REVIEW: The Golden Apple - First Full-Length Recording
The Golden Apple is one of those scores that has taken on something of a mythic air, which is entirely appropriate for this Broadway rethinking of The Iliad and The Odyssey through the lens of turn-of-the-century Americana. The original production was an early transfer from off-Broadway, and despite critical enthusiasm, it shuttered within four months. It left behind a frustratingly truncated original cast album, which (to add insult to injury) was out of print for many years. Despite fans' adoration of this score (music by Jerome Moross, lyrics by John Latouche), the scope of the show (24 named characters plus chorus and full orchestra) has made it difficult to revive or record. (A persistent rumor of Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel's dislike of the show has further aggravated fans.) All of which is to say, when PS Classics announced a full-length recording of the show's recent production at the Lyric Stage of Irving, Texas, with massive cast, expanded chorus, and 36-piece orchestra, a certain segment of the show tunes collecting community let out massive cheers.
I'm pleased to report that the cheering was well warranted. Recorded live over the course of three days, the album has the vibrancy of a live performance (if curiously sporadic audience response) with studio-quality sound. While none of the cast is likely to be familiar to listeners outside of Texas, they are across the board well-cast. If the current cast lacks some of the unique personalities of the original (which featured, among others, Kaye Ballard, Bibi Osterwald, Portia Nelson, and Stephen Douglass), the lack of known performers allows us to really hear these characters as characters.
Despite the operatic ambitions of the score, it is best performed by the type of performers for which it was written, which is to say theater singers. The music is particularly well-served by this cast of singers (particularly Christopher J. Deaton as Ulysses and Kristen Lassiter as Penelope) who can handle mid-century legit style that seems to have gone the way of the dinosaurs on contemporary Broadway without slipping into "full opera" mode. With its mix of Copeland-esque Americana, art songs, vaudevillian turns, and Broadway toe-tappers, the score offers delights for all kinds of show music fans. That it all blends so seamlessly into one, coherent epic is a testament to Moross and Latouche's achievement.
The recording appropriately received the deluxe treatment in its packaging, with a handsome 56-page booklet (designed by Arts Marketing Network, Inc.) including a synopsis, lyrics, production photos, and a handful of essays to help contextualize the show.
One might quibble with some elements of the album -- I'm told there are a couple of minor cuts to the score, and I wish the sound balance had placed the orchestra a little further forward -- but what's the point, really? Most of us never expected to hear a full recording of this score with a cast and orchestra of this size and quality, and to have it delivered with such finesse is nothing short of a miracle. Thank you to producer Tommy Krasker and the entire PS Classics team.
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The Golden Apple - 1954 Original Broadway Cast The Golden Apple - 2014 Lyric Stage The Golden Apple Kaye Ballard John Latouche Jerome Moross Portia Nelson Bibi Osterwald Stephen Douglass Tommy Krasker Jack Viertel Christopher J. Deaton Kristen Lassiter Toggle Additional (10)