Comparative Cast CD Reviews V

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.

Show Boat

No two productions of Showboat have been identical, so it is hard to say that any one recording is definitive. Still, several clearly outclass the pack.

Final Showboat verdict: No single recording reigns supreme. Three versions are standouts – the Angel is the most complete, the 1995 revival the most dramatically satisfying, and the 1936 film has several original stars at their best. Between those three, you can get a sense of what makes Showboat a masterpiece.

The Sound of Music

No one I know has ever suggested that The Sound of Music is Rodgers and Hammerstein's best score, but its popularity is phenomenal. You would have to go to the remotest place imaginable to find someone who did not recognize "Do-Re-Mi" or "My Favorite Things." My guess is you have probably heard one or more of the most popular versions, but some of the lesser-known ones are definitely worth checking out.

Final Sound of Music verdict: The original cast and soundtrack are still the essential versions, but the rare Von Trapp Family version is a great surprise.

South Pacific

The score for this Rodgers and Hammerstein is timeless – as are a surprising number of its recorded casts. Sadly, there are enough clunky versions to prove that even this magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning material is not foolproof.

The Final South Pacific verdict: The Original Broadway Cast is still the essential version, with the 2008 revival and 2005 Carnegie Hall recordings rating as exceptionally strong follow-ups. For those devoted to this classic score, the 1967 Lincoln Center and 1988 London revival recordings also rate a listen.

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