Laura Benanti

In Constant Search
of the Right Kind of Attention

Broadway Records
Broadway’s Laura Benanti is one of today’s most acclaimed and versatile singers, possessing one of the rarest soprano voices since Barbara Cook in her heyday. Too, she has a razor sharp wit and eclectic musical tastes. It all made its way into her debut act at 54 Below in May 2013, which was wildly successful and is captured on this well-produced live album by Broadway Records. Particularly noticeable here is how well the show transferred to disc. She simply captivates with fun banter, that sounds spontaneous, and several musical styles. Opening with the chestnut “I’m Old Fashioned” tells about her love for all things past and what’s to follow. She reveals little else about herself or much about her theater or television credits, except for some self-deprecating asides about the canceled television shows. Yet, the set moves seamlessly with funny finesse and thoughtful musical selections.

Comfortable talking to her enthusiastic idolaters, she delights with quirky stories and a mixed bag on the song list. She reinvents “On the Street Where You Live” as “On the Street Where I Lived” in a silly turn, as she actually grew up down the block from the club. Benanti personalizes renditions of other Broadway classics usually assigned to male singers, including “My Time of Day” (Guys and Dolls). Her reading of “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” (Gigi) is terrific, as she warmly breathes new life into this favorite. Non-musical theatre-based tracks include Joni Mitchell’s profound “He Comes for Conversation” and the fascinating (and overlooked) “Mr. Tanner” (Harry Chapin)—a sad-but-true story of man who just loved to sing. There’s new material featured also. Most notable are two written by Benanti herself, particularly “The Ukulele Song,” performed with more quirky wit and a warmth that are consistent with her wacky stage personality. “Unusual Way” (Nine) and “Model Behavior,” from the short-lived Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, hit their marks—the former being as trenchant as the latter is hilarious. Overall, this vibrant mezzo glides across genres with ease, making this debut recording a winner. Musical Director/arranger Todd Almond deserves a big chunk of the credit for such an exceptional job throughout.

John Hoglund
Cabaret Scenes
January 1, 2014
www.cabaretscenes.org