Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NYTE's Vision for 2010

I make New Year's resolutions every year about this time. When a nonprofit organization like The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. creates an annual budget and a business plan, it is making New Year's resolutions, too.

I am excited to share our 2010 Resolutions with all of you.
  1. We are going to celebrate the diversity of New York theatre this year, in a big way. We want to make sure that theatre-makers and theatre-goers understand just how thrillingly diverse this community is--our focus will be on building awareness and access to the many, many choices available to audiences. Diversity includes gender, ethnicity, and race, but that's not all there is to it! We are interested in diversity in terms of form--theatre styles that break down the barriers between traditional disciplines to create new genres that often get lumped together in categories like "physical theatre," "experimental theatre," or "avant-garde theatre." We are also interested in diversity in terms of location: we are going to search for theatre everywhere it is being made in the NYC area, throughout all five boroughs. This diversity initiative isn't about being politically correct; it's about learning, exploring, and discovering art, ideas, cultures, and ways of communicating that are different from the status quo. A good thing, we believe.

  2. We are going to provide new and better tools to make sure people can find the kind of theatre they want to see. We believe that a lot of people want simple, focused, accurate information about the many choices available to them so that they can decide how to spend their precious hours and dollars in the theatre. I met with a group of high school students recently in a seminar about theatre criticism. I was excited to discover that these teenagers don't like superficial rating systems: they don't care if Rolling Stone gives an album five stars or if some pundit calls a movie "essential viewing." They want data. We're going to keep on providing exactly that on nytheatre.com, recognizing that many different elements affect the theatre-going decision--not only content and form, but also the artists involved, performance times and lengths, and price points.
Technology plays an ever-larger role in our lives, and we are focused on that as well. We will continue to ensure that we respect the diversity of our constituents by making all of our resources completely accessible. And we will provide choices as to how our services are delivered--some people like books and other people like e-books, and we're gearing up to offer both; a lot of folks are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices like the iPhone or the BlackBerry and we are making sure all of the info we provide can be conveniently read and used regardless of your computing platform.

So, there's a high-level look at what we are resolving to accomplish in 2010. Now I want to focus on some specifics. Here are some of the actions we have already taken to move toward achieving our vision:

  1. New features on nytheatre.com that celebrate diversity: We've already made some additions to nytheatre.com that highlight the works of diverse artists. There are now separate Now Playing listings on our website for Plays by Women and for Plays with Gay & Lesbian Themes. These join our existing listings for Physical Theater and shows in the Outer Boroughs to help audiences identify and focus on each of these kinds of work. Last week, we added keywords to every current show page as a further enhancement (see a sample here). Also, our new PlaywrightALERTS (see below) include up-to-date feeds of new productions of plays by women and plays by people of color.

  2. nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS: To help audiences keep abreast of current and upcoming productions of plays and musicals by authors they care about, we've launched nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS. You can learn much more about this new service in this blog post.

  3. 50/50 in 2010: NYTE is partnering with 50/50 in 2020, a grassroots movement to acknowledge the contribution of women to theatre and to achieve employment parity for women theatre artists by the 100th anniversary of American suffrage in 2020. We will be working with them to significantly augment coverage of women theatre artists on our websites. We believe in putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak; and therefore we are committing to "50/50 in 2010"--we are going to attempt to review equal numbers of plays by women and plays by men in 2010. (Note that, given the disparity between numbers of productions, this may not actually be possible. We will keep everyone posted.) We recommend Marsha Norman's American Theatre article on this subject for those seeking an explanation of the importance of this initiative.

That's what we have to report right now. I'll keep you up-to-date with new features and new projects as the year progresses. Your feedback is vital, so please comment here or send me an email with your thoughts about our vision for 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

BardALERT! (Announcing Some New Features on nytheatre.com)

There are lots of ways nowadays to find out about theatre that's going on in New York City. But it's sometimes difficult to stay on top of the particular kind of theatre that you love and cherish and care about.

nytheatre.com is here to help! Today I am announcing the nytheatre.com BardALERT and the nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS. These are constantly-updated web resources that keep you posted about the newest current and upcoming productions of works by Shakespeare (that's the BardALERT) or other groups of playwrights. Check them out.

