The Pajama Game - Studio Cast
Producer John Yap's series of "complete score" studio cast
recordings on Jay has been a mixed blessing to collectors. There are some cases where
uninteresting casting or overly familiar material did not justify the $30
two-disk price tags. But every now and then, they come out with something
like this delicious set.
Up to now, the only Pajama Game recordings available were the
almost identical Original Cast and Soundtrack versions with most fans preferring
Hollywood's endearing Doris Day to Broadway's often-flat Janis Page. This new
recording outclasses both.
Judy Kaye uses her dual belt and legit talents to sing the role of Babe
Williams as no one has before. "I'm Not at All in Love" is a riot, and her
tender moments are just as effective. She has as much fun with the part as she did when
I saw her in the 1986 NY City Opera revival. Luckily, the role of Sid is sung by Ron
Raines, one of the few current leading men who can match such vocal and theatrical
power. Raines pours his ravishing baritone into "A New
Town" and "Hey There," making both rare pleasures. He joins
Kaye to turn "There Once Was a Man" into an atomic duet getter here than
Kim Criswell (won't somebody write this lady a
new role?) has a blast as Gladys, in particular singing the delightful "Hernando's
Hideaway." Brooks Almy as Mabel and Avery Saltzman as Hines (both alumni of the NYCO
production) are just right in "I'll Never Be Jealous Again." Conductor
John Owens Edwards handles the orchestra and chorus deftly.
The only bonus track is Raines singing a pop version of "Hey
There," which is not much different from the show version but fun to have anyway.
If you like Pajama Game, "take this advice I hand you like a
brother" - this delightful version is well worth your time & money.
Parade - (RCA/BMG)
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn!!! Only in the worst of
Broadway seasons could this score have merited such a fuss. It is not terrible
in fact, it is a clearly professional effort, which is more than I can say for a
number of recent shows. However, it is uninteresting. A Tony for Best Score? Better
they should have cancelled the award that year!
Like most contemporary musicals, Parade takes itself far too
seriously and winds up a victim of its own self-importance. Instead of characters,
it offers singing icons; in place of basic human conflict it has principles and
issues; and instead of telling a compelling story, it preaches. The cast has some
fine voices, most notably Brent Carver and luscious Carlee Carmelo in the leads, but
their inspired performances cannot fully redeem this often ponderous material.
Parade was a noble idea that simply did not work. The CD is
as fine as any failed show could hope for. I just hope this recording does not
inspire ill-advised producers/directors to try "fixing" a
musical that even Harold Prince could not crack.
Peter Pan - Revival
Cast (Jay Records)
I have loved this musical version of Peter Pan ever since I was a little kid
in the 60s watching Mary Martin fly across my parents' black and white TV screen. So
I am pleased to find the new Cathy Rigby recording is such a joy.
Anyone who has seen Rigby as Peter can testify what a well-crafted
performance she gives in the role. The lady is a heck of a singer. I
loved and adored both Mary Martin and Sandy Duncan in this role and Rigby is
a worthy successor. "Never-Never Land" gets its full due and the
glorious "I'm Flying" scene is finally recorded with all the music
and dialogue intact. While I miss the campy "Mysterious Lady," I admit
that I've never seen the number work for anyone other than Mary Martin and Cyril
Ritchard, so I fully understand the decision to cut it.
The supporting cast is uniformly strong, and the British accents of the
children and Lost Boys are appropriate to this extremely English fairy tale.
Schoeffler gives a dazzling semi-operatic performance as Captain Hook, but I still wish
the recording had used Rigby's first and best Hook, Stephen Hanahan.
So this new Peter Pan CD is a real winner.
Rex - Original Broadway Cast
The creators of Rex faced an insurmountable obstacle: How do you make an
audience empathize with England's Henry VIII, a bloody tyrant who massacred wives
and friends for the sake of his libido and then blamed it all on his need for a male
heir? Composer Richard Rodgers, lyricist Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler) and
librettist Sherman Yellen gave it their best shot, but the result failed quickly and
has rested in relative obscurity.
All that was left after the closing were a few horror stories about
infamous leading man Nicol Williamson (among other tidbits, he slapped a chorus
member's face on stage during curtain calls one night) and a rare RCA cast album
that was cherished by collectors including Andrew Lloyd Webber, who eventually
convinced ex-wife Sarah Brightman to record the Rex ballad "Away From
RCA's CD re-mastering has stunning sound/ Rodger's next-to-last
score is brimming with gorgeous melodies and Harnick's lyrics are often
quite lovely. "No Song More Pleasing,"
"The Chase" and "Elizabeth" are first rate, and "Away From
You" is one of the most ravishing love songs in any show, any time, anywhere.
Ambitious choral numbers like "Te Deum" and "Christmas at Hampton
Court" show that Rodgers was still in great melodic form.
Williamson displays a rich baritone voice and an adept sense of lyrical
interpretation what a shame this is his only musical to date. Along with solid
performances by Ed Evanko and Tom Aldredge, we hear Glenn Close in her Broadway musical
debut as Princess Mary. The idea of Applause star Penny Fuller playing both Anne
Boleyn and later the Princess Elizabeth works well, and Barbara Andres makes Queen
Catherine's "As Once I Loved You" heartbreakingly beautiful.
If you like the music of Richard Rodgers, Rex will be a crucial
addition to your collection and if you don't like Richard Rodgers, what the hell
are you doing reading this website?
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