From Matinee Magazine :

CD Reviews: Last 5 Years, Millie, de Haas and Molaskey

by Jason Clark, Co-Creator and Theater Editor

Now in stores, ³theater people², as they often referred, can have their pick of a litter of new albums both in show form, and by a few who made their names that way. Leading the pack is the cast album for Jason Robert Brown¹s The Last 5 Years, the surprise winner of both Best Score and Best Lyrics at this year¹s Drama Desk Awards, besting some heavier hitters. It¹s easy to see why when you hear the surprisingly robust score on its new album, which seems far more resonant than when I witnessed it on the Minetta Lane stage last spring. Showcasing its two knockout stars, the wonderful Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz, the disc transcends its origins, which I found on stage to be rather stilted at times and lacking in imagination. The album, though, contains tunes that you could easily listen to outside of the show, mostly due to their witty, playful lyrics and the duo¹s spirited vocals. Tracks like ³A Summer in Ohio², ³I Can Do Better Than That² and the sweet ³The Schmuel Song² worked in the show, but become even more appealing outside of it, and the CD is finally a tribute to composer Brown, whose brightness shines through every track.

One of the shows Brown¹s score bested is that of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and while I never want to sit through that garish, obnoxious production again, I did take a second listen to the score outside of it. Lead Sutton Foster¹s voice is as overeager and unctuous on CD as her performance is on stage, but revisiting it does reveal some spunk in Dick Scanlan and Jeanine Tesori¹s jazz-age score. The big second-act pleaser, ³Forget About the Boy², is kinda catchy, and Harriet Harris¹ solo ³They Don¹t Know² is pretty good fun. Much of the music does sound redundant and too pilfered from other, better productions (it is never as evocative or intriguing as Tesori¹s little-heard or seen Violet, which hopefully will get another chance someday), but it¹s a picnic compared to its gaudy representation nightly at the Marquis Theatre.

In the solo cabaret-style arena, we have Darius de Haas¹s Daydream: Variations on Strayhorn has the versatile songster in full slow jazz mode. This, of course, will almost exclusively be of interest to jazz enthusiasts much more than theater devotees. This is strictly for fans, but it would be hard to ignore the subtle power of de Haas¹s uniquely pitched voice. Like many standards-type albums, the songs do tend to mesh into each other after a while, but if you don¹t wish to listen all at once, you can break it up, if only to hear his takes on classics like ³Lush Life² and ³Satin Doll², nicely rendered.

Jessica Molaskey is best known as the better half of John Pizzarelli, the talented guitarist-singer best known as the Foxwoods jingle guy. Hopefully, that will be no more after people hear her new CD Pentimento, a mélange of truly blissful tunes by artists like Irving Berlin, Harry Warren & Al Dubin, Stephen Foster and even originals by Pizzarelli and herself. It¹s almost difficult to describe the sweet lilt of Molaskey¹s supple voice since her style is smooth as silk and deliberately understated. Her sensual, rangy purr on tunes like ³By the Beautiful Sea², ³Ain¹t We Got Fun² and a brief but lovely ³Beautiful Dreamer² suggests those great songs Woody Allen uses for his opening film credits, except sung delectably by a crooner who adds a little sex appeal to tunes that hardly need improving in the first place.

The Last Five Years