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John Fleming's CD picks: 'Book of Mormon,' 'How to Succeed in Business', 'Catch Me If You Can', 'Mary Poppins'

Getting religion

Album: The Book of Mormon (Ghostlight)

Why we care: I kind of don't get it. Sure, Mormon is the toughest ticket on Broadway since The Producers, and the show is brilliantly crafted, but it's preaching to the choir, the pop culture-besotted audience that worships at the altar of The Daily Show, Bill Maher and, of course, South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys behind the bawdy cartoon sitcom, dreamed up this musical, along with Robert Lopez of Avenue Q.

Why we like it: Mormon sets the bar high for outrage. A song with the lyric "F--- you, God" and an African warlord character named Butt F------ Naked are a far cry from Cole Porter.

Reminds us of: All the musicals it spoofs, from Bye Bye Birdie to The Sound of Music, The Pajama Game to The Lion King.

Download this: Hasa Diga Eebowai

Grade: A-

Harry Potter

Album: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Decca)

Why we care: With Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) playing striver J. Pierrepont Finch, the revival of Frank Loesser's golden oldie from 1961 is packing them in on Broadway. Unfortunately, Radcliffe is a lackluster, nasal singer, though he does rise to the occasion of I Believe in You, Finch's anthem to himself.

Why we like it: Rose Hemingway is a delightful Rosemary Pilkington, Ponty's love interest. Doug Besterman's jazzy orchestration of the Loesser score is consistently inventive. Sign of the times: CNN's Anderson Cooper is the voice of the narrator, a role originally performed by Walter Cronkite.

Reminds us of: Promises, Promises

Download these: Been a Long Day, Paris Original, I Believe in You

Grade: B

Con artist

Album: Catch Me If You Can (Ghostlight)

Why we care: Here's a musical set in the Kennedy years from the creative team who scored big with another show from the same period, the Motown-inspired Hairspray. But something doesn't quite click in this Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman jazz-pop score, which is overloaded with flashy numbers.

Why we like it: For a student of movies turned into musicals, there's a dissertation to be written on the dramatic appeal of con man Frank Abagnale Jr., who inspired the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie and this show. Norbert Leo Butz won a Tony for his performance as FBI agent Carl Hanratty.

Reminds us of: Stylistically, John Williams' retro jazz soundtrack for the movie. It's an underrated score, one of his best.

Download this: Don't Break the Rules

Grade: B-

Perfect nanny

Album: Mary Poppins (Walt Disney)

Why we care: This is a live cast recording of the Australian production in 2010. It's welcome because revisions made to the score since the original London cast recording from 2005 are included, such as a new song, Playing the Game. There is no full recording of the Broadway cast.

Why we like it: Verity Hunt-Ballard is smashing as the practically perfect nanny. Her precise enunciation cuts like a knife through Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Also fine is Matt Lee as Bert, the Cockney chimney sweep whose relationship with Mary is one of the abiding mysteries of the story.

Reminds us of: Julie Andrews, of course

Download these: Practically Perfect, A Spoonful of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Chim Chim Cher-ee, Step in Time

Grade: A

John Fleming's CD picks: 'Book of Mormon,' 'How to Succeed in Business', 'Catch Me If You Can', 'Mary Poppins' 08/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 5:51pm]
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