In addition to the BardALERT, we have alerts for the following groups of plays:

These are RSS feeds, which means that you can subscribe to them using an RSS reader or your web browser software. You can also subscribe to them via email. If you're not sure how to subscribe to an RSS feed, it's explained here.

The purpose of the BardALERT and the PlaywrightALERTS is to keep you up-to-date about NYC presentations of plays by the authors you like. Please post a comment or email me to let me know what you think about this new feature on nytheatre.com!

nytheatre.com BardALERT and PlaywrightALERTS are part of our broad initiative in 2010 to provide theatre audiences with the information they need to find the shows that interest them. I will be talking more about this initiative in upcoming nytheatre i posts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Year-End Message about nytheatre.com and NYTE

Today, I share some thoughts about the first 10 years of The New York Theatre Experience, Inc...

25 years ago, New York theatre pretty much meant Manhattan theatre. Today, there are thriving epicenters of theatrical activity in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City, downtown Brooklyn, Astoria, the Bronx and other spots in what we used to call the “outer boroughs.”

Back then, you could tell someone you were going to see a play or a musical and they’d have a pretty good idea of what you were talking about. In 2009, the lines between those traditional forms have blurred, and new and re-imagined genres like performance art, multimedia, burlesque, improv, dance, physical theater, puppetry, mask, vaudeville, and even opera can all coalesce within a single production. Home-grown companies intermix with artists from all over the world, and theatre created from every conceivable point-of-view finds its way to the stage here in the Big Apple.

This is why I love living where I live and doing what I do. But it’s also why our mission here at The New York Theatre Experience, Inc., becomes more challenging every year. When we launched NYTE as a nonprofit corporation ten years ago, our vision was pretty straightforward: to help theatergoers navigate the NYC theatre scene via our website, nytheatre.com.

Since then, we’ve expanded the scope of our mission. Today, NYTE is committed to using new and traditional media to highlight, nurture, promote, and advance the work of thousands of indie/nonprofit theatre practitioners who make groundbreaking and foundational art in New York City. We do this by giving thousands of artists free space to list and explain their work on nytheatre.com and our other websites and on our nytheatrecast podcast series. We do this by reviewing more productions than any other media outlet every year—917 so far in 2009. And we do this by providing the first publication for worthy emerging and/or unheralded playwrights—144 of them in our first ten years.

As the community we serve keeps growing and morphing in unpredictable ways, so too has our bailiwick. The world of 2010 is a world of e-books and Kindles, iPhones and Droids. Our #1 focus is to keep providing our community of readers and listeners with the content they need to stay on top of the NYC theatre scene, to know what’s playing, what’s coming, what’s hot, what’s cool; all of the who-what-where-when-why-and-how details, in a format and style that’s easy to deal with and fun to engage with. I will be writing in detail about our plans in upcoming blog posts, right here on the nytheatre i.

Meanwhile, today I ask you to help us make this happen. There are two important actions you can take. And please know that both are very very important.

First, please make a contribution to NYTE. This year we were recognized by Microsoft Corporation with a $5,000 grant for our “promotion of the work of hundreds of nonprofit theatre companies to an audience of 3 million people annually, and all at no cost to the nonprofit theatres themselves.” This extraordinary gift has helped us lay the groundwork for the complicated yet exciting new-tech goodies we are building to make sure we can keep achieving our mission. Your gift of $5, $25, $50 will enable us to enter the world of ebook publishing in 2010, and thereby to bring the works of even more gifted playwrights to a broad, deep, diverse audience. Your gift of $10, $35, $75 will allow us to continue development, testing, and implementation of new features on our websites and a whole new kind of theatre information resource designed for mobile devices like the iPhone.

