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They say things come in threes. Unfortunately, it’s usually in reference to less-than-welcome occurrences, but in this case, it’s very welcome indeed. Broadway Records, seemingly on a mission to issue as many albums as possible in a calendar year, have just sent me their latest releases. Included in the best Christmas present I’ve had for a while were no less than three more albums in the Live at 54 Below series. And they couldn’t be more different.
The first one up is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp celebrate their 20-year friendship with Acoustically Speaking: 20 Years of Friendship – Live from Feinstein’s/54 Below. The intimate unplugged show feature songs that have influenced their lives, capped by a few from the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning musical that changed their lives, Rent. Recorded over eight sold-out nights in October 2016, Adam and Anthony strip down songs fans know and love, while also offering new and familiar stories of their lives, careers and friendship. Featuring songs from Memphis, Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Once and much more, Acoustically Speaking is the perfect celebration of twenty years of friendship.
I’ve long been a fan of Rapp, since his appearances in Rent, his acclaimed auto-biography, and also his one man show Without You from a year or so ago. It’s no surprise then that his tracks were my favourite on this release. That’s not to say I didn’t like Pascal’s contribution. I enjoyed 'Open Arms' with it’s big vocal, and also the more intimate ‘Joanna’ from Sweeney Todd. Rapp’s version of 'But Not For Me' is surprisingly good, and it was nice to hear ‘Happiness’ from You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown again.
But it’s when they cover the songs from Rent that this recording comes to life. We get treated to four numbers from Rent, and each have matured and grown in their delivery of them. They finish off with 'Seasons of Love', each covering various solo lines, and it’s a fitting finale to a great album. I would have liked to have heard more of them together, with more duets - this would have complemented the numerous female duet albums out there, but it’s still great to have more material by two of Broadway’s modern legends.