Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Audra McDonald

  • Way Back to Paradise [Nonesuch, 1998] C+
  • How Glory Goes [Nonesuch, 2000] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Way Back to Paradise [Nonesuch, 1998]
Compared to Streisand, Garland, and Callas, said to augur a New Era of Popular Song, this two-time Tony winner proudly situates her big range and Juilliard technique on the far side of the chasm now separating Broadway theater from American music. Aficionados may follow the (satiric?) logic of, for instance, the sudden high note that punctuates the Adam Guettel-William Makepeace Thackeray trifle "A Tragic Story." But we who prefer our singing speechlike will figure she's just showing off again, which given the songs is perfectly appropriate. Ignorant of groove, eschewing verse-chorus-bridge, orchestrated to suggest the demon jazz only insofar as 20th-century European composition mooched off it, these are not tunes playgoers will hum as they flag cabs on West 45th Street. They are the sterile spawn of Stephen Sondheim and Ned Rorem, and although they signify little when sundered from their paltry dramatic contexts, serious they remain--what few comic moments they countenance duck their heads as McDonald prepares for her next octave leap. C+

How Glory Goes [Nonesuch, 2000] Dud