Sound Advice by Joseph Molnar
Something for the Children

Anastasia is loosely based on the true story of the young orphaned Russian princess. Her family had been destroyed by the evil Rasputin, advisor to the Royal family. While fleeing from this destruction with her grandmother, they got separated and were never able to find one another again. Ten years later she meets up with two con men who are looking for the missing princess to get a reward. They find Anya and try to convince her that she is the princess. Could she really be the missing princess? Who knows?

This charming musical has music and lyrics by the red-hot team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. They are the duo responsible for this season's Broadway hit Ragtime. Their Anastasia score is absolutely gorgeous. It has showstopping tunes like, "A Rumor in St. Petersburg" which has a nice Russian feel to it and "Paris Holds the Key (to Your Heart)." Of course there are the beautiful ballads, "Journey to the Past" and "Once Upon a December." The latter is a lilting lullaby that is the musical's centerpiece. It is used as a recurring theme connecting Anastasia to her past, most notably her grandmother, whom she was particularly fond of. The rousing orchestrations are by Broadway veteran, William D. Brohn. Among the featured voices are Liz Callaway as Anastasia, Kelsey Grammer, Jonathan Dokuchitz, Bernadette Peters and as Anastasia's grandmother, Angela Lansbury. All of them are in top form and perfectly cast. It is the best score to a non-Disney animated film ever, even better than some of Disney's latest, such as Hercules, which was more cutesy than anything else.

Also included are the now obligatory pop versions of the main songs. There are no less than 3 included here. "At the Beginning," which is the first single to be released, is sung by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis. I must say I was a tad bit disappointed by this song. Despite the fact that is it a very beautiful tune with a nice pop arrangement and some nice vocals from Mr. Marx. Ms. Lewis kills the whole song. She comes off very breathy, as if she can barely get the notes out. R&B singing sensation, Aaliyah, does a much better job with "Journey to the Past" as does Deanna Carter with "Once Upon a December."

This is definitely one CD that I will play over and over again, long after the movie has left theaters. This CD should appeal to adults and children alike due to the top caliber Broadway performers and creative team present on this disc.

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas is a sequel to the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast. In a sense it's a lost episode taking place while the prince is still a Beast. It tells the story of Belle's first Christmas in the castle after being captured. Belle tries to bring the spirit of Christmas to the castle with the help of the enchanted objects. First they must stop the evil pipe organ, Forte, who doesn't want there to be any Christmas and pulls out all the stops to keep the Beast away from Belle.

This CD includes a combination of new music written for the movie and traditional Christmas music. The four new songs are supplied by Rachel Portman (music) and Don Black (lyrics). They are above average tunes and are quite catchy, but will mostly appeal to the children. "Stories" and "As Long As There's Christmas," in particular, standout as the most memorable among the four new tunes written. The latter is beautiful and should go on to become a Christmas standard. It is also given a pop reading by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, who sound terrific together, as always. The rest of the disc is filled with traditional Christmas carols such as "Do You Hear What I Hear?" "The First Noel" and "Silent Night." As far as I'm concerned, Disney can do a sequel once a year, as long as Paige O'Hara keeps returning to the role of Belle. She has one of the loveliest voices of any of Disney's recent heroines, second only to Judy Kuhn's powerful Pocahontas. She is also the finest of the recorded Belles. Also returning to roles the created in the original are Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, and David Ogden Stiers. Joining them this time around are Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters.

Even though this score is geared more towards children, adults might find some joy in this recording, especially those who are fans of Miss O'Hara.

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and a Happy New Year. That's all for this year, see you in the next.

Till then, happy listening!

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