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Media Vita in Morte Sumus

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September 15, 2004

The anniversary of the 9/11 attack and the death of lyricist Fred Ebb (of the songwriting team of Kander and Ebb) prompts a program of new releases reminding us that (as the Latin proverb goes) "In the midst of life we are in death".

PLAYLIST
Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Gun Song Assassins (Revival Cast 2004) James Barbour, Michael Cerveris, Denis O'Hare, Becky Ann Baker This one is presented in recognition of the expiration of the assault weapons ban here in the USA. Three successful assassins (Leon Czolgoz, John Wilkes Booth, and Charles Guiteau) and one failed assassin (Sara Jane Moore) wax rhapsodical about the meaning of their guns. For the record, Czolgoz killed President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition on September 6, 1901 and Guiteau shot President James Garfield in the back at the Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, DC, on July 2, 1891. Moore is the failed assassin of President Gerald Ford and Booth, of course, is the infamously successful assassin of Abraham Lincoln.
Say Liza (Liza with a "Z") The Best of Liza Minnelli (2004) Liza Minnelli This is from the soundtrack of the 1972 TV special Liza with a Z. It and 9 of the other 13 tracks on this disc are by the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret) – not surprising, given their close association with Minnelli's career. Ironically, this disk showed up less than 2 days before Ebb (who wrote the liner notes for it) died at the age of 72, making this a kind of memorial to him.
Ring Them Bells The Best of Liza Minnelli (2004) Liza Minnelli This comic love story is also from Liza with a Z. This disc is appropriately titled, by the way – there's not a dud track on it.
I Happen to Like New York John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter (2004) John Barrowman, Pro Arts Orchestra of London conducted by Stewart Mackintosh British singer Barrowman has the kind of light, lyric baritone that seems to be in vogue these days and he puts it to good use on this disc of jazzy arrangements of Porter classics. He has given this one a kind of anthem-ish character that seems appropriate for the week after all the 9/11 observations.
Leg O' the Crow Dear Friends The Firesign Theatre We pause for a word from one of our imaginary sponsors, courtesy of the Firesign Theatre's old Dear Friends radio show.
Anything Goes John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter (2004) John Barrowman, Pro Arts Orchestra of London conducted by Stewart Mackintosh The song is from Anything Goes, in which Barrowman made his West End debut in 1989 as Billy Crocker. He's repeating that role currently in London. This performance has, as far as I can see, all the lyrics.
The Great Adventurer Vanity Fair (OS 2004) Custer LaRue; David McGuiness, fortepiano This song, about how love always finds a way, is a traditional tune arranged by David McGuiness. LaRue is best known for her work with The Baltimore Consort, but also has a few solo discs to her credit..
Steyne the Pasha Vanity Fair (OS 2004) Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Dodd Mychael Danna wrote the score for this new adaptation of Thackery's novel. Prior to Vanity Fair, his extensive credits have been mostly for smaller independent films.
El Salaam Vanity Fair (OS 2004) Hakim Known as "The Lion of Egypt", Hakim is credited with bringing a style of street music called sha'bi into the 21st century by melding ancient tunes and modern technology.
Something Just Broke Assassins (Revival Cast 2004) Company Bystanders from various eras of American history react to the assassination of JFK and others with shock and grief. Stephen Sondheim's surrealistic musical about presidential assassins got a chilly reception at its premiere on January 27, 1991 and ran only 147 performances. The Roundabout Theatre revival was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2001 but was postponed because of the 9/11 attack.


Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.


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