After Audra McDonald's audacious recording debut with Way Back to Paradise, a collection of newly composed, highly sophisticated theater music, this new disc dominated by Harold Arlen standards would seem to be a retrenchment. On closer inspection, not so. Anybody who would risk comparisons with Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland by recording "A Sleepin' Bee" and "The Man That Got Away" isn't playing it safe. McDonald comes out fine, though, not because she's better than her elders, but because she's different. What pop singers do with rhetorical flourishes, the operatically trained McDonald does with color and phrase shape, much more so here than on Way Back to Paradise. Indeed, she is in radiant voice. The differences multiply with the orchestrations, which give a Coplandesque slant to "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home." Then there's the sequencing, which follows "The Man That Got Away" with "Somewhere" from West Side Story. On a dramatic level, it's a progression from devastation to healing. On a symbolic level, the signature song of gay-cult icon Garland is followed by the unofficial anthem of the AIDS era--with staggering impact. Not everything is great: sometimes McDonald runs dry of interpretive ideas. But at least five cuts are each worth the price of the CD. My favorite: "Come Down from the Tree," a playful gem about love and change cut from the Broadway show Once on This Island.