DIVA TALK: A Dozen Must-Have Female Vocal Recordings

By Andrew Gans
19 Jul 2013

Cover art

Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley
"Unsuspecting Hearts"

One of the newest recording on this list, released in 1999, is a duets album from former Side Show co-stars Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley, who can also be heard on an earlier recording simply titled "Duets." I chose their second joint offering, "Unexpected Hearts," because the recording allows the listener to hear the differences in their equally thrilling voices more clearly and also lets each artist shine on solo numbers. Carrie fans will rejoice in the duo's rendition of "Unsuspecting Hearts"; Ripley and Skinner build the song slowly, and when they unleash the power of their belts during the song's final stanzas, it's enthralling. Some of the other highlights include an upbeat, bouncy medley of "Friendship" and "Friends to the End," where the gals get to have a bit of fun while singing about their obvious mutual admiration society; a gorgeous reading of Stephen Sondheim's "Pretty Women"; a forceful combination of "The Last Duet" and "Enough Is Enough"; and heartfelt versions of both Martin Guerre's "Live with Somebody You Love" and one of my all-time favorites, "Old Friend," from I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road. I'm particularly fond of "She's Gone," Ripley's second act solo that was cut prior to the Broadway opening of Side Show. Although it's not as rich a melody as some of Henry Krieger's other work from that musical, it does have a driving force, and Ripley delivers it with a frightening intensity. It also allows the actress a chance to demonstrate the range of her piercing belt, and the final few lines are thrilling. Her version of "Losing Track of Time," from Summer of '42, is also filled with much passion and yearning. Skinner, too, impresses on her own: She gets to show off her penchant for comedy in "The Alto's Lament," and her take on Stephen Sondheim's "The Miller's Son" is as honest as it is emotionally rich.