Personnel: Brian Stokes Mitchell (vocals); Tedd Firth (piano).
Audio Mixer: Tom Lazarus.
Recording information: Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY.
Photographer: Robert Ascroft.
Arrangers: Tedd Firth; Brian Stokes Mitchell.
With the release of Simply Broadway, Brian Stokes Mitchell and his powerhouse tenor amply reward the patience of fans who had waited six years for a sequel to his popular self-titled debut. The Tony Award winner, renowned stage and concert performer, and animation voice-over whiz brings so much drama, emotion, and storytelling color to this crafty mix of the familiar and the lesser known that he only needs a little piano accompaniment (provided brilliantly by Tedd Firth on a Steinway Hamburg grand) to sweep through the history of his chosen realm. Aside from the unique, wide-ranging song selection, which includes pieces from Fiddler on the Roof (a witty romp through "If I Were a Rich Man"), Les Misérables ("Stars"), Sunday in the Park with George ("Finishing the Hat"), Carousel (the dynamics-filled eight-minute "Soliloquy"), and South Pacific ("Some Enchanted Evening"), the most compelling element is Mitchell's choice as to when to overpower (the soaring, high-wire feeling of "Feeling Good") and when to pull back and speak (even whisper) more gently from the heart ("What Kind of Fool Am I" and "Finishing the Hat"). Although his own intuitive sense of song and the brilliant arrangements get some credit for this, Mitchell also gives a tip of the hat to his heroes Tony Bennett and Bill Evans, who also knew a little something about balancing raw emotional intensity with those quieter, intimate moments when lifelong musical connections are made. ~ Jonathan Widran