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So, after the chaos of the holiday season has finally died down, I’ve had chance to listen to the second of the trio of 54 Below releases from Broadway Records. Those of you who are regular readers of my reviews will know that this series is a particular favourite of mine, and I always look forward to hearing not only the performers featured, but also their choice of songs. A concert such as this is a great way to try out new material that you probably wouldn’t want to include in a concert tour, or a full-on studio album.
Carmen Cusack’s debut album, If You Knew My Story, is brimming with the deeply emotional stories and songs that brought her to Broadway. Carmen has been widely recognized for her sensitivity to past pains and joys during each moment onstage. After her time on London's West End as Fantine in Les Misérables and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, Carmen toured as the leading lady of both Wicked and South Pacific before arriving on Broadway as Alice Murphy in Bright Star, earning her a Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut. The album includes songs cut from Bright Star, as well as duets with Katie Rose Clark, Joe Jung, Paul Telfer and Grammy Award winner Edie Brickell.
I found this an interesting album. I’ve not really heard much from Cusack before this – I was aware she was in Phantom of the Opera over here, and I know she’s recently starred in Bright Star, both of which are featured on this recording. The selections from Bright Star were interesting to listen to, as they were mainly cut songs that didn’t make it to Broadway. We used to get a lot of these sort of ‘lost song’ releases, thinking particularly of the excellent Lost In Boston releases from Bruce Kimmel, and more recently the Lost West End releases from Stage Door, and it’s great that we’re getting to hear more of these songs in a concert setting.
Cusack seems very much at home in this setting, and her delivery is much more natural and relaxed than some of these albums. The choice of songs is pretty eclectic, but each is delivered well, and competently backed by her band. The numbers she does with her guests are also worthy of the album, and I particularly enjoyed the version of 'For Good', from the ever-present Wicked. I also enjoyed her ‘Past Roles Medley’ and in particular ‘Back To Before’ from Ragtime – for me, the crowning moment of this album.
A very enjoyable recording, with some interesting moments that will please fans and general theatre enthusiasts in equal measures.