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Josh Groban | Stages

Label:  Reprise/WBR
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Rating:  4.6 out of 5
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May 5, 2015
By Maura Harwood
 
Darren Criss, Neil Patrick Harris, Tony Danza, Jake Gyllenhaal, all Hollywood superstars who as of late share one thing in common: their involvement with musical theater. Broadway seems to be welcoming the entertainment industry’s biggest stars lately and what many may not know is how many of their idols draw inspiration from the Great White Way.

One of these idols is Josh Groban, who just released his brand new album, Stages, consisting entirely of Broadway covers.

Groban, citing the music of Broadway as one of his biggest inspirations, is no stranger to the stage. In 2008, Groban starred in Chess in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, alongside musical theater greats such as Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and more. Though he’s yet to make his Broadway debut, Groban certainly has the vocal chops for Broadway and this album is proof of that.

The album opens with the haunting melody from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “Pure Imagination.” Groban’s vibrato-filled voice provides a sweet and comforting tone to the well-known song and serves as an excellent “opening number.”

Next up: “What I Did For Love,” from the Tony Award-winning musical A Chorus Line. Josh breathes life into this musical theater standard. The song is ridden with tangible emotion and he does an excellent job of conveying this with merely his voice, an important vocal skill both on and off the stage.

Singing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, Groban proves himself worthy of leading man status. The song is one of the most beloved musical theater anthems of all time and Groban does the character of Jean Valjean absolute justice.

'Le Temps Des Cathédrales' from Notre-Dame De Paris is the one song on the album entirely in a different language. Groban’s velvety voice lends itself to this French song and showcases his vibrato and operatic vocal chops (including an incredible high note at the end!).

American Idol alum Kelly Clarkson is featured on “All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera, one of three duets on the album. Clarkson sings the part of leading lady Christine. My only qualm with Clarkson’s vocals is that the song is very operatic and soprano-heavy. While Groban has built a career off of this style of singing, Clarkson tends to be a belting pro. However, her voice still sounds beautiful, especially when paired with Groban.

"Try to Remember" was originally sung by Jerry Orbach in the original Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks. The song has also been covered by the likes of Patti Page, Perry Como, Andy Williams and now Josh Groban. He does this gentle song justice and gives it the nostalgic feel it deserves.

Next up: a classic musical theater tune, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. A light acoustic guitar melody plays behind Groban’s soulful voice. Simply put, it is a beautiful rendition—but can we expect anything less from Groban?

One of my favorite Broadway shows of all time is Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods. The show’s message is absolutely devastating and utterly human and Josh Groban chose the perfect song from the show: “Children Will Listen,” originally sung by Bernadette Peters as the Witch. “Children may not obey, but children with listen. Children will look to you, for which way to turn, to learn what to be. Careful before you say, listen to me,” the song goes. It’s paired with “Not While I’m Around” from another Sondheim classic Sweeney Todd. It’s another gorgeous, emotional song and Groban certainly makes Sondheim proud.

One of my favorites on the album is Groban’s cover of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel. Groban shows off his vocal range and once again, dazzles. Later, Groban covers “If I Loved You” from Carousel, a duet with Audra McDonald, one of musical theater’s most talented and biggest stars. Both of their powerful and operatic voices lend themselves to the song quite nicely. This song is followed by “Old Devil Moon” from Finian’s Rainbow and features the renowned Chris Botti on trumpet. It’s another gorgeous ballad paired with a strong arrangement.

Another one of my favorite shows is Sunday in the Park with George (I’m just a little bit of a Sondheim fanatic.) Groban sings “Finishing The Hat” from the show and does a great job of conveying the meaning of the song and the show, a man utterly obsessed with his work and neglectful of those around him.

Next up: “Anthem” from Chess, the song that he performed in the concert version of the show at Royal Albert Hall. I’ve seen videos of the live version of his performance and this rendition is just as perfect.

The album also features two bonus tracks: “Gold Can Turn To Sand” from Kristina and “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” from Les Miserables. Out of the two, I prefer “Empty Chairs,” only because it is one of my favorite show tunes, but like the rest of the album, Groban slays. As a total Broadway enthusiast, I was quite pleased with this album. From song choice to Groban’s vocals and his conveying of emotion with each song, this is an album I will keep on repeat for quite some time. I can’t wait for Groban’s imminent Broadway debut.
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