Christiane Noll joins Patty LuPone and Norbert Leo Butz in Broadway Records’ 54 Below live cabaret performance series with her album Gifts. Perhaps best known for her role as Emma Carew in the musical Jekyll and Hyde, the talented singer has established herself as a legitimate member of the Broadway aristocracy, and her cabaret act demonstrates why that is.
Of course a good cabaret act assumes a fine voice, but a great cabaret act demands more. The best acts have a theme; they have a narrative arc. In the popular jargon of the trade, there must be a journey. “Gifts,” as Noll explains in a liner note, “from my father I now share with my daughter.” ”Music,” she continues, “was not only our family trade, it was how we expressed ourselves and our inner most emotions.” Family and music are her theme.
Brought up in a house filled with music, her father was a conductor and music supervisor for CBS, her mother a soprano, she was, as she describes it in her two part medley “Growing Up,” even as a baby enthroned atop a grand piano in the family apartment, inundated with music. Her father would play; her mother would sing, and she gives us a taste, a little Puccini, a bit of Mozart, some Victor Herbert, and some Gilbert and Sullivan. As she grows, she looks to develop her own sound, leaping from “Whistle While You Work” to “What I Did for Love.”
She goes on to run through her career, from poorly chosen audition material to her Broadway success and her father’s pride in her Jekyll and Hyde debut, of course with appropriate musical examples. Then moving on to her pride in her own daughter, whose singing it turns out can tame a playground bully. It is an endearing, if perhaps a mite sentimental journey.
Along the way there is the music. She opens the set with “Somewhere Out There” from “An American Tale.” Highlights include “The Sound of Music,” an intense version of “Send in the Clowns,” and an unexpected choice in “Some Enchanted Evening.” There is a nice change of pace in the “Museum Song” from Barnum, and an homage to her Ella Fitzgerald period in her encore (in an arrangement by her father) “Mr. Paganini.” Of course, no performance would be complete without “In His Eyes,” her Jekyll and Hyde show stopper, and while composer Frank Wildhorn isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, listening to her sing his music, it is enough to make you wonder why.
Christiane Noll is as versatile a singer as you’re likely to come across, and her versatility shines through on this album. She can sing opera and art songs. She can do patter; she can swing. And if it looks like she’s found a permanent home on the Broadway stage, her cabaret act gives her the opportunity to show off her other talents.
You can check out Noll singing “The Sound of Music” and doing a promo video for the show on YouTube.