Any amount—one dollar or one hundred dollars or anything in between—will be greatly appreciated and is in fact essential to make sure we can continue to provide and grow the services we’ve built during our first ten years. NYTE is a nonprofit corporation, and so your donation is tax-deductible in accordance with federal and state laws. You can use your credit card or you can send a check to:

The New York Theatre Experience, Inc.
P.O. Box 1606
Murray Hill Station
New York, NY 10156

If you have already recently made a contribution, thank you very much!

The second action you can take is to stay in touch with us. Your show listings and company updates help make nytheatre.com interesting and comprehensive. Your opinions, ideas, and feedback keep us on track. Post your comments anytime, right here on the nytheatre i. And email me your thoughts about nytheatre.com, NYTE’s publication program, and what we can do to make them more responsive to your needs as a theatre-maker and/or theatre-goer.

I am lucky to be able to work in a field that is so rich and rewarding, and to do that work for people who care deeply about our common culture, our values, and our future. So thank you for reading this, and thank you for being an active part of NYTE’s community, and supporting us.

Here's to a successful, peaceful, and beautiful 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

nytheatre Readers' (and Listeners') Choice: 2009 -- Part 2

Yesterday, I shared with you the most popular podcasts and artist cyberinterviews on nytheatre.com during 2009. Today, we continue exploring what our readers were most interested in by looking at the top nytheatre i blog posts and the most-read nytheatre.com reviews.

Let's start with this blog -- the nytheatre i, home in 2009 to Good News about NYC Theater. Here are the top ten postings for the year:

  1. David H. Koch Theater Gets Aisles (Mar 28)
  2. 14th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts (May 8)
  3. Puppetry of the Penis Stimulus Package (Apr 10)
  4. Watch the Inauguration at BAM (Jan 10)
  5. Keen Teens Free After-School Theatre Program (Jan 31)
  6. FringeNYC -- Popular Shows (Aug 15)
  7. Barefoot Theatre Company Celebrates Israel Horovitz's Birthday (Mar 18)
  8. 50/50 in 2020: Parity for Women Theatre Artists (Sep 6)
  9. Plays and Playwrights 2010: First Announcement (Oct 13)
  10. Ground Up's Barefoot in the Park Announces Events (Jun 25)

Finally, here are two lists of the most popular reviews on nytheatre.com for 2009. I was surprised myself by these results.

Here are the top 10 Broadway/off-Broadway shows:

  1. Shrek The Musical
  2. Billy Elliot the Musical
  3. Jersey Boys
  4. West Side Story
  5. Wicked
  6. God of Carnage
  7. Our Town
  8. South Pacific
  9. The Lion King
  10. Naked Boys Singing

And here are the top 10 indie theater shows:

  1. Jailbait
  2. That Pretty Pretty, or the Rape Play
  3. The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
  4. Line
  5. The Temperamentals
  6. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
  7. Sweet Storm
  8. Soul Samurai
  9. Homer's Odyssey
  10. The Lily's Revenge

Thoughts about these, anybody?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

nytheatre Readers' (and Listeners') Choice: 2009

So, I've posted nytheatre.com's view of some of the most memorable theatre and theatre artists of the past year here, here, and here. All well and good...but perhaps even more meaningful will be for us to look at what nytheatre.com's readers and nytheatrecast's listeners looked at and heard during 2009. I am certainly interested in what portions of our content were most appealing to our many constituents. I thought perhaps you would be too.

