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Hunter Parrish, Julie Covington, Sparkle and More

TheaterMania takes a look at 10 recordings that deserve to be added to your collection!

Hunter Parrish - Guessing Games
(Layer Cake Records)

The star of Broadway's Godspell and Spring Awakening -- and Showtime's Weeds -- adds the credit of songwriter to his resume with this thoroughly satisfying six-track EP. Some of the indie rock tunes, co-written with Daniel James and Leah Haywood, have a smile-inducing undercurrent of humor in them, like the love ballad "Sitting at Home," which begins with the lyric "Are you from outer space?" Others such as "Oh Mother,' wed the actor's playfulness with genuine emotion. Best of all, Parrish's vocals carry the right blend of soulfulness and intensity.

Christopher Sanders - Curtain Call

A bevy of musical theater classics, like "Some Enchanted Evening" (from South Pacific) and "The Impossible Dream" (The Man of La Mancha), along with some modern chestnuts ("Bring Him Home" from Les Miz) and some genuine surprises like the jaunty "You're Nothing Without Me" (from City of Angels), comprise this disc that beautifully demonstrates Sanders' rich, emotion-filled baritone. The album concludes with two cleverly conceived medleys from arranger Scott Whitfield, particularly one which combines "Pure Imagination" (from the film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) with "Colors of My Life" (from Barnum).

Ian Patrick Gibb - Fill in the Words

Gibb, who's been traveling with the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, showcases his beautifully bright tenor on this nine-track album that concludes with Sondheim's "Marry Me A Little," which he delivers with forceful passion. Elsewhere, the singer mixes work by other long-established songwriters (Frank Wildhorn, Randy Newman) with newer voices, including John Bucchino, Brian Lowdermilk and Kate Kerrigan, and even performer Michael Arden, who's represented as a songwriter with the tender romantic ballad "Not Afraid," written for the musical Easter Rising.

Julie Covington - The Beautiful Changes
(Cherry Red Records)

Covington, whom most people remember today for singing the title role on the concept recording of Evita, brings an ethereal grace to the mod-sounding songs on this disc, a reissue of a lavishly produced album from 1971. The majority of songs come from Pete Atkin and Clive James, and among the decided highlights are the team's gorgeously melancholy title ballad, the slightly trippy "Ice Cream Man," and the gently rolling "Friendly Island Song," along with Peter Granger's honky-tonk blues tune, "He Just Don't Appeal to Me."

David Geist - Move On

(Geist Productions)
A musician who has been involved with some of Broadway's biggest hits -- and is also the proprietor of the Geist Room in Santa Fe -- Geist delivers 12 splendid piano solos on this album which can often make the listener feel as if his or her living room had been turned into a private piano bar. Among the composers Geist surveys are Stephen Sondheim (who's triply represented), Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, whose work is heard in two remarkable medleys, and Leonard Bernstein, whom Geist interprets with both a robust rendition of the overture for Candide and in an electrifying grouping of songs from West Side Story.

My Home Town Girl (Operetta Foundation)
This quaint, forgotten gem from 1915 sounds all the sweeter thanks to the simple and elegant two-piano arrangement that has been used for this welcome recording. With buoyant music by Louis Hirsch, outfitted with some utterly charming lyrics by Frank Stammers, the show proves to be a goofy romantic lark that bounds through turn-of-the-last century New York with youthful verve. It's almost impossible not to get swept into it all, particularly when Jessie Merlin and Elyse Marchant deliver "Love Me in the Morning Early," a delicately gossamer tune, to lilting perfection.

Sparkle (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The sounds of early rock, Motown, R&B, and gospel -- all fused with a contemporary vibe -- collide to terrific effect on this soundtrack for the upcoming movie that stars former In the Heights star Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston. While it can be difficult to hear Houston's vocals and not feel a sense of loss, she and Sparks thrill as their voices combine to whip the dance tune "Celebrate" into an infectious joy. Houston can be heard in one other solo track (a stirring "His Eye Is on the Sparrow") and Sparks offers up a trio of great solos. The album is also rounded out with numbers performed by the likes of CeeLo Green (channeling James Brown), Carmen Ejogo (whose work brings to mind classic Diana Ross), and Goapele.

'33, a Kabarett

A singer with bases in both Paris and Toronto, Bremner Duthie brings a unique musicianship to a strikingly diverse array of 1930s tunes (sung in both English and German) on this disc. The singer's lush warbling croon won't be for everyone, but there's little denying that his impeccable phrasing for songs like "Falling in Love Again," "Dancing in the Dark," and "Twentieth Century Blues," brings out each tune's rich emotional core. The disc concludes with two numbers from Kurt Weill, including an impressive reinterpretation of the standard "Mack the Knife."

Waiting (2012 Original Cast Recording) (Deep End Productions)
Songwriters Bob Kelly and Kelly Pomeroy demonstrate exceptional promise on this recording of a song cycle that follows a quintet of couples on some rocky journeys of love. Performed by a group of students (who, unfortunately, are not always up to the demands of the music), the 16 tracks can often bring to mind the work of both Jason Robert Brown and Stephen Sondheim. Admittedly, the lyrics sometime strain to fit the melodic lines; but they do capture a wide gamut of feelings and situations with style.

Working (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

(Masterworks Broadway/ArkivMusic)
Based on Studs Terkel's book of the same name, this acclaimed 1978 Broadway musical enters the digital age with this very welcome rerelease. Featuring songs by such top-notch writers as Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor, Craig Carnelia, and Mary Rodgers, the show sounds as diverse as the tales of everyday working people whom it brings to the stage (portrayed by such powerful performers as Lenora Nemetz and the late Lynne Thigpen).


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