The Sound of Music (20th Century Fox)
New DVD editions of this one just keep on coming. The 2000 "Five
Star Collection" two disc set has a fascinating commentary by
director Robert Wise (arguably the best commentary for any musical film on
DVD), a new "making of" documentary, a 1965 featurette,
interviews with Wise and Julie Andrews, and an assortment of lesser
features. Then came the 2004 "40th Anniversary Edition" which
kept the Wise commentary, added a second commentary track by Andrews and
Plummer, then introduced four all-new documentaries plus an A&E
Biography episode on the real Von Trapp family. Both versions seem to
use the same handsome restoration of the film. As a devoted fan of this
movie, I wound up keeping both editions -- each has features worth
owning. One wonders what the 50th Anniversary edition will bring . . .
South Pacific - TV Cast
The price on this DVD has plummeted over the years, but no matter how
you compute the numbers, this is a pricey coaster with a hole in the
middle. You certainly
won't ever want to put this disaster in your player, unless you want to hear the
sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein whirling in their graves. Glenn Close
is up to the material, but her supporting cast is uniformly
disastrous. A pointless and offensive waste of money, time and talent.
South Pacific - Concert Cast (Rhino)
Taped live in performance at Carnegie Hall (and "sweetened" a
bit with dress rehearsal footage), this excellent performance helped restore the
reputation of this classic. The libretto is slightly abridged, but the
score is uncut and performed to near perfection. Reba McEntire is a
charming Nellie, Brian Stokes Mitchell dazzles as Emile (his "This
Nearly Was Mine" is ravishing), and Alec
Baldwin is surprisingly good as Billis. Jason Danieley is a heartwarming
Lt. Cable ("Younger Than Springtime" has never sounded better),
and Lillias White is a revelation as Bloody Mary. The wonderful Paul
Gemignani conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke's -- it doesn't get better
than that. The ensemble is excellent, and the picture and sound quality
are outstanding. Very highly recommended.
Star (20th Century Fox)
The folks at Fox made a big mistake when they made major cuts to this film.
True, the colorful life story of Gertrude Lawrence is no Sound of
Music, but Julie Andrews makes the multitude of musical numbers
extraordinary fun. The DVD edition includes a commentary by director
Robert Wise, two "making of" featurettes, and screen tests.
A Star is Born (WB)
The DVD edition does not include a commentary, but there is plenty to
justify adding this to your collection. There are three alternate
stagings of "The Man That Got Away" (each intriguing),
the deleted mini-number
"When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," and the full
reconstructed "director's cut" of the film -- done in part
using photo stills to replace lost footage. A must-have for Garland
fans, and a great film overall.
Summer Stock (WB/Turner)
Gene Kelly puts on a show in Judy Garland's barn; a musical film buff's
formula for good times! Kelly dances a nifty solo with a creaky
floorboard and a sheet of newsprint, and Garland offers her
unforgettable rendition of "Get Happy." The DVD includes an
outstanding "making of" documentary, an outtake number (audio
only), and some vintage shorts. A great evening's entertainment all on
one disc -- highly recommended.
Sweeney Todd - Stage (WB)
This TV taping of the first national touring version of Broadway's
original Sweeney Todd
earned 3 Emmy Awards, and with good reason. The DVD edition features an
excellent remastering of the once muddy soundtrack, making it all the
more joyous to see Angela Lansbury, George Hearn and company in this
definitive Hal Prince staging. A must have for any musical theatre buff.
Sweet Charity (Universal)
Bob Fosse did a handsome
and entertaining job of turning his stage hit into a great screen
vehicle for Shirley MacLaine. The choreography is outstanding,
Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Rhythm of Life" soars, and it is great to
watch Broadway legends Stubby Kaye and Chita Rivera shine in rare film
appearances, is but without a special feature in sight in the DVD, you won't do
any worse catching this one
on a TV rerun.
The Sword in the Stone (Disney)
The story of Merlin tutoring the boy who will grow up to be King Arthur
makes for wonderful entertainment, especially when songs by the Sherman
Brothers are thrown in. So far, there has only been a "Gold
Edition," so one suspects that Disney is still planning a more
ambitious release of this underestimated charmer. The current DVD
features include a decent remastering of the film, assorted animated
shorts, a vintage featurette with Walt Disney, and the composers
performing a deleted song. Great for kids and for anyone who enjoys animation.
