"Gypsy" (Angel Records)
Does the world need yet another "Gypsy" CD, after the versions with Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and Bette Midler?
The distinctive timbre of Bernadette Peters is the primary reason to listen to this new recording of the most recent Broadway revival. If you know Peters' work, you know that her performance is crinkly, throaty, more vulnerable than most Mama Roses but still mighty inexorable.
Peters' recorded performance is notably better than the one I heard her give in a Broadway theater over the summer. No, it isn't plainly superior to those of her predecessors, but why can't we let a thousand Mama Roses bloom, without necessarily ranking them? The great score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim is worth that many interpretations.
Also of note on this CD is the inclusion of a brief cut devoted to "Madame Rose's Toreadorables," yet another of the show's great comedy numbers, often forgotten because of its absence on earlier recordings. When Tammy Blanchard's "Senorita Louise" chirps, "Ole, everybody! My name's Louise! What's yours?" most listeners will surely guffaw and then groan, almost within the same breath.
You'll also enjoy the sizzling lead trumpet work of Chris Jaudes.
Even without the puppets, it works
"Avenue Q" (BMG Music)
The new Broadway musical "Avenue Q" is becoming famous for its puppets. Yet the puppet experience is missing from the CD, other than photos in the liner notes.
Does this make the CD pointless? That was my impression as I began to listen, but by the end of the recording I wanted to see the show in all its glory. If a cast album is, on one level, a marketing tool, this one certainly does the job well.
It wouldn't have accomplished this task if the music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx weren't so breezy and clever.
The songs sound like those from "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," making the target audience of post-collegiate theatergoers in their 20s feel right at home, but the lyrics venture into grown-up language and topics that have yet to be heard on kids' TV shows.
The CD includes the lyrics, so it's easy to make sure you actually heard that eyebrow-raising lyric that you thought you heard. Yet it never seems as if the show's creators are making fun of their inspirations. The ending of the show's narrative about young slackers is almost as pro-social as an episode of "Sesame Street" itself -- but without losing a wry sense of realism about the impossibility of happy-ever-after endings.
Let's hope an L.A. production is in the works.