Music: Audra McDonald: The Next Generation

Audra McDonald's new solo CD is as good as old

Where did the sassy, savvy show tunes of yesteryear go? Has the all-American genre been smothered in middlebrow blandness by Andrew Lloyd Webber and his carpetbag clones? Way Back to Paradise (Nonesuch/Atlantic), the first solo album from three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, points to smarter times ahead for the Great White Way. It contains 14 songs by five young composers who specialize in musical theater, none of which sound even remotely like Memory. All are highly listenable; a few, downright remarkable.

Anyone who has seen Ragtime knows there is no finer singer on Broadway than McDonald. A 28-year-old Juilliard School graduate...

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