THE ARCHIVE

 

 

 

GYPSY - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2008 / Music by Jule Styne and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Starring: Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti, Boyd Gaines, Leigh Ann Larkin, Tony Yazbeck, Marilyn Caskey, Alison Fraser and Lenora Nemetz

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Did we need another recording of Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim’s GYPSY? The answer is a big yes, because for me this is the best and most complete rendition of the score.

I have the versions with Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury (my favorite until now), Tyne Daly and Bernadette Peters, but none of them, with all their talent, can be compared with Patti Lupone’s amazing tour de force. Her Rose it’s all it should be, she’s simply perfect and that’s that.

But there’s more to this new recording than Patti. There’s more music in it than in every previous version and it has a deep theatrical feeling that is kind of missing in the other recordings. The orchestrations sound better than ever and this unforgettable score becomes even richer and more powerful than it usual is.

At Patti’s side, Laura Benanti is the best of all Louises, giving all her talent to the role and it feels like, for the first time, Rose should really be jealous of her daughter’s success. As Dainty June, Leigh Ann Larkin is perfectly irritating and her “farmboys” number is delicious. Boyd Gaines’s Herbie sounds true and his singing is a perfect match for Patti. The three strippers are simply terrific and Tony Yazbeck is a sweet Tulsa. In conclusion, the cast couldn’t have been better.

One final word for the bonus tracks, where for the first time (at least for me) we hear Rose singing “Smile, Girls” and wonder why they cut it from the show; the song is really good and funny. There’s also a delightful Christmas song, “Three Wishes for Christmas”, beautifully sung by Yazbeck and we have a burlesque song, “Tomorrow’s Mother Day”, sung by the “babies”. Gaines gives us a great “Nice She Ain’t”, another song that I wish hadn’t been cut from the show. Besides “Smile, Girls”, Patti also delivers another strong character song, “Who Needs Him?”.

In conclusion, this is a great cast recording of one of the best scores ever written for a musical and only a fool would miss it. Highly recommended!

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OH MY GODMOTHER! - Original San Francisco Cast Recording - 2008 / Music by and Lyrics by Ron Lytle

Starring: Brandon Finch, Kyle Payne, Scott Phillips, Thomas Therist, Steve Yates, John Erreca, Jenifer Tice, Lisa Otterstetter and Julia Etzel

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: This new and gayer version of the classic Cinderella story began its career in San Francisco in 2005 and finally was put on CD.

With the tag line “a fabulous fairy tale”, this musical by Ron Lytle has an old fashion sound that pleases my tastes. The songs are simple but melodic, with more than a couple of catchy tunes like “Look at the Way” or “CinderAlbert” as part of the score. In fact, Lytle songs sound more musical than many of the new musicals that open on Broadway or Off-Broadway nowadays.

As you probably may guess, with a drag-queen as the fairy godmother and a sex change for the Cinderella character, who falls in love with the gay Prince, you’re in camp territory. But it’s all done with good taste, no one is taking this seriously and the end result is a funny take on the classic fairy tale.

As Albert (the new Cinderella), Brandon Finch has a sweet voice and have a ball with “CinderAlbert” and also delivers a sad tango “Midnight”; as the Prince, Kyle Payne delivers a strong voice and has a good moment with “Who Am I?”. Scott Phillips is the funny Godmother and shines with “Fabulous!”. One of the highlights, the hilarious “Bitch”, belongs to Jenifer Tice as the Stepmother and Lisa Otterstetter and Julia Etzel as the Stepsisters; this two also have a great time with “Somebody for Everybody”. As the Prince parents, Steve Yates and John Erreca sound convincing in their duets. One final word for Tomas Theriot who sings may favorite song of the score, the gay “Look at the Way”.

The cast is good, the heart is in the right place, the musical influences (Cole Porter, 20s musicals and the chorus numbers reminded me of “Mr. Cinders”) give it a nostalgic touch, in fact it only needs better orchestrations and a bigger orchestra. I’m sure someone like Doug Besterman (“The Producers”, “Young Frankenstein”, the movie version of “Chicago”) could turn this score into gold, until that happens it still is an enjoyable little musical score.

