The Secret of Happiness

Susan Egan

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The Secret of Happiness Review

by Jon O'Brien

Best known for her Tony-nominated performance in Beauty and the Beast and her role as Meg in Disney's Hercules, star of stage and screen Susan Egan's fifth studio album, The Secret of Happiness, is a refreshingly tongue-in-cheek affair that showcases a sense of humor often absent from similar musical theater-based albums. Having given birth to two children since 2006's Winter Tracks, it's no surprise that her recently extended family appears to have provided much of the inspiration for its 12 theatrical tracks, whether it's the orchestral cover version of "Momsense," Christian comedian Anita Renfroe's YouTube sensation that reeled off her everyday sayings against a backdrop of The William Tell Overture; the emotive duet with producer Georgia Stitt on a rendition of "Children Will Listen," Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods Broadway number based on the relationship between child and parent; or the self-penned "Nina Doesn't Care," a delightfully self-deprecating account of her daughter's disinterest at having a Disney Princess as a mom. She's just as playful elsewhere, whether it's her simple acoustic take on Christine Lavin's regretful roll call of insults hurled during a fight ("And I was kidding when I said I hope the #103 bus hits and makes a pancake out of you"), her unique declaration of love on the heartfelt piano balladry of "I Have You" ("Newton had his apple/Michaelangelo had the Sistine chapel...I have you"), or her breezy jazz-tinged interpretation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific standard "Cock-Eyed Optimist." A gorgeously hushed and understated reworking of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and the string-soaked self-help guide of the title track are proof, if any were needed, that she can play the leading lady just as well as the comic foil. But The Secret of Happiness is undoubtedly at its most endearing when it doesn't take itself too seriously.

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