Top 10 Musical Theatre Cover Albums

Alright, no surprise that my iTunes library and regular music listening schedule is mostly showtunes. There’s a lot of really incredible music in these musicals, I’m telling you. But I love, love, LOVE(!!) Musical Theatre Cover Albums. So, even though no one asked for it, here’s my list of TOP 10 MUSICAL THEATRE COVER ALBUMS.

1. Showfolk (Rachel Bay Jones)

Holy crap, you guys. So Rachel Bay Jones (who probably should have won [let alone, been nominated for] a Tony Award for her performance as Catherine in Pippin) has a solo album called Showfolk. It’s all these wonderfully beautiful musical theatre songs turned into “authentic acoustic folk/bluegrass.” She manages to cover the genre pretty ingeniously. Highlights include a beautifully harmonized “Wicked Little Town” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a painfully vulnerable “Left Behind” from Spring Awakening, and a joyous “Lucky to Be Me” from On the Town. She makes “Stars and the Moon” from Songs for a New World feel like it’s never been sung by 1,000 auditioners who don’t understand what they’re saying. This album is the real deal.

BONUS: “No More” from Into the Woods. Not on the album. No clue why. Stunning.

2. The Trotter Trio’s Sondheim Collection [Excerpts]: Company… in JazzFollies: Themes from the Legendary MusicalA Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum… in JazzPassion… in JazzSweeney Todd… in Jazz

Okay, yes, this is technically 5 albums. Screw you, I make the list, I make the rules. The Trotter Trio’s covers of Sondheim’s work are pretty spiffy. Every album offers a completely different atmosphere and vibe, all while managing to reinvent the reinventor. A snarky “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company contrasts well with their slow and sensual “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Don’t get me started on Lorraine Feather’s vocals (one of few songs with vocals in their catalog) on “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd. Good lord.

3. Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim From The Piano (Anthony De Mare)

OH MY GOD!?!? Go look up the Liaisons Project. I cannot begin to describe the wonder and beauty of this album. I’m still processing the whopping 3 hours and 17 minutes of pure glory and heaven. My most played tracks (as of right now) are “Johanna In Space (Arranged By Duncan Sheik)” from Sweeney Todd and “Another Hundred People (Arranged By Daniel Bernard Roumain)” from Company. This project is astounding.

4. Always (Kelli O’Hara)

Kelli O’Hara and musical theatre songs go hand in hand. But Kelli O’Hara singing a lovelorn”Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George and “He Loves Me” from She Loves Me?! Sign me right up. Kelli DELIVERS. Dan Lipton’s arrangements are not to be missed.

5. Simply Broadway (Brian Stokes Mitchell)

Simply Brian. Simply beautiful. Simply simple. Simply silky.

But seriously, there’s something to be said for a smooth voice and a piano. A whole lot to be said, actually. This man makes “What Kind of Fool Am I?” from Stop the World – I Want to Get Off the kind of three-act play it needs to be. Another great “Finishing the Hat”, as well as a simply stunning finale of “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha and “Some Other Time” from On the Town. Oh, and what is most likely the greatest ever recording of “Soliloquy” from Carousel? Yeah, there’s not a bad track on here.

6. Fleet Street (The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra)

The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Terry Vosbein TEARS INTO Sweeney Todd. I never pictured myself “swinging” to “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” or “Green Finch and Linnet Bird”. A wonderful, crystal-clear capture of some beautiful arrangements.

7. Lullaby of Broadway (The Broadway Boys)

The Broadway Boys are doing some pretty spectacular work on this album. I listen to it rather infrequently, however, because the incessant riffing can be a bit much. But if high notes and good guy harmonies get you going (as they should), this is a must-listen. Any recording of the gorgeous “Mama, A Rainbow” from Minnie’s Boys deserves to be heard.

8. Sinatra Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (Frank Sinatra)

Ah, yes, a good ol’ compilation of Sinatra singing the classics. Four tracks from Oklahoma!, three from Carousel, three from The King and I, three from South Pacific, and two from both State Fair and Allegro. The album delivers what is advertised. What’s advertised sounds like a pretty good deal to me! This album will take you instantly back to the good old days.

9. If I Sing: The Songwriters Album

Songwriters sing their songs. And damn, do they sing them well. Stunning highlight: “Live Out Loud” from A Little Princess. The energy in this track could stop a truck. Far from the greatest recording of the song, this album contains a string-laden “If I Sing” from Closer Than Ever. The song just hurts me in every right way, so I’ll listen to any halfway decent recording of it.

10. You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught: The Songs of Sondheim & Hammerstein (Laura Benanti & The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C.)

Where else would Laura Benanti be other than Washington D.C. singing Stephen Sondheim & Oscar Hammerstein II with a bunch of homos? Nowhere important, I imagine. The arrangements are quite beautiful, lacking only a higher quality recording. Highlights include: “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I with beautiful, swirling harmonies, an affectionate “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd, and the always powerful “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.

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