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John Fleming's Broadway CD picks

In the Heights

Album: In the Heights (Ghostlight Records)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Finally, salsa makes it on Broadway. Paul Simon tried 10 years ago with his flop The Capeman, and now Lin-Manuel Miranda (music and lyrics) brings it off in a show nominated for 13 Tony Awards, plus he stars as owner of a bodega in the Manhattan barrio.

Why we like it: Miranda's score is a heady
mix of Latin rhythms, played by a crack 13-piece band, conducted by Alex Lacamoire. This
may be one of those musicals that is as much fun to listen to on the two-CD original cast album as to see in the theater, judging from
the hackneyed book.

Reminds us of: Rent meets El Gran Combo

Download these: It Won't Be Long Now, No Me Diga, Piragua and The Club

Grade: A

South Pacific

Album: South Pacific (Masterworks Broadway)

In stores: Now

Why we care: South Pacific may be the most problematic of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classics to revive because its themes of racism (You've Got To Be Carefully Taught) and World War II patriotism can get heavy-handed. But the score is magnificent. This is the first Broadway production since its 1949 premiere.

Why we like it: The Robert Russell Bennett orchestrations are sumptuous under music director Ted Sperling. Kelli O'Hara is sensational as U.S. Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, and Paulo Szot, as French planter Emile de Becque, booms out Some Enchanted Evening.

Reminds us of: Singing in the shower

Download these: A Cockeyed Optimist, My Girl Back Home and A Wonderful Guy

Grade: A

Xanadu

Album: Xanadu (PS Classics)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Because Olivia Newton-John's performance in roller skates and leg warmers in the 1980 cult classic (six Razzie nominations and critical put-downs like "Xanadon't'') never got its due. Here Liv is channeled by Kerry Butler in the Broadway musical that accepts the challenge to put the worst movie ever onstage.

Why we like it: This isn't bad summertime, top-down driving music, especially the disco numbers by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. For those inclined to wallow, a deluxe DVD of the movie will be released on June 24.

Reminds us of: Stuck in the '80s

Download these: Evil Woman, Strange Magic, All Over the World and (oh, what the hell) Have You Never Been Mellow?

Grade: B

Betty Buckley

Album: Betty Buckley 1967 (Playbill Records)

In stores: Now

Why we care: This is a delightful blast from the past, a previously unreleased recording by Broadway diva Betty Buckley from 1967. She was 19, a cheerleader at TCU and former Miss Fort Worth, soon to embark on a stage career in New York, where she landed the role of Martha Jefferson in 1776 in her first audition on her first day in the city.

Why we like it: Buckley's voice is so sweet and joyous in a wide-ranging program of Broadway hits of the time (One Boy from Bye Bye Birdie), standards like My Funny Valentine and even a pop tune in Spanish (Quando Calienta El Sol). Originally produced in Texas by T Bone Burnett, this is an affecting performance that documents the beginnings of a great actor-singer.

Reminds us of: Stuck in the '60s

Download these: One Boy, Call Me, Quando Calienta El Sol and Where Is Love?

Grade: A

John Fleming's Broadway CD picks 06/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 7:24am]

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