Help, Mary Poppins !!!

Speak LowIs there anything for a performance as competence without passion?

Speak Low, the debut CD from Ashley Brown ticks off almost all the right boxes: gorgeous, intelligent singing, terrific arrangements by one of the most inventive and competent music directors in the business, a line-up of classic loved songs, and great engineering.

I had such hopes. I saw Brown in the London staging of Mary Poppins, and was impressed by her protean performance, combining a tart interpretation of the character with constant singing, dancing, flying, and costume changes. The spectacular vocal ability is in fine display on this recording. Unfortunately she has a British soprano blandness that makes the young Julie Andrews seem edgy in comparison. And while I applaud the fact that Brown performs most of the song introductions (it was particularly nice to be reminded how good the intro to The Very Thought of You is), her interpretations of the material make it feel like she was handed the lyrics ten minutes before the recording session.

Lee Musiker (who has recently re-invigorated Barabara Cook’s post- Wally Harper career), provides some drop-dead gorgeous instrumentations for these classics. Unfortunately, he commits the worst sin that an accompanist can: he’s obviously far more interesting than his vocalist and doesn’t hesitate to show it.

Brown has been announced for next season’s Barbara Cook Presents series at the Kennedy Center. It’ll be interesting to see if the effect she has in person casts a spell not evident on this recording.

  • Speak Low
  • If I Were A Bell
  • As Time Goes By
  • Smile
  • Falling In Love With Love
  • My Funny Valentine
  • Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week
  • How Long Has This Been Going On
  • I’ve Got The World On A String
  • My One And Only Love
  • The Very Thought Of You
  • Let’s Fall In Love
  • I’ll Be Seeing You
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