Comparative Cast CD Reviews I

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 1998-2003)

This section compares various recorded versions of popular scores. Just because I own almost every version doesn't mean you have to.

Annie Get Your Gun

You would think that once Ethel Merman had recorded a score the case would be closed, but "tain't so" when you're discussing Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. Many leading ladies recorded this show, and even Merman recorded it once too often – but that's life in the business there's no business like . . .

The final Annie Get Your Gun verdict: The Lincoln Center Theatre version and TER two-disc are the best – if you have trouble choosing, treat yourself to both.

The Boys From Syracuse

This is one of Rodgers and Hart's most hit-drenched scores with more genuine wit in some numbers than you will find in most complete shows today. Although the 1938 original pre-dated the existence of cast recordings and the film version used little of the score, several outstanding recordings have kept listeners "Falling in Love With Love."

The final Boys verdict: The 1963 Off-Broadway Cast has the best individual performers, but the 1997 Encores Cast is more complete and is the strongest version overall.


Lerner and Loewe's first hit has enchanted audiences the world over, and has had some excellent recordings over the years. However, that does not mean you shouldn't let one or two of them disappear into the mist for a hundred years or so . . .

The final Brigadoon verdict: the Angel Studio Cast is the CD champ – but the 1960s Columbia Studio Cast on LP has much to treasure.


A searing drama masquerading as a musical comedy, this Kander and Ebb masterpiece has been knocking audiences for a loop ever since its debut in 1966. There are many fine recordings, but some give you particularly good reasons to "come hear the music play."

The final Cabaret verdict: The NY Original and Revival casts win out, but lots of gems among the "also rans" make this a tough call.


Critics have always carped that this Lerner and Loewe charmer was not another My Fair Lady – as if any show could be? Camelot's wit and melody have enjoyed lasting popularity, leading to several successful revivals. However, Lerner continued to revise the show until his final years, so no two recordings are exactly alike.

The final Camelot verdict: the Original Broadway Cast is the hands-down winner, with the 1982 London Cast covering some numbers left off the earlier recording.


Like the Governor says, "Ah, poor Candide!" It has never been the same show twice! Unable to accept the show's initial failure, composer Leonard Bernstein continued to fiddle with his gorgeous score for decades. The result is a remarkably uneven crop of cast recordings.

The final Candide verdict: The 1985 NYCO cast is the musical winner here, with the 1974 Broadway revival cast a disarming alternative. That said, the incomplete but luscious original 1956 recording is a perennial collector's favorite. One version of Candide is simply not enough!

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