New Recordings Celebrate Musical Theater Legends

Article excerpt

One of the hottest new night spots in New York is an intimate space called 54 Below, built underneath the Studio 54 theater, which was once home to some wild parties during the height of the disco era.

It's the newest venue for a wide assortment of Broadway stars (and would-be stars) to showcase different aspects of their talents.

In just a few short months, it has hosted veterans like Patti LuPone, Ben Vereen, Linda Lavin and Leslie Uggams, and up-and- coming performances like Laura Osnes, who starred in "Bonnie & Clyde." Most of the artists are taking chances on new kinds of programs that are giving the club an exciting buzz.

It sounds like a musical theater lover's dream land, and now you can get a sense of what it's like at home in two new recordings, the first in a series that Broadway Records launched with 54 Below.

The first two releases feature two Tony winners -- LuPone, who won for "Evita," and Norbert Leo Butz, who won his for "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Catch Me if You Can." CDs by Andrea McArdle (Broadway's original "Annie") and Christiane Noll are due in the coming months.

I generally love live concert recordings because there's an extra level of electricity you don't get in a studio. You can hear the way the performer connects with the audience, the occasional impromptu asides, and the introductions or backgrounds of the chosen songs which lend a greater level of understanding. They also help you feel like you're there live.

These two new recordings are winners in style and substance.

LuPone's "Far Away Places" takes on an international tone as she sings about her wanderlust, leading the listener on a musical journey around the world with Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's "Pirate Jenny" from "The Three-penny Opera," Cole Porter's "Come to the Supermarket (In Old Peking)," and such songs as "Traveling Light" and "Gypsy in My Soul."

She's in great voice and is often hilarious in these concert settings, with a dramatic touch. …

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