By Marilyn Lester
The Liz Swados Project (Ghostlight Records) is a new tribute album to the late writer-composer/lyricist-performer whose influential output over decades traversed a wide range of genres. Swados was a creative powerhouse and one of the few people to have been nominated for four Tony Awards in one season, for Best Direction, Score, Book, and Choreography. Her legacy is celebrated in The Liz Swados Project with 19 songs performed by a diverse array of performers such as Starr Busby, Sophia Anne Caruso, Damon Daunno, Amber Gray, Stephanie Hsu, Jo Lampert, Alicia Olatuja, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Grace McLean and Ali Stroker. Highlights include “The Red Queen” sung by Taylor Mac, an ode to cutting off heads (it is Alice in Wonderland, after all); the tune is a macabre, jaunty and fun to listen to. A Kurt Weill style “Take Me to Paris,” with Ali Stroker, captures the angst of a frustrated jazz singer, while “Salvador,” sung by Ashley Pérez Flanagan, is a lush reflection of this Central American land. Best of all, though, is Swados herself performing “Bird Lament,” echoing the natural world with guitar and the most amazing vocal sounds.
The York Theater’s 2019 musical revue, Anything Can Happen in the Theater, devoted to the songs of two-time Tony Award–winner composer-lyricist Maury Yeston, and starring Benjamin Eakeley, Jovan E’Sean, Alex Getlin, Justin Keyes, and Mamie Parris has now been immortalized in a cast recording (PS Classics). The show featured numbers from his Nine, Grand Hotel, Titanic, Phantom and Death Takes a Holiday, to name a few. They reflect Yeston’s breadth of style and capacity to capture emotion, more often than not quite melodically. The album was produced by Bart Migal with musical direction by Greg Jarrett. Tony-winning orchestrator Doug Besterman scored the revue for an eight-piece band specifically for the recording. The result will delight Yeston fans and should happily enlighten and awaken those not familiar with his work. The beautiful “New Words,” the lovely ballad “Only With You,” and the amusing, funny and eponymous “Anything Can Happen in the Theatre” are only three reasons among many to treat yourself to this feast of Yeston.
Two singles from Saturday Night Seder have been released by Ghostlight Records. “When You Believe,” originally from The Prince of Egypt, features vocalists Cynthia Erivo and Shoshana Bean, accompanied by its composer, Stephen Schwartz. The original song, “Next Year,” music and lyrics by Hannah Friedman, Benj Pasek, Mark Sonnenblick and Shaina Taub, is sung by Taub and actor-singer Skylar Astin, with piano by Ben Wexler and Shaina Taub, background vocals by Ben Wexler and Emily Wexler, bass by Charlie Rosen and drums by Dean Sharenow. Saturday Night Seder originally aired on YouTube in April to benefit the CDC Foundation’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Response Fund. All profits from both re-recorded and remastered singles will benefit Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ).
A quartet of releases from Broadway Records is noteworthy. (1) Our Table, with Melissa Errico and Constantine Maroulis, captures their live concert recording of the prescient musical (composed by David Shire, with book and lyrics by Adam Gopnik), which tells the story of a beloved New York restaurant fighting for its life The label and the creative team of Our Table have partnered with GrowNYC, the parent organization of New York’s Greenmarket, to help support farmers and chefs as well as to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the New York City greenmarket movement.
To benefit the Actors Fund and the Dramatists Guild, (2) Artists in Residence includes new works by Alan Menken, David Zippel, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Todd Almond, Sean Barry and Jenny Giering, Carmel Dean, Andrew Gerle, Adam Gwon, Peter Mills, Ryan Scott Oliver, Eric Price and Will Reynolds, Ben Wexler, Jake Wildhorn, and David and Joseph Zellnik. All tracks are collaborations and recordings done from the artists’ homes.
(3) Robbie Rozelle: Songs From Inside My Locker – Live at Feinstein’s/54 Below was recorded over two nights in 2019. The album is a trip through Rozelle’s high school days, with his six-piece band The Two Drink Minimum (led by music director/arranger Josh D. Smith). Musical stops include The Wizard of Oz, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, William Finn, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Alice in Wonderland and more, plus a new song written by Michael Finke especially for the show.
Singer-actress Lauren Turner’s debut EP, (4) Play On is five-track album including “I Have Nothing” and “Fire and Rain.” The album is produced by Mitchell Walker and features Michael Isaacs on piano, Daniel Muniz on guitar and background vocals by Tara Martinez. A portion of proceeds from the album will go to charities benefiting doctors fighting the pandemic.