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The sound of music(als)

So the 2008 Tony Awards are history, and soon the big-budget shows that didn't collect any medallions probably will be too.  But if you caught Sunday's Tony telecast -- Broadway's three-hour commercial love letter to itself -- you realize that some wonderful musicals are running in New York right now.

Heights Though nothing beats seeing a new Tony-winning show on Broadway, there is an alternative to spending loads of dough for a Big Apple theater experience:  the cast CD.  Two terrific ones -- In the Heights and the South Pacific revival -- are available now.  And on July 15, you can get the CD of another show that didn't get nearly enough Tony love, Passing Strange.

In the Heights, the show that won the best musical Tony, has put out a two-CD set that features the musical's vibrant mix of hip-hop, salsa, Reggaeton, merengue and more.  You get a clear sense of the show's story as you listen, and you'll feel the energy and joy that creator Lin-Manuel Miranda the cast so clearly displayed on the Tony telecast.  The Ghostlight CD sells for $21.98, but Amazon has it for $14.99.

SouthpacificOn the Tony show, best actor Paulo Szot and his leading lady, Kelli O'Hara, offered a great sample of just how gorgeous the Lincoln Center Theater's revival of South Pacific sounds.  Szot, an opera star who grew up in Brazil, is not just (arguably) the best looking guy to play Emile; his voice, particularly on Some Enchanted Evening, is simply thrilling.  O'Hara is superb too, and if not for Patti LuPone's stunning Mama Rose in Gypsy, would have won a Tony too.  The lush original orchestrations make this Sony Classics CD a must-have.  It sells for $18.98, but Amazon has it for $9.99.

Passingstrange Ghostlight will issue the Passing Strange cast CD on July 15, but I've listened to an advance copy, and it's superb.  Dynamic, smart and engaging just like its creator Stew, the show traces a young black man's search for self, a trip that takes him from from middle-class comfort in Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin, with some sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll along the way.  Not your average Broadway show nor your average Broadway CD -- my husband, listening in the car, said, "Wow -- that's on Broadway? I want to go." The Passing Strange will sell for $18.97 ($12.99 on Amazon).

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