Having holiday shopping woes for particular friends this year? Never fear. Uncle David has a couple winning suggestions you can order and receive just in the St. Nick of Time!

A trio of my most beloved, talented, musical-theatre gal pals, Frances Leah King, Maggie Stenson, and Vickielee Wohlbach, comprise a wonderful singing trio called The Modern Angels. It has years since they got together for a recording session, but just a few days ago they released what may be their best recording effort yet: Go To Sleep (The Goodnight Songs).

The collection is as varied as can be; from classical to traditional folk music, to classic pop, to Broadway and Hollywood. These three creamy-voiced songstresses have created a compilation suitable for lulling the little ones, or offering a welcome, end of the day, fireside cuddle time with you and your special someone.

Vickielee Wohlbach (currently in Village Theatre’s My Fair Lady) does songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman proud with her wistful lead solo on the enchanting Hushabye Mountain from the film and subsequent stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Frances Leah King (now onstage in the 5th Avenue’s The Sound of Music) takes the lead on Little Drops of Rain. With her crystal clear vocal style, and rich, emotion-packed interpretation, she makes it her own, even though the tune was introduced by the immortal Judy Garland in the near-forgotten animated film Gay Puree, written by Garland’s Oz composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. Harburg.

Maggie Stenson (a vet of Village, Showtunes, and Seattle Children’s Theatre) takes Tomorrow from Annie (by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin) to a new and special place, with a plaintive, dreamy rendition that is one of the highlights of the recording.

Veteran Seattle musician Dave Pascal produced the album handsomely, and Musical Director/Pianist Scott Warrender’s magic touch is most evident. To borrow a title from another of the recording’s lilting melodies, When You Wish Upon A Star, Go To Sleep (The Goodnight Songs) is a dream come true, as much for its listeners as for the artists who created it. Available at cdbaby.com or, later this month, through iTunes.

thegreatparade

Who knows more about Broadway musicals than just about anyone else? Nine out of ten people in the know will answer: Peter Filichia, of course. As far as this fellow writer (and, full disclosure, fortunate friend) is concerned, there’s no argument there.

Filichia is the former New York-based theater critic for New Jersey’s The Newark Star Ledger and New Jersey’s TV news. He writes two weekly columns for Masterworks Broadway and Kritzerland, and also writes regular entries for the Music Theatre International Marquee blog. His previous books have included Let’s Put on a Musical!: How to Choose the Right Show for Your School, Community or Professional Theater, Broadway Musicals: the Biggest Hit and the Biggest Flop of the Season, 1959 to 2009, Broadway MVPs 1960-2010: The Most Valuable Players of the Past 50 Seasons, and Strippers, Showgirls and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals that Did Not Win the Tony Award.

His latest work, published last summer by St. Martin’s, is The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-to-Be-Forgotten 1963-1964 Season. It’s a flat-out must-read for fans of Broadway musicals and divas, and for theatre fans and students in general, as it covers EVERY Broadway show from that packed season.

That was the season when the Kennedy era ended. For some, it was the end of the golden age of musicals, period. The biggest musicals of the year were Hello Dolly! Starring Carol Channing, and Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand. Stephen Sondheim, Noel Coward, Meredith Willson, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Tom Jones, and Harvey Schmidt, among others, also wrote shows for the likes of Carol Burnett, Angela Lansbury, Robert Preston, Steve Lawrence, Mary Martin, Tammy Grimes, Florence Henderson, Josephine Baker, and many more. Stage plays that season included Luther, Barefoot in the Park, After the Fall, and Any Wednesday with Robert Redford, Sandy Dennis, Julie Harris, Albert Finney, Jason Robards, Jr., Colleen Dewhurst, Elizabeth Ashley, as well as Richard Burton’s infamous Hamlet.

Filichia’s coverage of the plays is sturdy and interesting, but it is the musicals that have his heart, and are the big draw of the book. Why was Meredith Willson’s Here’s Love (The musical version of Miracle on 34th Street) so much less successful and well-received than his earlier hits The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown? How could a Sondheim show starring Lansbury close in a week? How did Hello, Dolly! and Funny Girl even make it into NYC after savage out-of-town notices? And what caused the well-reviewed, box-office record-breaking, Carol Burnett tuner Fade Out – Fade In to fade out at the box office at a loss in less than a season?

Filichia knows and he gives you the facts and his informed, witty, and sometimes caustic and unpopular opinions. But mainly, when you are reading about all this, he makes you feel like you were there. Before 42nd Street and Broadway became a mall. When top Broadway ticket prices were $10. And when the dream of the US as Camelot came crashing down around us.

Nothing is as much fun as sitting in a Broadway deli for two hours and hearing Filichia wax enthusiastically or critically about Broadway, but The Great Parade comes damn close. Find Filichia’s latest online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers.