As soon as I heard the first accords of the “Prelude” I was hooked with this recording. And what joy it is to find a new Vernon Duke musical in 2015.
The booklet explained that Duke’s music used in here was in part written in 1949 for an unproduced musical to which Duke’s widow called “The French Score”. Book and lyricist Barry Singer started working with the music and created a musical about Misia Sert, “the celebrated muse of fin de siècle Paris”. The show had its first semi-staged reading in 2004 and ten years later, Tommy Krasker (co-founder of the PS Classics label), decided to turn the score into a studio cast recording and the final result is here.
When we listen to this highly enjoyable recording it seems that Duke’s music was specially written for Singer’s lyrics: no one would believe otherwise, they are a perfect match. If that wasn’t enough, we have rich orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Who could ask for anything more? Well, it seems Krasker could, and so he assembled a Broadway all-star cast, who gave life to the musical’s characters.
As Misia, Marin Mazzie is at her best and I can’t understand why this wonderful actress doesn’t have more chances on Broadway; people should write musicals specially for her. Just listen to her exquisite rendition of the beautiful “My Heart and I” and you’ll understand what I’m saying. In solos or in duets, she sounds the perfect Misia and it’s like these songs were written just for her. More dramatic in “A Child”, lighter with “My Gifts”, she simply excels!
Around her there’s a terrific group of male supporters, including Mazzie’s husband, the talented Jason Danieley, who has fun with the Latin rhythms of “Bow Your Head”. Bobby Steggert, among other songs, lends his sweet voice to “Well, How Nice!”, an entertaining duet with Mazzie. And then there’s the always reliable Jonathan Freeman, perfect in his duets with Mazzie, the beautiful waltz “Lies” or the entertaining “No Talent at All”; plus in the touching solo “Nursery”. Stephen De Rosa, Telly Leung, Philip Chaffin and Eddie Korbich lend their talents to “Painted, Promise Land”, one of the highlights of the score and the first three also had a good time with “To Bed”. Marc Kudisch joins some of the men for “You Will Know Me”, another great song. One final word to Lauren Worsham; she shines with the amusing “How I Love to Kick the Can-Can” (I love this kind of numbers) and gets softer for “Agreement”.
Like Duke’s best work, the songs have a haunting quality that grows on us and it’s impossible to resist to his melodies. I believe this is one of the best releases of the year and, probably, the best surprise of the year! Go and run to get it!
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10)