‘Carols for a Cure’: no people like show people

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I have mixed feelings about the ever-increasing commercialization and exploitation of the Christmas holiday season — did you see where some chain stores will be starting “Black Friday” an evening early this year, thus reducing Thanksgiving to “Black Thursday”?

There’s one holiday event I never seem to tire of — and that seems to have no hidden commercial agenda — the release of the annual “Carols for a Cure” CD by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Volume 14 has just appeared and it upholds the high standards of this ongoing project in which the casts of nearly ever Broadway musical of the current season contribute a holiday song to the two-disc project.

Producer Lynn Pinto came up with the idea 13 years ago as a fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (the same New York show business charity that sponsors a number of great fundraisers each year, including “Broadway Bares” and the “Gypsy of the Year” competition).

Pinto faces the annual challenge of booking studios during the summer and planning a recording schedule around the hectic lifestyle of Broadway performers.

To keep each year’s edition up to date Pinto also plans tracks from shows which haven’t opened in the summer but will be up and running by December, such as the just-opened “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

In keeping with the gender-bending element in their musical, three of the “Drood” stars — Jim Norton, Stephanie J. Block and the great Chita Rivera — and members of the singing chorus contributed “Good Queen Wenceclas” in a terrific arrangment by Richard Rockage.

“Kinky Boots” is not set to open at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre until January, but composer Cyndi Lauper is featured signing “Blue Christmas.”

The recent and shocking collapse of the planned musical version of “Rebecca” before it started previews means that the “Carols for a Cure” track on the album — “Keep the Home Fires Burning” — might be the only element of the show ever to see the light of day.

Pinto got all three stars of the hit Broadway revival of “Evita” — Ricky Martin, Michael Cerveris and Elena Roger (above) — to vocalize on a bilingual reworking of “We Three Kings” that is called “Los Tres Reyes Magos.”

The continuing history of long-running Broadway shows is reflected by the annual particpation of the casts of musicals that were open when Pinto launched the project — “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Lion King” — and others that have changed casts many times since they debuted, such as “Jersey Boys,” “Mamma Mia” and “Wicked.”

New cast members of old shows are, of course, not reflected in the original cast albums recorded years ago, but “Carols for a Cure” has become a record of the changes in long-running shows over the years. The 14th edition for “Carols for a Cure” is available at www.broadwaycares.org .

Joe Meyers

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