Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kate Baldwin's "Let's See What Happens" is a gem

Kate Baldwin bursts with warmth and personality in Let's See What Happens, her solo debut CD, which is devoted to songs by Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg (together and with other collaborators). She reminds me so much of the late Nancy LaMott, who I and many others consider to be one of the best cabaret artists of our time.

Baldwin had not been on my radar screen until I listened to this CD, but now I am utterly charmed. I want to hear her in concert now, and I want to go back to see her in the current Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow. She seems to possess a natural sparkle that makes her such a standout in that show and makes this CD one of my favorites of my vast collection. I’ve been playing it over and over and it gives me a lift every time.

“Kate is an excellent actress, which is important, because lyrics are of primary importance to me, and she infuses all this material with intelligence, and a crystalline theatre voice,” writes Hal Prince in the liner notes. “Plus, she has taste.”

That acting talent is reflected in her range of interpretation of these classic songs. She’s sassy for “Have Feet, Will Dance,” sultry for “Moments Like This,” funny with “I Like the Likes of You,” moving for “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” (hearing her sing that song in Finian’s on Broadway is one of the highlights of the show), and she’s oh, so romantic with “Let’s See What Happens/Open Your Eyes,” “Where Have I Seen Your Face Before?” and “He Wasn’t You.”

Rob Berman, music director of Finian's Rainbow, serves that role here. The orchestrations are by Jason Robert Brown, Sam Davis, Joel Fram, Steve Marzullo, Joshua Rosenblum, Georgia Stitt, Joseph Thalken and Jonathan Tunick. The album, which is produced by PS Classics, also features a special appearance by Jonathan Tunick and His Broadway Moonlighters.

“There’s something for everyone -- even a song or two I had never heard,” Prince writes. “But one thing is clear: every choice is choice, and Kate Baldwin is a protean talent at the beginning of a spectacular career. Of that I’m certain.”

So am I.

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