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Album Review

Tony Award-winning actress/singer Sutton Foster has, for the most part, made her mark starring in Broadway musicals that looked back to the era between the World Wars, even if much of the music was newly written: Thoroughly Modern Millie (her award winner), The Drowsy Chaperone, and Young Frankenstein. (Little Women, her other Broadway showcase, had no particular musical time period, even if it was set in the 19th century.) On her debut solo album, Foster suggests that she will stay in her comfort zone of the 1920s and ‘30s, starting and finishing the disc with songs that, even if they technically come from the ‘40s, are given hot ‘20s jazz treatments complete with banjo and Dixieland horns, "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "Oklahoma!" In between, however, she displays her taste in theater music of the past and present, as well as folk and pop. When it comes to show tunes, she tends to eschew big hits in favor of lesser-known gems like Noël Coward's "Come the Wild, Wild Weather" and Lee Adams and Charles Strouse's "Once Upon a Time." Her pop choices point to an urban sensibility with "Up on the Roof" and comic folksinger Christine Lavin's "Air Conditioner" (another song given a traditional jazz arrangement). But she also betrays a taste for nature in the surprising selection of John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders," the plainspoken (some would say simple-minded) ‘70s folk-pop hit. The song is given a pivotal placing, dead center of the disc, in between two witty numbers, "Air Conditioner" and Jeff Blumenkrantz's show tune "My Heart Was Set on You." And it probably provides the album title, Wish (although wishing also comes up in Patty Griffin's "Nobody's Cryin'"). Therefore, one can only assume that it is a favorite of the singer's, although — despite the effectiveness of her performance — it's still a sappy song. But then, it allows Foster to demonstrate that she can handle a wide variety of kinds of material effectively, and that may be the major conclusion from this album, if it weren't already obvious from her stage performances.

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