Marie Michuda teaches in the Voice, Opera, and Musical Theater Department of Chicago's Northwestern University. Although billed as cabaret, this album comes across more like a recital by a veteran of musical comedy and operetta. Her maiden album, not surprisingly, is mostly a playlist of selections from well-known and not so well-known Broadway musicals. Some of the choices from well-known musicals are not always among the shows' most oft-played compositions. Usually cabaret singers, while not employing all of the tools of vocal jazz (e.g., scatting), at least take a stab at being jazzy from time to time during a performance; not so here. This album is more in line with something a Deanna Durbin, Kathryn Grayson, or Barbra Streisand would put their name to. These three are not bad company, but none of them is a cabaret singer in the tradition of a Mabel Mercer or a Elisabeth Welch. Irrespective of the style, there are good things here. Michuda has an attractive voice, although it tends to get thin on higher notes. "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" from Kismet is an over-dubbed duet. Funny Girl's "People" and another Kismet tune called "And This Is My Beloved" are attractive offerings. The poignant, hopeful, and defiant "Many a New Day" automatically demands comparison with Shirley Jones' incomparable version from the movie's original cast recording of Oklahoma, and the version on this CD matches up well. An interesting cut is "Will There Really Be a Morning?," an Emily Dickinson poem put to music by Ricky Ian Gordon. On "Second Hand Rose," Michuda takes New York's lower east side accent favored by Fanny Brice as she introduced it in The Ziegfield Follies of 1921 and which Streisand reprised in Funny Girl.
Aside from being a bit bombastic every now and then, Russ Long's piano is appropriately in synch with the music and Michuda's approach to it. Bass player Mark Beringer and drummer Mark Ott are barely heard, as they are overwhelmed by Michuda and Long, and apparently by poor mike placement as well. This album is for those who enjoy selections from the musical stage -- especially from Funny Girl, which is represented by four numbers -- delivered by a talented vocalist with a pleasing voice.