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Christmas looms, and the big stars bombard us with nuggets of optimism, hoping that we will squander our pennies on their new CDs. So, now that Renée Fleming has turned her attentions to the Broadway stage and garnered a Tony Award nomination for Carousel this year, it’s perhaps no huge surprise that Broadway is her new album. Once you’ve got over the dire cover, it’s actually an interesting selection of beautifully arranged numbers; Fleming inventively avoids the obvious, with selections ranging from Cole Porter’s 1936 Red, Hot and Blue to Dear Evan Hansen, still playing on Broadway and due to open in London next year (and which sounds a real miseryfest if ‘So Big/So Small’ is anything to go by in Fleming’s best deadpan Joni Mitchell voice). She also gives some classics a twist, with variable results – the mash-up of ‘Children Will Listen’ (from Into the Woods) and ‘You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught’ (South Pacific) is neither original, thanks to Streisand, nor effective, leaching the anger from the latter and turning it into muzak. The problem is that Fleming is just so good, so accomplished, that it’s like an over-achiever who always puts her hand up first in class, proving that she can do it all – look at ME! And she can, more or less, but a Broadway diva would probably record her developing style over a number of decades, whereas Fleming has one shot, so vocally she veers across genres and overly dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. But hey, she makes you laugh, she makes you cry, (‘Till There Was You’ elicits a discreet tear). So, while Audra, Patti, Kristin and Bernadette don’t quite have to look to their laurels, Fleming makes more of a challenge than one might first think. (The next job for the album’s stylist: ‘Do you want fries with that?’)

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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