Cole, Cole Heart
John Barrowman scores with his excellent new CD of Cole Porter songs on the First Night label.
On this side of the pond, Barrowman was perfect as Bobby in Stephen Sondheim's Company as presented in 2002 during the Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He's one of the few reasons to see the recent Cole Porter "biopic" De-Lovely, singing "Night and Day" as a duet (sort of) with Kevin Kline. But Barrowman has only appeared twice on Broadway: He very briefly filled in as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, and he was in the Sondheim revue Putting It Together with Carol Burnett, George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall, and Bronson Pinchot.
That John Barrowman isn't a huge name in New York has much to do with the current state of musical theater and his own less-than-wise choices regarding what shows to do and whom to work with, but nothing to do with his talent and star quality. Although his voice isn't terribly distinctive, it's very beautiful: clear, lovely, and with a wonderfully youthful sound to it. As for his interpretive abilities, Barrowman is one of those singers who can persuasively deliver a classic song without distorting it. Rather than indulging in aggressively odd phrasing and overacting as some other performers do when rendering standards, he sings straightforwardly, with a great deal of heart and intelligence. For evidence, check out John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter, his new CD on the First Night label (scheduled for release on October 5).
The only negative thing to be said about the album is that its title is somewhat misleading. Yes, the disc does feature a number of Porter standards in swing arrangements -- e.g., "Just One of Those Things," "It's All Right With Me." But a large percentage of it consists of such perennials as "In the Still of the Night," "Every Time We Say Goodbye," and "Do I Love You?" performed as slow ballads. This is good news, because Barrowman sounds just as great when crooning romantically as when he's bopping through an up-tempo number. (The album's first-rate arrangements and orchestrations are by Larry Blank.)