So, for starters, here's the list of the most popular podcast episodes for 2009, from all of the nytheatrecasts we produced throughout the year:

  1. Playwrights In Conversation: Matt Freeman and Adam Szymkowicz (#282)
  2. Metropolitan Playhouse Spring Season (#276) (features Alex Roe)
  3. Balancing Acts--Surviving and Thriving in Theater (#278) (features Robin Rothstein, Melanie Armer, Craig Pospisil, and David Hilder)
  4. Plays and Playwrights 2009: Author Roundtable (#287) (features Colette Freedman and Nick Mwaluko)
  5. Playwrights In Conversation: Matt Freeman and James Comtois (#289)
  6. FRIGID New York Festival Preview (#273) (features artists from six festival productions)
  7. Pan Asian Rep's New Works 2009 (#277) (features Tisa Chang and Ron Nakahara)
  8. Indie Theater NOW! 2009 Holiday Season Preview (#316) (features artists from four holiday productions)
  9. Playwrights In Conversation: Crystal Skillman and Daniel Talbott (#299)
  10. Waterwell's Newest Drop: #9 (#290) (features Tom Ridgely and Kevin Townley)

You can find links to more info about these (and to download each of the podcasts) here.

Now let's take a look at the most popular nytheatre voices interviews:

  1. Maria Striar (Clubbed Thumb's Summerworks Festival)
  2. Carol Polcovar & Fresh Fruit Participants (Fresh Fruit Festival)
  3. Francisco Reyes (Way to Heaven)
  4. Kelly R. Haydon, Tzipora Kaplan, Katherine Heberling (Bird House)
  5. Jon Stancato (Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists)
  6. Chance D. Muehleck and Melanie S. Armer (A Gathering)
  7. Michelle Vest (Sole Survivors: Journey Across Borders)
  8. Kathryn Chetkovich (She Said, She Said)
  9. Chiori Miyagawa (I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour)
  10. Tina Chen (The Shanghai Gesture)

Intriguing, no?

I will have more of these lists for you tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stolen Chair Theatre's Community Supported Theatre: Event #2

This is the third in our series of postings about Stolen Chair Theatre's new initiative, Community Supported Theatre. It's written by our embedded journalist, Jo Ann Rosen.

December 14, 2009

Despite the torrential rains, die-hard members of Stolen Chair’s Community Sponsored Theatre (CST) showed up for an evening of movie clips that demonstrated the effect of science on popular culture and everyday life. Reactions to the clips followed. The movies are part of CST’s research and inspiration for a play to be written by Kiran Rikhye, resident playwright. The year-long creative process is being shared with its membership. This year’s theme: Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage.

The movie clips highlighted nuclear energy, mathematics, electro-magnetics, and quantum physics. But, before you turn your back on topics you feel you’ll never understand, consider this: among the films were award-winning A Beautiful Mind, with the ever-engaging Russell Crowe, The Matrix with Keanu Reeves, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind featuring Jim Carrey, and Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Also included were an embarrassingly naive government-sponsored propaganda film from the 1950s illustrating the proper way for elementary school children to protect themselves during an atomic explosion (Duck and Cover), an animated film moderated by Martin Sheen demonstrating dimension (Flatland), an historical re-enactment of the discovery of electro-magnetic activity by the scientific genius Michael Faraday (Einstein's Big Idea: E is for Energy), Contact, a science fiction film featuring Jodie Foster, Memento, a movie in which the protagonist functions without memory, and Awakenings, the popular movie starring Robin Williams based on Oliver Sacks’s book of the same name, which describes Sacks’s treatment of catatonic patients with a drug that brings them back to life, if only temporarily. Following each clip, attendees participated in animated discussions moderated by Emily Otto, resident dramaturg.

It was clear from the start that one didn’t have to be a math wizard to enjoy A Beautiful Mind. Rather, someone offered that the movie elicited a great respect for genius and a voyeuristic thrill for discovery without demanding an understanding of the equations scrawled all over the movie’s university campus. After viewing Flatland, one participant suggested that scientific knowledge could actually hold back progress. Just as the movie’s animated two-dimensional line could not fathom the words ‘above’ or ‘below’, it’s all-knowing sphere was equally baffled by the possibility of a fourth dimension. Jon Stancato, resident director of Stolen Chair, said he liked NOVA’s production of Einstein's Big Idea, because it showed that a mark of a good scientist was his bold ideas and his rebelliousness – not unlike some of the best playwrights. He also found it appealing that Michael Faraday, who discovered electro-magnetic induction among other things, was depicted as an awestruck child and that he used his science not only to reinforce his religious beliefs but as salvation, in general. Another attendee noted that many scientists found inspiration outside of their field, such as Newton with his apple and Faraday and his wedding ring.