This Is the Army (Warner Bros.)
By some legal technicality, this film fell into the public
domain. As a result, all early DVD editions sucked big time, with lousy sound and picture
quality. But Warner Bros. has finally given the stellar screen version of Irving Berlin's
smash hit World War II stage
revue a top quality remastering. Released in a set with other WWII
musicals, it boasts a great score and some fine performances. Highlights
include Kate Smith's powerful rendition of "God Bless America"
and Berlin's irresistible performance of "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up
in the Morning." And the endearing "I Left My Heart at
the Stagedoor Canteen" is a personal favorite.
Thoroughly Modern Millie (Universal)
Julie Andrews is at her best in this spoof of the roaring 1920s.
Great vintage songs blend with enjoyable new numbers, including the
acclaimed title tune. This is one of the few times stage legends
Beatrice Lillie and Carol Channing preserved their zany comic antics on
film. The farcical plot falls apart by last half hour, but if you can
overlook that, there are many great bits to enjoy. The bad news is that the
DVD has no special features, so you may as well catch this one on a good
Tom Sawyer (MGM)
Reader's Digest had a hand in producing this bland musical
version of Mark Twain's classic. TV kid stars Johnny Whitaker and Jeff East
are well cast as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and Celeste Holm is a great
choice to play Aunt Polly, but the film just does not gel, and the
Sherman Brothers score is not up to their usual standard. The DVD
release has no special features.
Topsy Turvy (USA)
Director Mitch Leigh turned the story of how Gilbert and Sullivan wrote The
Mikado into a handsome, riveting look at life in the theatre. Few
films have so effectively captured the true spirit of backstage life.
The cast is uniformly magical, and everyone does their own singing.
Heck Allan Corduner (wonderful as Sullivan) even did his own piano playing.
The last ten minutes of the film are not quite necessary, but at the tail end
of a feast there is no point in complaining that the coffee is so-so.
Anglophiles and G&S fans will adore this film, as will all
dedicated theatre buffs. The DVD has a brief "making of" featurette,
plus the usual cast bios and trailers. Very highly recommended.
Vaudeville (Fox Lorden CentreStage)
One of the best performing arts documentaries ever done, this was
created as part of the PBS American Masters series. The history of
vaudeville makes for fascinating viewing thanks to a feast of rare
performance clips and interviews. Very highly recommended!
Victor/Victoria - Screen (WB/Turner)
One of the last truly great original screen musicals! But what else
should have happened with Julie Andrews and Robert Preston singing
songs by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse? Thanks to director Blake
Edwards, the comedy is hilarious throughout, and the DVD includes an
excellent commentary track featuring Andrews and Edwards. You will
feel as if you are sharing a private screening with this gifted couple.
Musical film buffs will relish this!
Victor/Victoria - Stage (Image)
More than a decade after the film version, Julie Andrews and Blake
Edwards brought Victor/Victoria to Broadway, and the results are
preserved here by the entire original cast, live in performance. Nothing
could hope to eclipse the screen version, and we now know that the
strain of eight performances a week would prematurely silence Julie's
singing voice. That said, the stage version still has its share of great
moments, and this DVD gives it to us with excellent picture and sound
Yankee Doodle Dandy (WB/Turner)
One of the great movie musicals gets a sensational presentation in this
two disc DVD set. There is a crystal-clear restoration, as
well as a commentary track by film historian Rudy Behlmer. Of
James Cagney's many films, this was his personal favorite, and it isn't
hard to see why. He is in his element, a one man musical comedy
dynamo. The story of Broadway legend George M. Cohan rewrites history at
almost every step, but offers fine renditions of Cohan's most beloved songs. A
new featurette looks back at the making of the film, Michael J. Fox
hosts a documentary on Cagney, and we also get a radio version of
the show, audio outtakes and several enjoyable short subjects. Very
worth owning and highly recommended.
You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story (WinStar)
This excellent hour long PBS documentary on the life and career of Cole
Porter is packed with great vintage performance footage -- Astaire,
Merman, Sinatra, Chevalier, Garland, Crosby and more are seen and heard
making Porter's exquisite songs all the richer. Aside from a few
readable reference pages, there are no major features, but fans of
classic musical theatre and film will be delighted to have this one.
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