Dianne Fraser may not have become the Broadway star she dreamed of being from the age of five, but The Great White Way’s loss is the gain of every fan of musical theater who’s ever seen her strut her eminently charming stuff and exquisite crystalline vocals over the years in regional theatre productions and an array of performance projects that, in the spirit of her long anticipated debut album You and I: The Words and Music of Leslie Bricusse, both embrace and defy pure imagination.
Fraser's done it all, from working on productions in Santa Barbara and Chicago with Stephen Schwartz to earning a Los Angeles Regional Broadway World Award for Special Theatre event for her long running variety show An Evening of Classic Broadway. Along the way, she developed a lucrative “day job” as a top talent agent for ICM and Industry Entertainment Partners. As a lifelong fan of two-time Oscar winner Leslie Bricusse – one of the most prolific theatre and film musical composers of the 60’s, 70’s and early 80's – the singer naturally gravitated to creating a live musical show featuring his songs.
While working on Bricusse’s treasure trove of classic material with veteran pianist/arranger Todd Schroeder, creating a blend of deeply theatrical, compelling emotional moments, hushed intimacy, sultriness and sass, she decided to add another labor of love to her ever-expanding resume by transferring the magic to the studio, resulting in You and I.
Naturally, casual Bricusse fans will perk up at her soulful caress of the most familiar tunes - the beloved Willy Wonka gem “Pure Imagination,” the laid-back charm she brings to “Feeling Good” (much more subtle than the renowned Nina Simone and Michael Buble versions) and the delightfully optimistic “Two for the Road” (penned by Bricusse and Henry Mancini) and the unique way she creates medleys by pairing “If I Ruled The World” (a Tony Bennett chestnut) with “Crazy World” (from “Victor/Victoria,” also with Mancini) and the triumphant “This is the Moment” (from Jekyll & Hyde) with the jazz standard “Once in My Lifetime.” These mashups offer beautiful showcases for Fraser’s talents as an inspirational storyteller we can tell has spent a lot of time sharing her gifts onstage.
Yet for all the magic her renditions of these still well traveling classics create, Fraser saves her most heartfelt and dynamic fairy dusting for slightly more obscure tunes from the Bricusse canon that deserve and are given fresh looks. These include the pin-drop perfect ballad title track (originated by Petula Clark in Goodbye, Mr. Chips), a revisit of Dr. Doolittle when he’s not talking to the animals (a mood swinging medley of “At the Crossroads/After Today” and the showstopping second part of “Look at That Face/Something in Your Smile,” featuring vocals by veteran stage and screen performer Damon Kirsche.
And the way she infuses French into the hip, finger snapping frolic of “Le Jazz Hot” (from Victor/Victoria) adds loads of sexy, colorful fun to the mix. Fraser may make it to Broadway yet – but in the meantime, if you’re unfamiliar with her, please begin with a spin, traveling in the world of her (and Bricusse’s) creation!