Bringing science into the living room or even the bedroom humanizes the concept. In Sliding Doors, Gwenyth Paltrow inhabits two universes simultaneously: one in which she misses her subway, because a child got in her way as she raced down the stairs, and another in which she actually catches that train, ultimately making a disturbing discovery. All in all, the films inspired thought and conversation – just what the exercise was meant to do!

Following the clips and discussion (did I forget to mention the popcorn and wine?), we read snippets of dialog written by Kiran, ideas that may or may not appear in the final play. The creative process continues. Members can look forward to another stimulating evening on January 24th, where again, science will take center stage.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My New York Theatre Experience: 2009

It's the time of year for looking back and making lists. I actually enjoy doing a bit of this, especially where the world of New York theatre is concerned--because there are always plenty of great memories to cherish as I think back on the last 12 months of my own personal New York Theatre Experience.

I've already shared with you the names of the 15 theatre artists and companies whom we've cited as nytheatre.com's People of the Year--all of the work these folks contributed to the scene in 2009 ranks among the best of the best as far as I'm concerned.

And I've also told you about the 10 new plays that we'll be including in NYTE's next anthology, Plays and Playwrights 2010. Obviously, these dramas and comedies are to be counted among my top faves of the year as well.

But why should I stop at two lists? I've still got more stuff I want to remind everybody about--so here's my final year-end list, of what I found most worth celebrating in the year in theatre in 2009:

Here, in absolutely random order, are the other new American plays that really excited me this year:
  • Balaton by Ashlin Halfnight
  • The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson
  • This by Melissa James Gibson
  • The Temperamentals by Jon Marans
  • The Savannah Disputation by Evan Smith
  • Behind the Bullseye by Kevin Doyle

In the not-exactly-a-play category, there are these two:

  • The Lily's Revenge by Taylor Mac
  • The Pig, The Farmer, and the Artist by David Chesky

The performances I will remember for a long time include:

  • Jane Fonda in 33 Variations
  • James Spader and David Alan Grier in Race
  • Mercedes Ruehl in The American Plan
  • Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King
  • Chris Harcum and Kyle Haggerty in The Hypochondriac

Behind-the-scenes, I feel attention must be paid to:

  • David Korins, for the set design of Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them
  • Scott Reynolds, for his direction of Simon Armitage's dramatization of Homer's Odyssey

It was a great year for revivals of American classics. For me, the best of these included:

  • Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Lincoln Center Theater (directed by Bartlett Sher)
  • Vieux Carre, Pearl Theatre Company (directed by Austin Pendleton)
  • It Pays to Advertise, Metropolitan Playhouse (directed by Michael Hardart)
  • Fifth of July, T. Schreiber Studio (directed by Peter Jensen)
  • Our Town (directed by David Cromer)

The indie theater company CollaborationTown had a fantastic year in 2009; if they hadn't already been named a "Person of the Year" back in 2006, they would have been on our list this year. They had two excellent, very different new shows: Let's Go and Children at Play.

Vital Theatre Company imported the show that probably ranks as the happiest surprise of my year: the delightful comedy Perfect Wedding, by British playwright Robin Hawdon.

And finally, the most fortuitous non-production event of the year, for my money, was the renaming of the La MaMa Annex as the Ellen Stewart Theatre. What a great tribute to her in the year she celebrated her 90th birthday!

So, there you have it. Martin's New York Theatre Experience for 2009. You can hear me talk about some of this with playwrights Kevin Doyle and Saviana Stanescu on our year-in-review podcast. (We also chat about the theatre scene abroad, beyond the borders of NYC.)

