Cast Albums Blog

Author Archive:  itsdlevy

REVIEW: Pat Suzuki - Complete Album Series & Singles and Rarities 1958–1967


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Had Pat Suzuki only ever appeared in Flower Drum Song, her knock-out performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "I Enjoy Being A Girl" would have secured her place in musical theater history. How lucky we are, though, that she also had a lengthy, if somewhat forgotten, career as a recording artist. And how lucky we are that Stage Door Records is releasing two collections of her studio work: Complete Album Series (out next week) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1967, out now.


REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert - Original Soundtrack of the NBC Television Event


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Few scores have been recorded as many times in as many different interpretations as Jesus Christ Superstar. Perhaps owing to its origins first as a concept album, then as a concert tour, and then as a world-wide stage musical phenomenon (with each country's production independently envisioned by its own production team) and film (created simultaneously with and distinct from the stage version), this score has never had a standard mold into which subsequent renditions must fit. Further, the recent NBC "television event" is at least the fifth English-language video production of the material, so there was no pressure to preserve a "definitive" rendition.

The result was received fairly rapturously on television, with two major, near-universal caveats: the sound mix on the live broadcast was less than ideal, and the noisy audience was intrusive. (Yes, yes, there was also some disagreement about whether John Legend's less screamy version of Jesus was suitable; more on that in a bit.)

So, I'm pleased to report that the mix for the TV soundtrack album is entirely different from what we heard on television. If anything, it has been overcorrected for the broadcast issues, with the lead vocals being moved so far forward the band occasionally feels weaker than it should, and the audience moved so far back they occasionally sound phantasmic. This makes the audience less annoying, but also less effective in the moments when they are called upon to represent the population of Jerusalem reacting to Jesus's ministry and persecution. The vocal/instrumental balance smooths over any vestigial rock edge the score once had while obscuring some of the orchestration innovations this production employed. Admittedly, there weren't many -- the music staff wisely hewed closely to the original 70s sound rather than giving the music a contemporary veneer.


REVIEW: Donnybrook! reissue featuring The Pete King Orchestra Plays the Music of Donnybrook!


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Donnybrook! Is one of the rare golden age cast albums that's never received a proper digital transfer, despite the near-mania for releasing so many relatively obscure titles that characterized the cast recordings industry in the ‘90s and 2000s. Did Decca Broadway (who now owns the Kapp catalogue to which Donnybrook! belongs) lack appropriate masters, or did they simply deem the material less worthy? Whether as cause or effect, this musical adaptation of The Quiet Man has never achieved even the cult status of shows with similar pedigree from the same era.


REVIEW: The Man in the Moon - Original Cast


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As they were making final tweaks to She Loves Me prior to its initial Broadway bow in 1963, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick had another show on the main stem just a couple block away. The songwriting team, who already had a Best Musical Tony and a Pulitzer Prize to their name, lent their talents to a Broadway puppet show created by Bill and Cora Baird, perhaps the best-known puppeteers of the pre-Henson age. (Even if you don’t recognize their names, their work will surely look familiar even today, if only from the “Lonely Goatherd” number in the film version of The Sound of Music.)

The Man in the Moon formed the first act of a special, limited production presented by the Bairds at the Biltmore for 22 performances. Golden Records, purveyor of children’s records, released an original cast recording featuring dialogue, narration, and songs, capturing the voice performances of the Bairds along with a cast including Frank Sullivan, Franz Fazakas, Margery Gray, Gerald Freedman, Eric Carlson, and Rose Marie Jun. Although fondly remembered by those young enough to have been in the target audience for the album’s initial release, it has otherwise largely been forgotten.


REVIEW: ...and then I wrote THE MUSIC MAN


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England's Stage Door records continues its delightful Collector's Series with the first CD release of "...and then I wrote THE MUSIC MAN," the 1959 Capitol album featuring composer Meredith Willson and his wife Rini singing the hit score while Mr. Willson provides piano accompaniment and running narration. If you ever wanted to be a fly in the wall at a golden age backers' audition, find yourself a small, crowded New York apartment and play this disc; you'll find it's a perfect simulation.

While this album will never be anyone's go-to version of The Music Man, both Willson sing considerably better than the average musical theater writer you're likely to hear in similar circumstances. Mrs. Willson's Russian accent adds no small amount of charm to a score meant to convey small-town, midwestern America, but it's nothing compared to what her clear, straightforward soprano brings to the table.