Cast Albums Blog

REVIEW: Paint Your Wagon - Encores! Cast Recording

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Paint Your Wagon is exactly the kind of show Encores does best. It was an early effort by one of Broadway's most successful songwriting teams (Lerner & Loewe), working in an explicitly American idiom (gold-rush Americana). The show was a moderate success, but the cast album was severely truncated. The film bore little resemblance to the show, nor was it very good. So despite a couple of hit songs ("I Talk to the Trees" and "They Call the Wind Maria"), the show more or less faded into obscurity.

When the curtain rose at City Center in March, 2015 to a gloriously large orchestra (44 musicians!) playing a pulsing overture that immediately evoked the American west, audiences knew they were in for a treat. With a trio of perfectly cast leads -- Keith Carradine as old miner Ben Rumson, Alexandra Socha as his daughter Jennifer, and Justin Guarini as the love interest Julio -- songs familiar and surprising sprang to life.

REVIEW: Three Alfred Drake Reissues

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Alfred Drake is having a moment. Sure, he died nearly a quarter-century ago, but with three of his albums newly available, it’s a great time to be an Alfred Drake fan – or to become one.

Once Broadway’s leading baritone, Drake famously originated roles in Babes in Arms, Oklahoma!, Kismet, and Kiss Me, Kate, recording the latter two twice, with later stereo discs complementing the original monaural versions.

That stereo version of Kismet, a recording of the 1965 Music Theater of Lincoln Center revival, is the first of the Drake reissues, out now from Masterworks Broadway. Drake reprises the role he originated, Hajj, joined this time around by Anne Jeffreys as Lalume, Lee Venora as Marsineh, Richard Banke as the Caliph, and Henry Calvin as the Wazir.

REVIEW: Salad Days - Original London Cast

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The latest in Sony’s Masterworks Broadway series of re-releases, the original cast recording of Salad Days is a very welcome addition to the catalogue. A huge hit in London in the 1950s – at one point it was the longest-running musical in British theatre history, and it’s the show that inspired Cameron Mackintosh, after seeing it as a child, to seek a career in theatre – it is now seldom revived; there are, perhaps, good reasons why, but the score is absolutely delightful, and it deserves to find a new audience.

REVIEW: Sweet Charity & The Importance

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Sweet Charity was one of the biggest hits of the 1960s. The Importance, one of several musical adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, was briefly produced twice in the 1980s, and has since more or less disappeared without trace. They don’t, on the face of it, appear to have a great deal to do with each other – but the (terrific) London cast recording of Sweet Charity has just been reissued by Masterworks Broadway, and Stage Door Records recently released a 20-years-in-the-making studio recording of The Importance. Listening to them reveals that each recording, albeit for different reasons, is probably best approached as a variation on a theme.

align=leftThat, actually, is possibly selling the London cast recording of Sweet Charity a little short. It’s a fine, sharp, snappy rendition of Cy Coleman’s score, and in many respects it’s more or less the equal of the original (and definitive) Broadway cast album. Juliet Prowse has a rather bigger voice than Gwen Verdon, though she’s perhaps less distinctive; this is as well-sung an account of the role as you’ll hear on any English-language recording of this score, and she can belt notes Verdon could only dream of. It’s a very strong performance, made all the better by the fact that she isn’t simply forced to provide an imitation of her predecessor. Her ‘I’m a Brass Band’, in particular, is a joy to listen to.

REVIEW: Mrs. Henderson Presents & Bend It Like Beckham - Original London Cast recordings

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Amid the ongoing onslaught of musicals based on recent-ish films, Bend It Like Beckham stands out, if only because you could be forgiven for wondering how well any film about football could be adapted for the musical stage. Mrs. Henderson Presents, on the other hand, would seem like a sure bet as a stage musical: it mostly takes place in a theatre, it’s full of chorus girls, and there are two larger-than-life, somewhat eccentric star roles at the centre of the plot. The musical version of Bend It Like Beckham just closed in the West End, while Mrs. Henderson Presents just opened, and listening to their respective cast recordings back-to-back is an interesting experience. In the theatre, even the surest bets aren’t always as surefire as they seem.