So, now I have to ask: what's on your list for 2009? Send in your "New York Theatre Experience" by posting a comment.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

nytheatre.com's People of the Year

Today on nytheatre.com we announce our 2009 People of the Year.

I want you to read the article so you can find out all about these amazing folks; you'll also find lots of links to reviews, podcasts, and other resources that will spell out how significant their work has been to the indie theater community in NYC.

But I won't tease you...here's the list of the 15 we chose.

There are six theatre companies:
  1. AXIS Company
  2. Inverse Theater
  3. The New York NeoFuturists
  4. Nosedive Productions
  5. Soho Think Tank
  6. Wide Eyed Productions

All but the last of these are long-running companies that have given us dozens of innovative works over the years. Wide Eyed is a relatively new company that has already made a big impact.

There are four actors:

  1. Michael Gnat
  2. Alyssa Simon
  3. Paco Tolson
  4. Matthew Trumbull

There are two directors:

  1. Shannon Sindelar, who runs the Ontological Incubator Series
  2. Sarah Cameron Sunde, who is associate director of New Georges and co-artistic director of Oslo Elsewhere

There's one sound designer, the prolific Elizabeth Rhodes.

There's one playwright/actor, the prolific Richard Lovejoy.

And capping the list is a new very worthy organization, 50/50 in 2020, founded by Melody Brooks, Julie Crosby, and Susan Jonas; its mission is to devise strategies to address the differences in representation of male vs. female playwrights in American theatres.

People of the Year are nominated by the contributors to nytheatre.com, and the final selections are made by NYTE's Board. It's hard to choose just 15 people to represent the broad spectrum of the NYC indie theater scene. But we think it's important to recognize artists who are doing significant work that may otherwise be taken for granted or fall under/off the radar.

So read all about them. And take a look at our past People of the Year, 2004-2008. I think you'll find that we've been doing a pretty good job at identifying the up-and-coming stars of our community.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Help NYC Theatres via the Chase Community Giving Program

You've almost certainly already heard about the charitable giving program that Chase is conducting through Facebook. The basic concept is that individual Facebook members can vote for their favorite organizations, and the top vote-getters will receive $25,000 grants from Chase.

The link is here--it requires you to be a Facebook member to use, as well as to allow access to this charity application to some of your personal data:


I've personally been asked to vote for a number of very worthy theatre groups who are vying for this funding. If you're on Facebook and open to using this application, I urge you to show support for the nonprofit theatre community in NYC by voting for one or more of these deserving companies.

I got a lovely note from Elena K. Holy of the Present Company/New York International Fringe Festival about this opportunity earlier today. Elena says that the Present Company seems to really be in the running to receive this grant! As she says:

If we were to get this $25,000, it might mean that we could keep our ticket price at $15 for another year....This Chase campaign, as you know, is limited to organizations with a budget of $10 Million dollars or less. Despite the fact that we're on the tiny end of the spectrum (as to staff size as well as budget) we seem to be competitive.

Right now:

Invisible Children = 5374 Votes

Tony Stewart Foundation = 555 Votes

Present Theatre Company = 485 Votes

Quite frankly, for our organization to be doing so well, is amazing. All of the above organizations, and all of our peer organizations, are incredibly worthy.

I would love to see The Present Company get one of these grants because the work they do in turn supports 200 indie theater companies every year; I would love to see all of the winners come from our NYC indie theater community, though that's not terribly likely to happen! You can vote for up to 20 different organizations. I hope you will vote for The Present Company and for many other theatre organizations whose work you love.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday CD Round-Up by Seth Bisen-Hersh

The nytheatre i happily presents this holiday feature, a look at some recent theatre-related CD releases, written by our CD columnist, Seth Bisen-Hersh:


2009 CD Reviews
by Seth Bisen-Hersh

I admit it: I have been procrastinating writing CD reviews for a while now. The amount of Broadway performers making solo CDs in the last year alone has created quite a backlog. In fact, there are even CDs from 2008 and, dare I admit, 2007 that I failed to cover, and it hardly seems fair to suddenly become a good Samaritan but only cover ones I missed in 2009. Thus, I have decided to review all of the solo (and 1 duet) CDs I have received but not reviewed from 2007 to the present en masse; I hereby present to you 15 concise reviews just in time for holiday shopping.

