Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review of Three Christine Solo Albums


As you know, I love The Phantom of the Opera but to me, the show's star is actually Christine. Having collected all of the officially recorded cast recordings wasn't enough for me. I enjoy listening to various interperatations of the music and having seen 24 different actresses play the role, I can say that the role can vary from person to person. I've never seen anyone perform the part as we hear on the Original London Cast, which to me is actually a good thing. I hate the sketchy sound of bootlegs and the fact that the producers don't produce souvenir recordings of each cast or at least make updated recordings every so often means the only preservation of the roles lie in solo albums or possible compilation CD's made by companies like Jay Records.

Dale Kristien-The Beauty of Broadway
Dale Kristien has the unique distinction for being the only actress to perform the role of Christine for all 8 weekly performances. Aside from the occasional vacation, Dale was the only Christine in the original Los Angeles production of The Phantom of the Opera from the time it opened until it closed. Dale's journey as Christine began when she took over as the Alternate Broadway Christine when Patti Cohenour replaced Sarah Brightman on Broadway. The fact that replacement performers aren't given the chance to release a cast recording is definitely a shame, especially when they have voices like Dale Kristien. Shortly after Phantom ended in LA, Dale recorded an eleven track CD for Prima Records entitled The Beauty of Broadway. Of course she couldn't record a CD without including a few Phantom tunes. We not only get her stellar rendition of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again and Think of Me complete with her amazing cadenza and HIGH C, she includes her amazing duet All I Ask of You with her Raoul co-star Michael Piontek. The other eight tracks are drawn from various shows ranging from Peter Pan, The Secret Garden and Irene. Possibly the most epic moment on this CD, aside from the Phantom moments, is Dale's amazing vocal duel with her former Carlotta, Leigh Munro during Glitter and Be Gay from Candide.
Dale's voice is certainly unique, thinner in tone than most actresses that have appeared as Christine. Don't read too far into that statement though, thin doesn't equate to weak by no means in regards to Dale. I would highly recommend this CD to ANY Phantom fan that appreciates an amazing Christine as well as fans of classical musical theatre.
Megan Starr-Levitt-Beautiful Broadway
I first knew of Megan Starr-Levitt as just a face with her name listed as an understudy in the Playbill. I'd never heard her voice until the day she covered the role of Christine in the Broadway production of Phantom. I loved every minute of her performance. Something about understudies performing the starring role can bring out the best in an audience also. When I saw that Megan had released a CD, I had to have it. Beautiful Broadway features ten tracks including a few songs that seem to be the standards for many former "Christine" actresses. For me, there are three stand out tracks on this disc, the first two tracks How Could I Even Know from The Secret Garden, Moonfall from The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the last track Think of Me from Phantom. The remainder of the tracks, unfortunately, come across as sounding like a recital of material chosen by a musical theatre teacher for a demo CD rather than a musical theatre CD. Megan's voice is stunning and crystal clear but even though I love Megan's voice, the fact that her voice is backed entirely by a single piano for the duration of the album seems to push the lessor known tracks to the background. I am grateful to the efforts made on this CD and the preservation of Megan's rendition of Think of Me which is eternally loaded into my iPod. I would recommend this CD to fans of Megan, classic Broadway music and people that enjoy simple productions of piano and voice. If you are looking for a total Phantom experience, this really wouldn't be your cup of tea. Miss Levitt-Starr's CD can be ordered directly through her website http://www.meganstarrlevitt.com/.

Lisa Vroman-Broadway Classic
Lisa Vroman performed as the alternate Christine for the Music Box Tour of Phantom before moving on to San Francisco as the principal Christine for the show's 5 year run. Miss Vroman, went on to perform the role for a few years on Broadway and again with the Music Box Tour. Lisa's Broadway Classic album, a sixteen track CD produced in the year 2000, remains one of my all time favorite Phantom related CD's to this day. Backed by the San Francisco Radio Orchestra, the orchestrations are lush and depending on your sound system, can fill a room. Lisa's voice is nothing short of amazing. The selections feature songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Maury Yeston, Lerner & Lowe as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber. If you're a fan of theatre music, you will LOVE this CD, if you're a Phantom fan, you will LOVE this CD, if you're a fan of country music...you might not enjoy this as much. I could go on for days in regards to this CD, it's that great. Miss Vroman's performances of Think of Me & Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again makes this CD well worth it's weight in gold, all the rest is just icing on the cake.

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