Tony Award winner Karen Olivo’s departure from the Broadway lights in favor of quieter, more chill Madison four years ago was heavily covered by theater media. Her first Madison cabaret show, she said at the time, told the story of “how I got here.”
So it’s not surprising that Olivo chose “Leave” as the title for her new album, released this week by Borderlight Entertainment.
*etta james voice*— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) November 25, 2017
At laaaaaaaast pic.twitter.com/A0CD3YvRAL
“Leave” dropped to backers of a 2014 $40,000 Kickstarter first, then to the public on Tuesday (99 cents per track/ $6.99 on CDBaby). Produced in New York, it’s a collection of impassioned reinterpretations of pop-inflected Broadway tunes, most of which won’t be widely known.
“This album tells a story and is best experienced in chronological order,” Olivo wrote in a missive to fans. “My advice to you is this, set aside the time and let me tell you a story.”
Those fans have been waiting a while, though not without a few good reasons. The album, announced three years ago, was delayed for a time by Olivo’s turn as Angelica Schuyler in the still-running Chicago production of “Hamilton,” which she left in August.
Featured on the album are references to Olivo’s Broadway roots. “Your Eyes,” from Jonathan Larson’s mega-hit “Rent,” calls back her years with that show in the late 1990s. (The national tour of “Rent” opens in Overture Hall on Jan. 2 for a six-day run.)
The title song, “Leave,” comes from Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s musical “Once.” It includes the lyrics: “I hope you feel better/ now that it's out ... the truth has a habit/ of falling outta your mouth.” Another Hansard/Irglová song from the same show, “Say It To Me Now,” showcases Olivo’s powerful mezzo belt.
Olivo reimagines two Stephen Schwartz songs: a sultry, jazzy take on “Where is the Warmth” from “The Baker’s Wife” and a bluesy rendition of “Fathers and Sons” from “Working.”
Jason Robert Brown, known for “The Last Five Years,” wrote the final song on Olivo’s album, the rhythmic “And I Will Follow.”
One track, “How It Feels,” appears to be the original song Olivo has referenced a few times (“Leave” did not come with liner notes). A contemporary ballad, the chorus begins, “Like dying or madness or losing control/ this sadness I feel won’t make me feel whole.”
Olivo moved to Madison in 2013 to join her husband, James Uphoff, a sound designer who works for Electronic Theatre Controls. Madison’s Forward Theater Company announced that she would anchor its fall 2018 production of “Fun Home,” a Madison premiere and Forward’s first musical.