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Customer Review

on November 10, 2012
Brian Stokes Mitchell, the 55-year-old Broadway baritone, has (finally!) released his second solo CD. It's one that fans will devour. Everything connected with this Tony-winning singer screams Broadway in the best sense of the word. And Mitchell has a new project that speaks well for his sense of respect and generosity-a series of concerts, the profits of which will be split evenly between The Actors Fund (he's chairman of their board) and non-profit concert sites. These concerts are tagged to the CD.
As well they should be.
The CD is simply titled Simply Broadway (CD Baby).
And "simply" is the key here. With just a pianist-arranger Tedd Firth, a fan can close their eyes and think they've landed in that Great Piano Bar in heaven.
By "simply" using a piano rather than an orchestra, some lyrical rare gems are exposed. The big, show-stopping numbers, Feeling Good (The Roar of the Greasepaint . . .) and "Stars" from Les Miserables, are blasted.
As well they should be.
"The Impossible Dream" is a very possible dream with this talent's voice. And against this orgy of show-biz anthems, we have "How to Handle a Woman" (Camelot) and "Some Other Time" (On the Town) that are as tender and warm as can be, and sung just for the singer and the listener.
However, "Soliloquy" (Carousel) is the reason to grab this CD. As good as any recording of this impossibly difficult piece, Mitchell's acting is so immediate and real he makes you listen to the piece as if it were brand new. You're gonna need a big handkerchief here, and most likely it sends you back to listen to the whole show, wishing some genius producer would mount a revial of the show for Mitchell before, well, let's face it . . . Billy is of a certain age and can only be stretched so far.
Blessings on Mitchell for giving us this and the other treats on this CD. A grand concert with a philharmonic orchestra is wonderful, but, sometimes, you just gotta love a piano. Inspired by the Bill Evans-Tony Bennett recordings of just piano and vocal, this is the place for a quiet concentration on the talent of the singer and the musician-arranger. Firth is a very economical player, almost like Jimmy Lyon, allowing the theme to bleed effortlessly through, under and around Mitchell's extraordinary instrument. The piano break in "Sorry-Grateful" (Company) has a wit, charm and wistfulness that's wonderful. This is the ultimate highwire act for any singer, just a piano isn't much of a safety net. Yet for following the shape and taste of a song, sometimes simplicity is best.
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