Picks and Pans Review: You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile—jason Graae Sings Charles Strouse
There's enough fun and romance in singer Jason Graae's tribute to veteran Broadway composer Charles Strouse to satisfy the most jaded, heard-it-all musical theatergoers. The Chicago-born, Tulsa-bred Graae, an alumnus of Falsettos and Stardust, tackles Strouse's catchy compositions with gusto and displays vocal versatility and charm throughout. Shifting his pleasing baritone between up-tempos and ballads, Graae is aided immeasurably by Brad Ellis's lively, risk-taking arrangements. Under Ellis's baton, the wistful Annie plea "Maybe" is coupled with Bye Bye Birdie's teen idol come-on "One Last Kiss" to become a bittersweet recall of lost love. The CD's title number (from Annie) gets a jazz-swing workout, and Golden Boy's "Night Song" would sound right at home on pop radio. Perhaps most memorable is Birdie's title tune, which in the capable hands of Graae and Ellis turns into a riotous campfest with nods to Ann-Margret ("Bird-HEE!"), doo-wop and the Trapp Family Singers! By CD's end, Graae is having such a blast that you'll even smile at his bizarre Judy Garland and Tallulah Bankhead impersonations. (Varése Sarabande)
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