Alison Fraser & the music of Tennessee Williams

fraser2Ghostlight Records has preserved a cabaret show called “Tennessee Williams: Words and Music” by the terrific singing actress Alison Fraser who has graced countless New York shows over the past 30 years, from the original production of William Finn’s landmark musical “March of the Falsettos” to the recent, daffy Charles Busch comedy “The Divine Sister.”

Fraser and her director David Kaplan pulled together the songs chosen by Williams to add atmosphere to his plays, from the “It’s Only a Paper Moon” that Blanche DuBois sings offstage in “A Streetcar Named Desire” to “New San Antonio Rose” featured in the playwright’s one-act “Auto da Fe.”

fraser1In his liner notes for the CD, Kaplan writes that music in Williams’ plays “is the sound of paradise drifting in from around the corner, across the alley, from the room next door, the promise of love and happiness just out of reach, leading us on to believe in the possibility of love and harmony somewhere, if not where we are, listening in circumstances far removed from love or happiness.”

Fraser is backed by a wonderful musical ensemble — dubbed “The Gentlemen Callers” — consisting of Allison Leyton-Brown on piano, J. Walter Hawkes on trombone and ukelele, James Singleton on bass, Wayne Maureau on drums, Jason Mingledorff on saxophone, Bobby Campo on trumpet and cornet, and John Eubanks on guitar. What a great band for Fraser to sing and act off.

The CD was recorded, appropriately enough, at the Music Shed Studios in New Orleans.

The mix of monologues and music is mesmerizing, with Fraser reaffirming her position as one of our most potent musical theater talents. Here’s hoping the show has a long life ahead of it (that might include a Connecticut engagement).

As Kaplan concludes, “While the music lasts, those of us listening can entertain the possibility of Paradise, if not ever enter.”

Joe Meyers