Here's to the Ladies
In its first few days of release, Christine Andreas' "Here's to the Ladies" had already generated critical acclaim and audience "buzz." David Hurst at Show Business called it "an awesome achievement. Andreas sounds as fresh and vibrant as she did when she burst on the musical scene in My Fair Lady over 20 years ago. Her soaring interpretations of signature songs associated with everyone from Merman to Andrews to Streisand are nothing less than thrilling and she sings with a passion and excitement that are contagious."
Here, Dan Fortune speaks with Christine about the album's evolution.
Dan Fortune: We here at PS Classics are very excited about "Here's to the Ladies." How did it all come about?
Christine Andreas: I guess it has its roots in a show I performed at the Cafe Carlyle in the spring of 2001, although the album, as it developed, definitely took on a life of its own. But at the time, we were simply trying to do a very accessible show. And I thought, what better way than to pay tribute to the wonderful and varied ladies who influenced me on my road to the theatre. Call it my penchant for eclecticism!
DF: How did you choose the ladies?
CA: Well, I knew it had to begin with the first woman I remember listening to as a small child: Mary Martin. I used to lie awake at night on top of the sheets waiting for Peter Pan to fly through the window and for the fairy dust to fall -- I thought Mary Martin had the warmest voice I had ever heard. And then my other childhood favorites -- Julie Andrews, Helen Morgan. And Gertrude Lawrence, who had me dancing around the kitchen floor at age four.
DF: And later on?
CA: When I first started to perform, Barbara Cook was the one who told me that Broadway ingénues didn't have to be wimps. She was never sappy. She had such guts and humor. And then a bit later, Angela Lansbury: I kept replaying her rendition of "If He Walked Into My Life" on my Mame cast album -- not to analyze her, but just wanting to follow the depth of her emotion to new places inside myself. And of course Barbra Streisand -- I don't there's any girl singer out there who hasn't felt the influence of Streisand!
DF: It's rare these days to hear a vocal album with a 45-piece orchestra. How did it feel to record with all those musicians?
CA: It was an extraordinary experience. There was a great moment while we were recording in London. We were doing the first take of "Don't Rain on My Parade," which we had added for the recording, and for which Doug Besterman had done a new arrangement just for me. It was the first time I'd heard the chart. The conductor called me out of the vocal booth and into the nave of the old church we were working in. He wanted to get a feel for my performance... and for me to get the feel of the chart. It was quite a sensation, the explosion of the brass and strings. I felt like Sinatra!
DF: I'll bet the musicians enjoyed it as much as you did.
CA: Exactly, everyone kept saying, "No one makes albums like this anymore." And our orchestrators were amazing. We gave them a great deal of flexibility, because although we wanted the songs to be recognizable, we also wanted them to have a unique spin. That was my producer and fiancé Marty Silvestri's idea: to hire orchestrators with strong points of view -- he knew what that could add to the finished product, all the varying textures and emotions.
DF: And they certainly came through, didn't they?
CA: I'll say! They came up with these amazing twists and turns that then infused my performances. I'd just hear the introductions and I'd be exhilarated. Michael Starobin came up with an arrangement for "Will Me Like Me?" that's so beautiful -- even the extended intro, his own idea, moves me. And listen to how Chris Boardman wove together the two songs from Mame, "My Best Beau" and "If He Walked Into My Life." Just brilliant.
DF: Any favorite stories from the studio?
CA: I remember at one point, all the vocals had been flowing very well. But when it came time for "Danced All Night," I had a block. I said to Marty, "I'm stuck. I'm not an ingénue anymore. I don't know how to approach it." And he replied, "Just remember how you felt on opening night on Broadway playing Eliza." That's all I needed, that kicked it in. I got the whole thing in one take.
DF: How did PS Classics come into the picture?
CA: Tommy Krasker and I had first worked together in the '80s on a Gershwin concert at the Library of Congress. He was Mrs. Gershwin's archivist at the time. By the time "Here's to the Ladies" came around, he had started his own record label and gave me a call when he heard about the project. Tommy brought a unique sensibility to the CD. His input was impeccable, he has a great sense of flow, and knows how to keep you focused and engaged.
DF: How about a follow-up CD? Did you leave anyone for Volume II?
CA: Of course, Elaine Stritch, Gwen Verdon -- we could do an entire second collection!