A Chorus Line - Original Bway Cast
Oh well, it is a thrill to relive so many great ACL moments, so I'll let it go. This upgrade is more than worth the investment.
A Class Act - Original Cast (BMG/RCA Victor)
MTC assembled a solid cast, led by the book's co-author Lonny Price, who is thoroughly believable in the very complicated role of Kelban. Randy Graff, Carolee Carmello, Jonathan Freeman and David Hibbard add a great deal of professional polish, but they can only do so much with such self indulgent material. The the overall effect of the score is not all that exciting. Kleban did not push this material into a public performance while he was alive I can' help thinking it was ill-advised to do so more than a dozen years after his death.
Annie Get Your Gun
1999 Broadway Cast (Angel)
Was the Berlin family asleep when this score was being butchered? Don't they have any respect for a show that has kept them in clover for half a century? I'm all for taking a fresh approach to a familiar score, but not when the results are so clearly inferior to the original version."The Girl That I Marry" is in snippets, "They Say It's Wonderful" loses its touching opening verse, and the innocuous "I'll Share It All With You" and "Who Do You Love I Hope" are re-instated to kill time which they do, relentlessly. "My Defenses Are Down" (an all-time favorite of this author) gets a tacky (but admittedly witty) Las Vegas arrangement, and the usually show-stopping "I Got The Sun In The Morning" falls flat. On the few occasions when they leave Mr. Berlin's score alone, it sparkles as brightly as ever. "Moonshine Lullaby" and "I Got Lost In His Arms" are among the prettiest tracks Ms. Peters has ever recorded, and the opening choral version of "There's No Business Like Show Business" is joyously right. When Wopat and Peters cut loose with "An Old Fashioned Wedding" and "Anything You Can Do" it is old-style Broadway all the way albeit not as exciting as the raving critics had led me to believe.
Bernadette Peters may be thirty years too old to play Annie Oakley but you wouldn't know it on this CD. She is in peak vocal condition, making the most of every lyric. As for Tom Wopat, let's just say he's okay as long as the songs make minimal demands. Otherwise, he simply skips the high notes and warbles on, doing limited justice to Berlin's tunes. The supporting cast is fine, most notably Broadway veteran Ron Holgate (1776, Grand Tour) as an exuberant Buffalo Bill. Pity the approach of this production so often obscures the talents of the cast.
Applause - Original
Composer Charles Strouse is featured in a very enjoyable addendum of songs recorded for a demo but cut from the show "Smashing, N.Y. Times" is a real gem. The booklet notes say that he and lyricist Lee Adams are working together again can't wait to see what they come up with! In the meantime, this restored recording of Applause is a grand treat.
As Thousands Cheer -
Off Bway Cast (Varese Sarabande)
Highlights include "Harlem on My Mind" and "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee," as delightful here as they were on stage. The well-known "Easter Parade" was missing from the production due to rights issues, but has been added for the CD (and subsequent licensing). To all theatre companies considering this show -- include both songs in your production! If you love classic musical comedy, this recording is a must have. Things like this help to keep a show buff's faith alive.
Babes in Arms - 1999 Encores Cast
City Center gathered a first rate cast of unknowns, a perfect approach for this show about vaudeville kids putting on a show to get their folks out of debt during the depression. (Yes, this is where Mickey, Judy and MGM got the idea.) David Campbell and Erin Dilly are perfect as the young lovers at the heart of the action, and Melissa Rain Anderson's belt dazzles in "Johnny One Note." Christopher Fitzgerald and Jessica Stone are great as the supporting duo, and the chorus sounds like they just escaped musical comedy heaven. Rob Fisher and his Coffee Club Orchestra once again prove themselves masters of period orchestrations the overture is truly glorious, and the singers get flawless support throughout.
I am eternally thankful that Encores and the folks at DRG keep these great Broadway scores alive and singing.
Bells Are Ringing - Revival Cast (Fynesworth Alley)
The new Don Sebesky orchestrations are period perfect ("Mu-Cha-Cha" never sounded better!), and the enthusiastic ensemble often make this so-so score sound better than it really is. Bells fans will be delighted! (As with several other Fynsworth Alley recordings, be sure to let the last track play out there are some fun bonus outtakes.)
Breakfast at Tiffany's - Studio Cast
(Original Cast Records)
Its a safe bet that Breakfast at Tiffany's will never get a better hearing than it does on this two-CD recording. All the songs are included in narrative order, with the booklet explaining which numbers were used in which version. Bob Merrill's score is more capable than brilliant. Standouts include the title waltz, "I've Got a Penny," the raunchy "Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Just Go Everywhere)," "Hot Damn," and the ten o'clock belt fest "Same Mistakes." These songs are clearly stage worthy, with a rich and unmistakable "Broadway" sound – something which this author considers a major plus. If every now and then one of Merrill's rhymes makes me wince ("bachelor" with "natch'ller"?), at least this score is not afraid to have fun. Good grief, remember when musicals were expected to have fun?
Faith Prince is perfect as the eccentric Holly Golightly, and former Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider does a solid job as the friend who adores her. Hal Linden sounds great as Holly's abandoned husband, and Sally Kellerman reprises her original stage role as Holly's man-hungry pal Meg. Jonathan Freeman, Ron Raines, Carol Woods and Patrick Cassidy provide deft support in featured roles, making this a recording most buffs will want to own. (Will any of these fabulous performers every get the new hits they deserve? I'm almost past hoping!) The CD market being what it is, producer Robert Sher had to push for six years to get this from the studio to store shelves – he has cause to be proud. Is Breakfast at Tiffany's a lost masterwork? Not exactly, but the score as heard here is the kind of professional product New York theatergoers once took for granted. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, this Breakfast is well worth the tab.
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