Four stars for Frankly Sharon

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Frankly Sharon. Sharon Azrieli, vocalist. Frank Wildhorn, composer, pianist.

Sharon Azrieli is many things – operatic soprano, Hebrew cantor, philanthropist, even musicologist (she has published intriguing scholarship on the possible influences of Jewish Ladino music on the young Giuseppe Verdi). In her new album, Frankly Sharon, Azrieli fetchingly incarnates in yet another guise – that of musical-theatre chanteuse par excellence

The album’s title is a clever pun – all the songs on it are by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn (creator of the hit musicals Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel, among others), and Wildhorn himself provides a piano accompaniment that is layered into the impressively rich and evocative orchestrations.

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“He taught me to sing them!” Azrieli exults of her collaboration with Wildhorn, and the listener cannot but sense the deep and comfortable affinity between Azrieli’s vocal work and the delicate virtuosity on display in Wildhorn’s piano tracks.

The album itself is a rich and many-mooded journey – a deceptively easy-listening and adventitious-seeming song cycle that opens with the oh-so-Parisian insouciance of “Storybook” (from Pimpernel), then proceeds to the high-hearted yearning of “Finding Wonderland” (from Wildhorn’s Alice in Wonderland-themed musical), and threading thereafter through more emotionally fraught byways before depositing the listener safely back home with a charming and youthful promise that “Anything Can Happen.” 

Azrieli’s vocal accomplishments are impressive and unassailable, not least for her ability to temper her highly cultivated technique with a sense of cozy, confidential chattiness. Frankly Sharon is an experience both intimate and expert – a seductive one-on-one recital in some Piaf-haunted boîte.

And Azrieli the linguist gets big kudos, too: most numbers on Frankly Sharon are translations into French, with two into Italian and one into Hebrew (the sinuous and lovely “Achshav,” translated from Wildhorn’s song “Now”), before concluding in English. Except for the English, all the translations are by Azrieli herself. Pour yourself a tall boulevardier and enjoy.

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About Author

Charles Geyer is a director, producer, composer, playwright, actor, singer, and freelance writer based in New York City. He directed the Evelyn La Quaif Norma for Verismo Opera Association of New Jersey, and the New York premiere of Ray Bradbury’s opera adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. His cabaret musical on the life of silent screen siren Louise Brooks played to acclaim in L.A. He has appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway and regionally. He is an alum of the Commercial Theatre Institute and was on the board of the American National Theatre. He is a graduate of Yale University and attended Harvard's Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. He can be contacted here.

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