First, I will say I would highly recommend all of these CDs. They are all pristinely recorded. If you are a fan of the performer, I promise you, you will not be disappointed. Here are the highlights, most recently released recordings first:

Marcy & Zina: The Album: Marcy & Zina’s songs are staples of the cabaret scene. This marks the first time a lot of their classic songs have been professionally recorded, and it’s about time! The songs range from the hilarious--“Fifteen Pounds” and “The Last Song”--to the emotional--“Oh, How I Loved You” and “Welcome to Rain”--but always they exhibit the exquisite song-writing craft you expect from this wonderful writing team.

Chita Rivera: And Now I Swing: Words cannot express how iconic Chita Rivera is. She is without a doubt a Broadway legend and has finally come out with a solo recording, which certainly swings, as the title promises. The highlights are many and include a wonderful new Kander and Ebb song from The Visit--“Love and Love Alone”--a heart-wrenching “Where Am I Going” from Sweet Charity, and a frenzied “Carousel” from Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Liz Callaway: Passage of Time: Liz Callaway’s voice is angelic. This recording is replete with highlights--in fact just about every track is a highlight. Simply put, if you are a fan of Callaway, you should have this CD. Here are a few of the reasons:– a new song by Flaherty and Ahrens (“Nothing to Lose”), two Sondheim songs (“Being Alive” and “Children Will Listen”), a rendition of a song from Baby she didn’t get to perform in the show (“Patterns”), and a new duet with her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway (“That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”). Plus there are four great medleys.

Rebecca Luker: Greenwich Time: Rebecca Luker expresses so much emotion with just the subtlest change in her vocal tone. Her soprano melts over the listener’s ear, as soothing as a mother’s caress. Her recording contains mostly world premiere songs by new composers, but has a few obscure treasures from older ones, as well. The highlights are an esoteric Jule Styne/ Carolyn Leigh tune, “Killing Time,” a chilling rendition of the Goldrich/Heisler ballad, “Out of Love,” and a gentle “Summer with You,” a world premiere John Kander song, which shows a musical side of him never before exhibited.

Kate Baldwin: Let’s See What Happens: Kate Baldwin's debut recording is charming. Baldwin sings fifteen classics either with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg or music by Burton Lane. Harburg’s clever lyrics are almost unparalleled, and Lane’s music is vivacious. The highlights are a jazzy rendition of “How are Things in Glocca Morra?” a tune Baldwin sings 8 times a week on Broadway in Finian's Rainbow, a passionate “He Wasn’t You,” and the upbeat “I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today,” which incidentally was pleasantly orchestrated by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown.

Alan Cumming: I Bought a Blue Car Today: That Cumming is not exactly a singer does not deter from the charm of this solo debut. The heavily accented Scotsmen neither croons nor belts through his covers of artists as varied as Sinatra and Cindy Lauper, but fans will not be disappointed. Cumming pulls out his characteristic duality of naughtiness and innocence in each selection. Highlights include the Hedwig and the Angry Inch covers “Wig in a Box”/"Wicked Little Town,” where he is truly in his element, the raunchy “Beautiful,” and the Cabaret tribute “Mein Herr.” Overall, an enjoyable listen.

