Hailed by the critics, this debut solo CD was awarded the 2004 Back Stage Bistro Award for Excellance in a Recording.
From the liner notes:
“A note for the listener….
I have always been attracted to the Art Song for its dramatic character and rich melodic accompaniment. The dynamics exchanged between the voice, the lyric, and the piano resonate at the center of the art song’s emotional density and character. For the intimate setting of this recording, there are two equal voices, and therefore the complete and soulful collaboration with pianist Philip Fortenberry was invaluable.
It is the technology and overtones chosen for this intimate mix that introduce the third person….the listener can choose who they want to be…..
The original title song, WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING, delicately reflects the echoes of our subconscious, and influenced the choice of repertoire for this recording. Together the voice, as the subconscious, and the piano, as the dream entity, illuminate the emotions stirred by our dreams. Dreams that weave our inner most thoughts….WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING.
— John Hoglund, Back Stage – January 2004
“Rebecca Spencer – “Wide Awake and Dreaming” (LML Music): The melodic vocals of soprano Rebecca Spencer fuse with superb musical director Philip Fortenberry on this stunner of an album, revealing an artist on the verge of a serious breakthrough. Her love of the art song and interpretations of same set her apart from most female vocalists on today’s scene. The album is pure ear candy. For instance, the combination of her coloratura pianissimo descant forays on Saint-Saens’ “Le Cygne” from “Le Carnival des Animaux” in counterpoint over Fortenberry’s bucolic piano on “An Affair to Remember” (Adamson-McCarey-Warren) is riveting. More conventional and equally superb cuts include “I’ll Be Seeing You” (Kahal-Fain), “On My Way to You” (Alan and Marilyn Bergman-Legrand) and “Where I want to Be” from “Chess” (Andersson-Ulvaeus-Rice). From Spencer’s starting point to the end of her musical journey, this bodacious disc revels in opulent images from an artist who, at times, recalls the likes of Maureen McGovern and Barbara Cook in their prime.”
— Peter Leavy, Cabaret Scenes Magazine – February 2004
“Of the many extraordinary aspects of Rebecca Spencer’s debut cabaret performance, perhaps the most wondrous is that her dazzling showpiece at Mama Rose’s, Wide Awake and Dreaming, was indeed her very first on a cabaret stage. Alluring in a black, off-the-shoulder gown, she matched her cover girl looks with talent, making good use of a theater background to infuse her singing with dramatic staging and understanding. She and Philip Fortenberry, her impassioned accompanist and musical director, had more than ample time to polish the arrangements while they cut a CD half a year earlier, but it was more than rehearsals that allowed her to so capture her audience.
Spencer has a glorious voice–a soaring, affecting and versatile soprano, equally effective in the lower registers. From opera to Cole Porter, Spencer was in her element. And with tech director Michael Barbieri’s imaginative lighting design, the effect was almost magical.”
— Back StageBistro Bits: Divas and Decadence by John Hoglund – January 2004
“Speaking of things that compel, I mean it as the highest praise when I say that newcomer Rebecca Spencer may be the most distracting performer in cabaret. I find it almost impossible to stay in the room with her. Her lilting soprano and subtle shadings, along with amazing musical director Philip Fortenberry’s rhapsodic arrangements, made her two recent shows at Mama Rose’s one of the most impressive debuts I’ve seen in a decade. Every crystal-toned note took the listener on an intensely dreamy journey of discovery. While she is a Broadway veteran (she played Lady Beaconsfield and Guinevere in Jekyll and Hyde) and new to intimate rooms, I predict this golden-voiced lady is going to be a household name in a short time.
Celebrating the release of her beautiful new CD, Wide Awake and Dreaming, which I glowingly reviewed on Jan 2, the SRO house, filled with many theatre folks, cheered her on as if she could do no wrong. They were right. And it doesn’t hurt that she bears a resemblance to Nancy LaMott. A lyric soprano with a plaintive pianissimo that can melt to a whisper, Spencer shined singing songs from her album. The symmetry between her and musical director-arranger Fortenberry couldn’t be better. The show was an example of collaboration at its finest. At times, it all resembled a recital of art songs fused with lighthearted musical comedy. She’s warm, with a delightful presence that lights up the room. Like any newcomer to cabaret making the change from the large stage to an intimate venue, Spencer had to adjust to the confines of cabaret. She did so with ease. Her voice is such that, like LaMott, she could sing the phone book in Gregorian chant and it would work. She has wisely nailed the art of delicate phrasing, turning a simple reading of a fusion of ‘On My Way to You’ (Alan and Marilyn Bergman-Legrand) and ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ (Porter) into a masterpiece of passion. Remember the name and do not miss her next show while she’s still affordable.”
— Jeff Rossen, Cabaret Scenes Magazine – October 2003
“‘I have always been attracted to the art song for its dramatic character and rich melodic accompaniment,’ Rebecca Spencer says in the liner notes for WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING, and she uses that connection to create a dreamy collection of songs that pick up the listener and carry you away. Combining her alluring voice with Philip Fortenberry’s sublime stylings on the piano, Spencer journeys into the lands of dreams to imagine other worlds, remember lost loves and past pleasures, and reflect on what might have been or could be. Alternating between her sultry alto and soothing soprano voices, Spencer uses this mix to create a gallery of images and feelings, beckoning us to join her in her reveries that touch the heart and intoxicate the mind. Peter Eldridge’s romantic and wistful title song gives Spencer the perfect setting to begin her journey of mind and heart, and the musical voice that re-imagines a collection of pop and show music in the art song setting she extols in her notes. Working with Fortenberry on the arrangements, Spencer quite obviously not only knows just how these songs sound in her head but also transfers those musical images to this recording through Fortenberry’s glorious keyboard interpretations.”
