REVIEW: Christine Pedi's GOOD TO MAMA
Any musical theater lover out there worth his or her salt is sure to know multi-talented singer/actress/comedian Christine Pedi from her many years in the Forbidden Broadway franchise where she hilariously impersonated such legends from Elaine Stritch to Liza Minnelli. Her wonderfully over-the-top caricatures made her a true MVP in Forbidden Broadway’s many incarnations, but for some of us, the question remained: just who was the real Christine Pedi behind all those voices?
Well, the answer to that query is finally revealed in Pedi’s long overdue solo CD Good to Mama, which is one of the best theater solo vocal albums to emerge in recent memory. There’s so much to praise in this release, one hardly knows where to begin. Pedi, who also serves as a host on SiriusXM’s Broadway channel, knows musical theater inside out and her choices here are smart and refreshing. There are perfectly performed classics from George and Ira Gershwin (“But Not For Me”) and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (“The Lady Is a Tramp”) plus other tunes by Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, and Harold Arlen. But there are also some happily unusual choices such as “Mama a Rainbow” from Minnie’s Boys, “A Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins, and “Dear Friend” from She Loves Me. And if the mere thought of “If I Were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls, which we’ve all heard a million times, sends you running for cover, fear not. With Ms. Pedi’s playful interpretation and a stunning arrangement by jazz greats Bucky and John Pizzarelli, it’s like we’re hearing this song for the first time.
Indeed, much of the success of the album is due to its sparkling, fresh, and inventive musical arrangements from a number of artists including Fred Barton, Matthew Ward, Tedd Firth, the Pizzarellis, and Pedi herself. Listeners will grin at the clever musical allusions woven throughout like the snippets of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” snuck in the opening “When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago (Pedi played Mama Morton on Broadway). These terrific arrangements from the Caribbean-infused “Spoonful of Sugar,” featuring the xylophone to the rich brass on “Thanks A Lot But No Thanks,” make this album, which was mainly recorded in South Africa, sound like a million bucks.
All these touches only help to frame the amazing vocal picture that Pedi paints. Not relying on the flashy vocal mannerisms of her impressions, Pedi’s interpretations are sensitive and touching on tracks like “But Not For Me” and “Dear Friend” and wonderfully rollicking on numbers like the infrequently performed Gershwin tune “Vodka,” which concludes the album. Pedi does what every good singer should do, sing for the truth of the lyric whether sad or funny and the result here is an absolute home run.
Simply put, Good to Mama is a complete delight worth multiple listens that will put a smile on your face. Let’s only hope that Ms. Pedi will follow up this great work with a second album in the near future.
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Good to Mama - 2014 Christine Pedi Minnie's Boys She Loves Me Mary Poppins Guys and Dolls Forbidden Broadway Chicago Richard Rodgers Elaine Stritch Liza Minnelli Matthew Ward Fred Barton John Pizzarelli Harold Arlen Christine Pedi Irving Berlin George Gershwin Tedd Firth Lorenz Hart Johnny Mercer A Spoonful of Sugar (21) When You're Good to Mama (12) If I Were a Bell (37) The Lady Is a Tramp (38) Thanks a Lot But No Thanks But Not for Me (48) Vodka (4) Dear Friend (16) Toggle Additional (25)