Mary Martin.  Two Rodgers & Hammerstein classics find contrasting tempi: there's a brisk and breezy spin through "A Cock-Eyed Optimist" and a slowed down "The Surrey with the Fringe On Top."

The other fine musicians are Dave Chamberlain on bass and Matt Skelton on drums. Jim also does some percussion.  Stacey's vocal quality on this CD is especially pretty, whereas I've occasionally found it a little brittle in the past.  The theater music sits comfortably side by side with other ballads and the Brazilian beat. When Jim and Stacey team up for a pleasing, easygoing "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face,"  you may find yourself growing accustomed to their stylings and sensibilities. 

Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson will be appearing in New York, gracing Feinstein's At The Regency, October 3rd through 14th featuring this material.

  UNDER THE RADAR

Attention, shoppers.  Here's a musical revue for review about, well,  shopping. 

Shopping! The MusialSHOPPING! THE MUSICAL
SAN FRANCISCO CAST ALBUM

Currently running at the Shelton Theatre in San Francisco is a satirical musical revue about the agony and ecstasy of making purchases: food, clothing, hardware and software.   Shopping! The Musical is a revue that has some cute and astute observations about those who love the activity/addiction ("Browsing is totally arousing"), but emphasizes the frustrations and annoyances, mostly from the customer's point of view.  There's a cast of four: two men, two women (all of whom have appeared in the show) with lively piano accompaniment by Ben Keim.  Morris Bobrow, who has also written revues about show biz, food and travel is the composer and lyricist.  

There are 21 different songs and a reprise of the opener, "Sale." Many of the pieces have a simple premise that's clear from the start, and depend on creative rhyming to distract from repeating the point.  "Handling Charges" doesn't handle the challenge so well, as it just keeps saying that customers don't really know what the phrase means but companies get away with the fees.  On the other hand, "Holy Foods" builds: it's more of an interactive scene with dialogue and song about organic veggies and overeager clerks (oops - "shopping counselors").  

There are solos, duets and trio numbers as well as seven tracks where all four singers participate.  Like many revues, the material's comic delivery and character-style singing are what's required and delivered, as opposed to beautiful or knockout voices.  The one I'm most impressed with is Coley Grundman. His timing and attitude-y edge seem most sharply honed to me.  I especially like his sarcastic and disgruntled takes on music played for shoppers.  As a customer, he pleads for the store to "Turn Off the Music" that's getting on his nerves.  In "Nordstrom," he is providing the music: a bored, ignored classically trained pianist stuck in a job tickling the ivories to provide atmosphere while customers pick over marked-down jockey shorts and other items. 

Sara Hauter's performance could use some toning down, but she succeeds with "All About the Butt," wherein she sings of clothing that ... well, you can guess the rest.  Kim Larsen is the man a bit overwhelmed buying intimate apparel for his wife; it would be funnier if he were more flustered.  Jennifer Graham does well making fun of the store staff who can't or won't "Help." She also clicks with "Click!," a catchy number about online shopping.

For more information about Shopping! The Musical, visit www.shoppingthemusical.com.

More help with your musical shopping in the coming weeks as we gear up for the inevitable arrival of holiday shopping season, too.  Already??


- Rob Lester


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