A Chorus Line - Original Bway Cast
A Chorus Line has finally received the first-class remastering it
desperately needed. And we're supposed to be grateful? Why the
hell did we have to wait twenty-five years for decent sound and all
these extra bits of the score? Buffs have always complained about the
muddled sound of the original album and it was no secret that several
numbers were recorded but held back. If Columbia could give us all this now, they could
just as easily have done it when the score was first released on CD. The cynical,
calculating creeps what a waste of our time and money, making us buy the
same damn recording over and over! What are they holding back to "surprise us" with next time around?
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
A Class Act - Original Cast (BMG/RCA Victor)
Composer Edward Kleban wrote the lyrics for A Chorus Line, a monumental
hit that eclipsed his other work. Some have suggested it even blocked his future
creative efforts, for none of his later work made it to the stage until 2001,
when some of his unheard songs were showcased in A Class Act. The unusual
format imagines Kleban's ghost correcting things said at
his memorial. This CD captures the acclaimed original Manhattan Theater Club
cast, which changed somewhat when the show transferred to Broadway.
Kleban's songs are well-crafted and lively, but it's a bad sign that a snippet of
"One" is miles above the rest of the score. Although a lyricist myself, I could not help asking the fatal
question why should I care?
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)
I have tremendous respect for director Graciela Daniele and music director John
McDaniel. I also have tremendous respect for producers Fran and Barry Weissler
which is not surprising, seeing as I was once their assistant. However, I really wonder
what these four were thinking of when they decided to tamper so mercilessly with Irving
Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. I can understand calling in Peter Stone
to re-write the book. However, this score gave us "There's No Business
Like Show Business" and landed more songs on the hit parade than any other
musical of its time. Why mess with it?
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
One of the most overdue CD remasterings, this often overlooked
Tony-winning show boasts a frequently exciting score and the powerhouse (if
often off-key) performance of Lauren Bacall in her unlikely but
acclaimed musical debut. Her "Welcome to the Theatre" is pure magic,
and showtune buffs will always love Bonnie Franklin leading the chorus in the rousing
title tune. The early 70s rock touches in the orchestrations can't hide the
fact that this score is pure Broadway.
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)
Each of these performers knows how to make the most of vintage material.
Howard McGillin's sexy charm is always a plus, and it is great to hear Judy Kuhn cut
loose in several light-hearted numbers. B.D.Wong plays a wide range of characters
with brio and the delicious Mary Beth Peil makes "Heat Wave" as torrid
a showstopper as ever. Paula Newsome's passionate "Suppertime" is a standout.
The versatile Kevin Chamberlin's hilarious Noel Coward
skit did not make it on to the recording, so there isn't nearly enough of
This small Off-Broadway production was a real jewel, and the cast CD
offers 15 Irving Berlin songs performed to perfection in contrast
to the mishandled Annie Get Your Gun reviewed above.
While I love big period orchestrations, an exquisite
one-piano arrangement lets the singers and songs be the issues here,
joyful to the ear and the soul.
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
Babes in Arms - 1999 Encores Cast
The wonderful Encores! concert series at New York's City Center
continues to delight musical theatre lovers, and their recording of Babes in Arms shows why. Rodgers &
Hart's superlative score includes "Where or
When," "I Wish I Were In Love Again," "Johnny One
Note" and "The Lady is a Tramp" more hits than some
composers had in a decade! While the superb 1990 concert recording has been
treasured by collectors, this CD is just as
delightful, and has a fair amount of additional material. Buffs with
a taste for classic showtunes will not regret owning both recordings.
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
Bells Are Ringing - Revival Cast (Fynesworth Alley)
This short-lived revival did not fare well with the critics, but it sure as
behind a delightful cast recording. In fact, its even better than the
classic 1956 version! Faith Prince is a comic treasure as Ella Peterson, the
answering service operator out to brighten the world "with a laugh, and a
smile and a song." Pity she did not win
a Tony for this, the best performance of her career so far. Marc Kudisch sings
Jeffrey Moss with far more style and power than anyone else I've ever heard in the
role, and the super supporting cast includes such veteran musical comedians as David
Garrison and Beth Fowler (who both have a ball with the schmaltzy "Salzberg").
Special kudos to Martin Moran, who is a hoot as the dentist who composes
on his air hose.
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
Breakfast at Tiffany's - Studio Cast
(Original Cast Records)
This ill-fated show won immortality when producer David Merrick closed it in
mid-previews. The press acclaimed him as the ticket-buying public's best friend
but the authors – who had completely rewritten the show on tour and wanted a
fair hearing on Broadway – were furious. The score by Bob Merrill, book by Abe
Burrows (rewritten by no less than Edward Albee) based on a Truman Capote
bestseller, and the casting of TV stars Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain
had garnered a healthy advance sale. But Merrick's action made the show a
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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