Malcolm Gets: The Journey Home: Malcolm Gets’s first solo recording is simply charming. His soft, sweet interpretations create a serene ambiance. Highlights include a seductive, cross-gendered rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Wait,” a sentimental version of Maury Yeston’s ballad “Getting Tall,” and an earnest “Truly Scumptious” from the children’s movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Stephanie J. Block: This Place I Know: The coolest thing about Stephanie J. Block’s solo CD is that she asked all the composers to accompany her songs. The next coolest thing is that Block’s flawless, seamless belt is on audible display throughout the recording. She belts higher than anyone should be able to without the slightest bit of effort. The highlights include dueting with 9 to 5 composer Dolly Parton on her standard “I Will Always Love You,” hearing the original “I Want” song from Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked, “Making Good,” and an esoteric gem by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia called “Smart Woman.”

Kerry Butler: faith, trust & pixie dust: Kerry Butler’s recording of Disney songs is magical. Butler sweetly transports the listener to the Magic Kingdom, providing a window into childhood. Her family-friendly recording presents calming renditions of mostly animated classics. The highlights include a hopeful “When You Wish Upon a Star,” an imploring medley of “It’s a Small World” and “God Help the Outcasts,” and a melancholy “When She Loved Me.”

Karen Mason: Right Here/Right Now: Karen Mason is a magnificent musical talent. Being extremely versatile, Mason finds the nuance in both comedy and dramatic songs. The highlights of her new CD include the funny “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here,” an intense, incredible medley of the Beatles song “Help” with the Sondheim masterpiece “Being Alive,” and a touching rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard (Mason covered the role of Norma Desmond on Broadway).

John Pizzarelli: With a Song in my Heart: The intricate jazz stylings of John Pizzarelli are on clear display on his new album. 7 of 12 tracks feature Pizzarelli’s group, the wonderful Swing Seven (with incredible arrangements by Don Sebesky), and two of the others feature great guest instrumentalists. The selections are all songs written by the legendary Richard Rodgers--some are well-known, while others are fairly obscure. The recording is uniformly grand with each track providing eclectic and unexpected twists. If you are into jazz and enjoy the music of Rodgers, this CD is for you!

Sutton Foster: Wish: Sutton Foster is a like a breath of fresh air. Her first solo CD is whimsically joyous and showcases her dynamic range from sweet to brassy, from funny to poignant and from introverted to extroverted. The highlights of the CD include the folky rendition of Christine Lavin’s “Air Conditioner,” a thrilling duet with Little Women co-star Megan McGinnis: Craig Carnelia’s “Flight,” an emotional “Once Upon a Time” from Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’s All American and a belty rendition of the anthem “On My Way” from Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet.

Lauren Kennedy: here and now: Lauren Kennedy continues to be a stunning voice for new composers with her second solo CD. When she belts, it’s a seamless, shimmering sound. The highlights of the CD include a new upbeat song by Andrew Lippa, “Spread a Little Joy,” a fantastic jazzy song by The Wedding Singer team, Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin, “Pretending that I’m Somebody Else,” and Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich’s hilarious, honest cabaret song, “Apathetic Man.”

Kelli O’Hara: Wonder in the World: Kelli O’Hara has a seductive soprano. Her jazzy debut recording features new arrangements of some standards plus three original songs by Harry Connick, Jr, O’Hara’s Pajama Game co-star, who also duets on the title song. The highlights are the aforementioned title duet, the soft arrangement of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” an emotional, mature “Fable” from Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza, which O’Hara co-starred in playing the younger role, and a delicious “I Have Dreamed” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic, The King and I.

Judy Kuhn: Serious Playground: The Songs of Laura Nyro: It could be said that one of the greater tragedies in Nyro's career was that her music was so heavily covered that no one outside of the music industry revered her songwriting with the same esteem as peers such as Joni Mitchell. However, here her catalog is treated with the appropriate amount of respect that perhaps only a Broadway Baby could dish out. Other singers might be weary of tackling these highly complex pop songs, so treasured by Nyro fans, and so varied in their keys and melodies. So intricate is the songwriting that Nyro can flawlessly swing from a variety of melodies, pitches, keys, time changes etc.--all in the same song! And Kuhn dutifully follows along, her love for the music clearly evident. It would be impossible to choose a highlight from an album that encompasses so much light and so much darkness.