One of the newest ventures of Broadway Records is the release of a new series of CDs recorded live at 54 Below in New York City. The first singer to open the elegant new night club space was Broadway's extraordinary Patti LuPone last June, 2012. So it is only fitting that her Far Away Places be the first recording. Two-time Tony Award winning actor/singer Norbert Leo Butz played the room in August, 2012. His exciting Memories & Mayhem is the second live CD released.
What more can I add that has not already been said of the incomparable Patti LuPone? Her artistry is impeccable, and she truly is at the very top of her form. Each and every tune on Far Away Places is laced with a wise and terribly infectious humor that defies description. You have to listen to appreciate her playful spontaneity, as she consistently pulls out all the stops, letting her feelings/sensations carry her to unimaginable heights. Far Away Places is therefore an apt title in more ways than one.
The obvious theme that fills her patter is the singer whose home is Broadway, but who also finds herself on the road a lot, playing venues rich in song like Peking - the hilarious "Come To the Supermarket in Old Peking" or Sicily, her ancestry - "I Wanna Be Around". Then there's Brecht's dark and dramatically vengeful "Pirate Jenny", the very, very English "By the Sea" from Sweeney Todd or Paris, in homage to Edith Piaf with the rousing "I Regret Everything" and glorious "Hymn To Love". Lupone sings in the appropriate accents intoning delightfully "I do all kinds of accents just like Meryl". She also gets down and funky with "Nights on Broadway", then closing with a more tame but stunning "September Song". Her voice is spectacular throughout taking her and us on a journey that is at once exotic, deliciously fun and unforgettable.
Produced by Robert Sher and directed by Lupone's prolific show creator Scott Wittman, Places's band includes Joseph Thalken on piano and vocals, Antony Geralis on keyboards/accordian, Larry Saltzman on guitar/banjo, Andy Stein, violin/saxophone and on drums/percussion, Paul Pizzuti - all spectacular sounds, putting the listener smack dab at a front row table in the lush showroom that is 54 Below. Great, great recording!
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Frenetic, off-the-wall Broadway sensation Norbert Leo Butz, like all genius performers, is a little crazy and not afraid of showing it. If you did not see him in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which gave him his first Tony, or in Catch Me If You Can, his second Tony, you missed two performances for the books. However, with this new recording of Memories & Mayhem, recorded live at 54 Below, you really get to know at least a part of the vibrantly manic persona that is Norbert Butz. As he opens the show, he states his intention: "Don't suck!" If you take to heart what he says, you could be easily misled into thinking, "Who is this guy? What kind of fool is this? Is he worth it?" Well, let me tell you, Butz' way with a song, whether it be country, blues, rock or pop, is uncanny - the talent is humongous. "Sixteen Tons"/"Great Big Stuff" fit his delivery to a tee. You are in for a treat!