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What They Did For Love

Sony BMG Masterworks and PS Classics release new cast albums of two musicals about two different kinds of love. logo
Your first hearing of the Sony BMG Masterworks revival cast album of A Chorus Line may be a disorienting experience. Though there are at least seven recordings of this hugely popular show about people who live to dance on Broadway, four of them are in languages other than English and are unfamiliar to most Americans. One of the remainder is an obscure 2003 studio album that features a no-name cast and includes several karaoke tracks; another is the soundtrack of the abysmal 1985 film version of the musical, which wasn't exactly a best seller. That leaves the original Broadway cast album, so beloved by so many people that it will be difficult for them to immediately appreciate the revival recording. But if you can manage to listen with an open mind, the new disc has definite pleasures to offer.

Natalie Cortez and Mara Davi sound wonderful as Diana and Maggie, respectively. Deidre Goodwin offers a fresh take on Sheila. Jason Tam sings Paul's lines in the opening sequence with much beauty of tone and great feeling, giving the listener little hint that he's wrong for the role in terms of age and type. As Kristine, Chryssie Whitehead's purposely unsuccessful attempts to match pitches in "Sing" are all the more hilarious because Tony Yazbeck shows off a great voice as Kristine's husband, Al.

On the other hand, James T. Lane lacks the stratospheric high notes that the original Richie, Ronald Dennis, brought to the "gimme the ball" section of "Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love." Though Charlotte d'Amboise sounds fine as Cassie, she's no Donna McKechnie in the pipes department. And it can be persuasively argued that even the folks in the new cast who are vocally superior to their predecessors don't outshine them as far as personality is concerned.

Jonathan Tunick has revised the original orchestrations by Bill Byers, Hershy Kay, and Tunick himself just enough to keep things interesting without disturbing longtime devotees of Marvin Hamlisch's score, although the synthesizer is a little too prominent for my taste. There also seem to be uncredited revisions of Donald Pippin's original vocal arrangements in "What I Did for Love" and the finale. (Patrick Vaccariello is the musical director/conductor.)

The recording includes several music/dialogue sequences and transitional scenes that are not on the OBC album, even in the expanded CD edition -- e.g., the first round of elimination of auditioners in the opening number -- and some of the tracks are much longer, such as "One." Also, everything here is heard in the order in which it occurs in the show. (For those of us who've committed the original album to memory, it's easy to forget that Diana's song "Nothing" actually happens in the middle of the lengthy "Hello Twelve..." montage, rather than after it.)

Not to be found on the new recording is "And," the sequence in which the dancers wonder what they should tell director/choreographer Zach about their lives. You can supposedly download the track from the Internet -- but nowhere in the CD package is there a note to this effect, and people who have attempted the download have reportedly experienced problems. A plus is that all of the lyrics and dialogue heard on the disc are printed in the accompanying booklet. The sound quality of the recording is good overall but perhaps a bit less warm than the original.


Unlike A Chorus Line, the "modern day musical love story" I Love You Because did not transfer to Broadway and become a monster hit following its Off-Broadway run earlier this year; but it was a delightful show with ingratiating music by Joshua Salzman, a clever book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, and a top-shelf company of singing actors. Many thanks to PS Classics for (belatedly) recording and releasing the cast album, which is now available for your delectation.

Set in present day New York City and loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, with the genders of the main characters reversed, the show concerns Austin Bennet (Colin Hanlon), a greeting card writer who goes into a tailspin when he find his girlfriend in bed with another guy. Though at first reluctant to start dating again, he agrees to make the effort at the urging of his brother Jeff (David A. Austin), who insists that the surest way to get his ex back is to show that he has moved on. Austin meets Marcy Fitzwilliams (Farah Alvin), a free-spirited photographer -- and Jeff hooks up with Marcy's best friend, an actuary named Diana Bingley (Stephanie D'Abruzzo). Myriad complications and misunderstandings ensue.

The recording starts with a great burst of energy: "Another Saturday Night in New York" is a terrific opening number in which the love-besotted Austin sees the city as a paradise. (This is just before he discovers his girlfriend in flagrante delicto). Among the many other tracks I've played several times are the witty "...But I Don't Want to Talk About Her" and "The Actuary Song." My favorites among the ballads are "Because of You," "Just Not Now," and the title song.

Throughout the recording, Hanlon displays a versatile, rockish tenor and loads of charm; Austin's "Goodbye" to his old life is a particularly affecting moment in his performance. Alvin is a vocal powerhouse as Marcy, most notably in "Even Though." D'Abruzzo and Austin round out the quartet of leads with razor-sharp characterizations, and there are entertaining contributions from Courtney Balan and Jordan Leeds in multiple minor roles.

Of course, the recording can't recreate the production's excellent, innovative staging (by Daniel Kutner) and choreography (by Christopher Gattelli), which took place on a long, fairly narrow playing area with the audience seated on either side of the action. But what's here is a treat to be savored again and again.

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