— Richard Edgcomb and Stephen Hart, Cabaret Hotline Online – 2004
“Dressed in a stunning black velvet strapless gown with full length gloves, Rebecca Spencer was the epitome of elegance as she took the stage in the Cabaret Room at Odette’s in New Hope one recent Sunday evening. Before a sold out room of friends, acquaintances and those just curious about all the buzz she has generated, Rebecca presented a show to celebrate the release of her debut CD, WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING on LML Music.
Rebecca captured the audience right from the opening notes of the title track. No stranger to the stage, her theatrical background is evident, with appearances including the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde. Nonetheless, Rebecca was able to easily transition to a small intimate space with eloquence. She captured the audience’s emotion with her delicate phrasing, dramatic staging and complete understanding of the material. Billed as a “dreamy collection of songs that pick up the listener and carry you away,” the show ranged from soft wistful ballads to more emotionally charged belting songs.
Rebecca’s voice, that of a legitimate lyric soprano, was always in complete control whether she was singing art songs as with ‘The Willow Song’ or Broadway tunes such as ‘Where I Want to Be’ from the musical Chess. Confident and assured, Rebecca Spencer will be seen on the cabaret stage for years to come. She was able to take a Broadway ballad and make it sound almost operatic as she did with ‘Moonfall’ from The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Most impressive was the combination of ‘On My Way to You’ with ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ which was sensitive and moving.
While possessing a breathtaking voice, much of her success is due to the glorious accompaniment of Philip Fortenberry. His arrangements for Rebecca are perfect and his piano interpretation is exquisite. I suspect we will be hearing much more in the days and years ahead.”
— David Hurst, Show Business – October 2003
“Rebecca Spencer’s been one of Broadway’s best kept secrets, but with the release of her debut CD, those days are over. The CD is both a deeply personal statement about the importance of dreams as forces in our lives and an interesting mixture of show tunes, pop songs and contemporary compositions – all arranged as art songs. Spencer’s voice is a lustrous legit soprano with power to burn and high notes that are jaw dropping. Philip Fortenberry’s work is ravishing. Spencer’s on to something and her talent can’t be denied.”
— Stu Hamstra, Cabaret Hotline Online – 2004
“Her vocals are glorious and entrancing, and combined with the incredible Philip Fortenberry on piano, this performance is indeed exciting and a delight. This very beautiful performer’s chemistry with Mr. Fortenberry is astounding.”
— The Monthly Herald (London/Paris) – 2004
“Her recent CD redefines romanticism, vocal virtuosity and human warmth for the world of comteporary cabaret.”
— Laura Deni, Broadway to Vegas – 2003
“WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING is a marvelous showcase for her vocal ability. The CD is billed as “a hypnotic and sensual recording offering fresh interpretations of sophisticated songs driven by the strength of the lyric.” Spencer lives up to her billing. It’s a platter filled with interesting song selections. From the dramatic Where I Want to Be, her powerful delivery of Against the Tide, the upbeat and hopeful Anything Can Happen, the beguiling I’ve Got You Under My Skin, or – tap dance around the kitchen floor to Home Sweet Heaven. Her lilting tones on An Affair to Remember could please the angels. She doesn’ t sing the words, but vocalizes to the melody. When she is finished the immediate reaction is – beautiful.”
— Roy Sander
“Rebecca Spencer has mined sources as diverse as art songs, Cole Porter, Judy Collins, and classic American opera to create her striking CD, WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING. Her resourcefulness and taste are matched by the beauty of her singing The result is stylish, classy, and altogether lovely.”
— Stephen Flaherty, Composer of Solla Sollew
“Congratulations on a beautiful CD! ……great selection of songs and you and Philip are a beautiful team together. Loved your take on Solla Sollew- very ethereal.”
— Rupert Holmes, Composer of MoonFall
“I love Rebecca’s rendition of MoonFall. I love the whole CD! It’s a beautiful arc.”
— Laurie Lawson, Electronic Link Journey – 2003
“The beautiful soprano voice of Rebecca Spencer reaches out from her new CD, WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING, and touches your heartstrings. Her execution is so precise and accomplished that she sings and you listen. It’s that simple. Standards like I’ll Be Seeing You and On My Way To You/I’ve Got You Under My Skin are full of passion and intensity that command your attention. The operatic scaling in An Affair To Remember is absolutely haunting , and her rendition of A Taste Of Honey may be the most sensuous ever. Backed by the impressive talents of pianist Philip Fortenberry, each offering is a song to be savored. Spencer can turn a ballad on its ear. You’re bound to become an instant fan! If you don’t mind chills up your spine and tears in your eyes, WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING is the CD for you. Treat yourself to an aural delight.”
— Donald Feltham, Broadway Radio Show – 2004
“The very talented Rebecca Spencer released her brand new CD on LML Music entitled WIDE AWAKE AND DREAMING, with Philip Fortenberry on piano. It is a terrific recording. I suggest you buy it!”
Rebecca created the role of Madame Giry in the new $35 million production of Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular, under the direction of Harold Prince. Her acclaimed performances at the Venetian Hotel and Casino continued for over two years.…