Nance’s album contains quite a varied conglomeration of songs beginning with Guy Wood and Robert Mellin’s “My One and Only Love” which has been covered by such esteemed artists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Nance’s version is an incredible mixture of jazz and operetta, soaring and evocative. He gives stunning breadth to Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful,” prompting my immediate desire for someone to produce Annie Get Your Gun immediately so that Marcus Nance could regale us with what I am sure would be a fascinating Frank Butler. His rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess is pure perfection. If Audra McDonald is playing Bess in the upcoming American Repertory Theatre Production, she could dream of no better Porgy than Marcus Nance. His “Ol’ Man River” is; if possible, even more stunning and utterly tragic. I think it even eclipses Paul Robeson’s.
With an arrangement by Franklin Brasz, he pairs Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” with Chopin’s Waltz op. 69 #2 which complement one another beautifully; this track nicely reflects the entire album’s sweet blend of jazz, musical theatre and classical music. The rest of the album harkens vividly back to a long lost time gone by, music that would have once blared from gramophones (“Old Man Harlem”), a rousing Civil Rights anthem (“Work Song”) and the lovely, haunting “God Will Provide a Lamb,” with lyrics inspired by Genesis.
His power and talent for storytelling is most apparent in the Jacques Brel song “Fanette,” a classic tale of love and loss that is both poetic and sad. The piano playing on all the tracks by Franklin Brasz, Mark Eisenman and Patti Loach are all deeply intuitive and mirror the ambiance of Nance’s voice with vigour and specificity.
Marcus Nance has had an extremely successful career in theatre, cabaret and opera taking him to the Stratford Festival, the Shaw Festival, to Broadway and City Center Encores, as well as theatres across Canada and the United States, yet this album still begs the question: why isn’t this exorbitantly talented man a household name? Undoubtedly he deserves to be. One listen and I guarantee, you’ll be a believer in the extraordinary things happening Next Door.