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The Footlights: Your guide to 'Stephen Sondheim' and other holiday CDs

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Broadwayholidayalbums_l

Broadwayholidayalbums_lSleigh bells ring, are you listening? Well, if you don’t want to listen to those, it’s a fine time this holiday season for some great new CDs for the theater enthusiast. So heed these great gift ideas for the season, all of which you can get for under $20 and provide smiles for the show queens in your life. (And yes, you can get them for yourself too.)

Stephen Sondheim: The Story So Far
So am I telling you that you can get this deluxe, four-disc retrospective of the Great One’s nearly every move for close to 50 years…for under 20 freakin’ bucks? Uh-huh, I am. Here is show business wrapped up in one great package, with productions as diverse as West Side Story, Into the Woods, Follies, Assassins, and Pacific Overtures, sharing space with some of Sondheim’s lesser-known efforts (Bounce/Road Show, Saturday Night) and his film compositions (Reds, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Dick Tracy). Yup, you even get Madonna alongside Patti LuPone. And speaking of her…

Patti LuPone at Les Mouches
While I agree with some of the carps about the sound quality of this disc, the power lungs of the lady in command more than make up for it. This CD of her legendary midnight nightclub act of 1980 is essential listening, especially if you never really knew why Patti is so revered. Her scintillating take on pop hits (“Because the Night,” “Mr. Tambourine Man”) and showtunes alike (Evita’s “Rainbow High,” Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around,” which she’d end up performing on Broadway 25 years later) may make you hit the repeat button more than once.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Now here’s a disc that’s actually seasonally appropriate and an ideal antidote to the elevator music you’re forced to listen to while standing in line at Target this holiday season. It’s not hard to be transported by this excellent recording of a show that’s currently playing on Broadway after years of hitting regional spots (even if you can’t duplicate the musical’s climactic winter wonderland). The CD’s 18 tracks will set the mood aptly, and (big plus!) you get to hear the wonderful Brian d’Arcy James croon (his creature duties as Shrek precluded him from joining the Broadway folks).

So PopWatchers, any other great theater CDs that deserve a shout for holiday shoppers? Are you gonna nab any of these?

The ghostlight is on…

More Stage and Holiday News:
Jason Clark’s other Footlights columns
Patti LuPone at Les Mouches review
EW Holiday Gift Guide