Heather MacRae

Songs for My Father

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Once there was a New York bistro called Eighty Eight's. Downstairs had a singalong piano bar while the second floor hosted performances by such stalwarts of Broadway and cabaret as Nancy LaMott, Julie Halston, and for its coda, Heather MacRae, daughter of Gordon MacRae. This album captures the last performance of this venue before it shut its doors in 1999. Daughter MacRae takes this opportunity to honor her famous talented father with a program of songs from shows in which he appeared. There are tunes from Carousel, The Desert Song, and Tea for Two. Understandably, the show that gets most attention is Oklahoma, where MacRae had perhaps his greatest role, that of the mostly out-of-work cowhand Curley. In addition to the music, daughter MacRae tells some family stories about father MacRae's comings and goings in this role. One of the more improbable, but true, tales is that James Dean was one of those actually considered for the Curley role, which MacRae says would have made him "a cowboy without a cause." The singer and piano accompaniment and sometimes vocal companion Mark Nadler delivers most tunes with what they call for -- vigor and enthusiasm. MacRae shows a great deal of sensitivity, however, as she runs the gamut from stern determination to tenderness in "Soliloquy" from Carousel. She and Nadler have a lot of fun with a music hall-flavored "Piano, Bass, and Drums" from About Face. There's a lovely vocal recounting of "What's the Use of Wondrin'," whose lyrics have special place here following a MacRae discourse about her sometimes-tumultuous relationship with her father. While the vast, thoroughly delightful Hollywood musicals that made household names out of rich baritones like Gordon MacRae are likely gone forever, albums like this one keep the memories warm. Recommended.

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