Comparative Cast CD Reviews VI

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 1998-2004)

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


The original 1975 production of Chicago was packed with all-time greats: Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, and Jerry Orbach all on one stage, with Tony Walton's innovative set, Bob Fosse's incomparable choreography, and a brilliant Kander & Ebb score. It should have been a super hit, but opening in the same season as A Chorus Line denied Chicago the credit it deserved.

Final verdict: Both Broadway cast recordings are essential items in any serious showtune collection – the others are pleasant options.

The Desert Song

With plush melodies by Sigmund Romberg and poetic lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, this score tempted operatically gifted casts into recording studios for several decades. The wildly romantic tale of the masked Red Shadow's desert romance with the beautiful Margot can easily veer into camp, but one can't help hoping that we get new hearing in the near future.

Final verdict: Hockridge & Bronhill on Angel or Eddy & Morrow on Columbia lead the pack – which means that there is no top-notch version of The Desert Song available on CD as of this writing.

The Merry Widow

Franz Lehar's masterpiece is one of the most frequently recorded theatrical scores, with more versions than one could hope to cover comprehensively in the space available here. Here are just some of the dozens of versions recorded over the last century.

Final verdict: Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's 1953 monophonic Angel version is the best complete recording, with Beverly Sills's on the same label offering the best English language version.

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