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YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by and Lyrics by Mel Brooks

Starring: Roger Bart, Megan Mullally, Sutton Foster, Christopher Fitzgerald, Shuler Hensley, Andrea Martin, Fred Applegate

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Mel Brooks did it again. This may not be as good as the score he wrote for THE PRODUCERS, but it’s almost as funny and it’s very entertaining. Who could have guessed that one day his classic horror comedy would become a joyful Broadway musical?

I haven’t seen the show yet, but I’ve been playing this cast recording almost every day since the day it arrived. I simply love traditional Broadway scores and once again Brooks manages to write a Valentine love letter to the great musical composers. It’s true, musically speaking there’s nothing original in this score, but thanks to the terrific orchestrations of Doug Besterman (who also produced this album) and the talents of musical director Patrick S. Brady, the result is highly enjoyable.

Like in THE PRODUCERS, the choreography is by Susan Stroman and by listening to numbers like “Please Don’t Touch Me” and the contagious “Transylvania Mania”, we can almost see the cast dancing. The big production number, Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, was cut for the CD, but what remains promises a big musical moment.

There’s a lot to enjoy here, from the promising “Overture” to the pretty melody of “Listen to Your Heart”, beautiful sung by Sutton Foster. “Roll in the Hay” is brilliant in its simple melody and Foster is amazing. Another favorite of mine is the delightful “Surprise” sung by a fantastic Megan Mullally, who also convincingly delivers the almost dirty “Deep Love” and after her rendition of “Please Don’t Touch Me” no one will think of “tits” in the same way; believe me. As a bonus track, Mullally also gives us a romantic rumba cut from the show, “Alone”,

Andrea Martin as a great time with the cabaret “He Vas My Boyfriend” and Roger Bart is at his best with “Man About Town” and has a lot of fun with “The Brain”. Christopher Fitzgerald is a terrific surprise as Igor and among other things leads the company on the already mentioned “Transylvania Mania” and has a big moment with “Together Again”. One last word to Shuler Hensley as the Monster; he doesn’t sing much but his sounds are very real and he sure has a “deep” strong voice.

Like we expected the lyrics are completely crazy and only Brooks can get away with such dirty words (well, exception for the guys of AVENUE Q). Many of the lines of the movie are repeated, but the new additions are as funny as the old ones and together they work perfectly. If you love musical comedies as much as I do, you’ll have a ball. This is traditional Broadway with a twist, a very naughty twist.

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LOVEMUZIK - Original Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by Kurt Weill and Lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner and others

Starring: Donna Murphy, Michael Cerveris, David Pittu, John Scherer, Judith Blazer, Rachel Ulanet, Graham Rowat, Herndon Lackey, Ann Morrison, Erik Liberman

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: If there’s a composer that usually lives me cold is Kurt Weill. I like his score for LADY IN THE DARK and I love “Speak Low” from ONE TOUCH OF VENUS (I’m still waiting to have a full cast recording of this musical), but I hardly enjoy the rest of his work. So why did I bought this CD? The answer is Donna Murphy.

Here, Murphy plays the role of legendary Lotte Lenya and she is simply perfect. It’s amazing how versatile she is and how she easily transforms into someone else. Her renditions of Weill’s classics like “Alabama Song”, “Surabaya Johnny” and “September Song” are reason more than enough to buy this cast recording. But there’s more to it than Murphy. The entire cast is very good, with Michael Cerveris delivering a convincing Weill. The orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick are effective, atmospheric and bring new life to the old songs.

As you probably may have guessed, my favorite tracks are, besides the lovely “Speak Low”, the less typical Weill’s songs. “Girl of the Moment” is great, “Wouldn’t You Like to Be on Broadway” a nice surprise that I think I never heard before and I can say the same about “It’s Never Too Late to Mendelssohn”. Another great song is “Buddy on the Night Shift” sung by Graham Rowat and I also enjoyed “The Illusion Wedding Show”.

I can’t say that I’ve surrender to Weill’s work, but this album was a nice addition to my CD library. I guess I discovered a side of Weill that I haven’t listen before, but I believe it’s the terrific cast that convinced me. Congratulations to them all.

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ANNA KARENINA - Studio Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by Dan Levine and Lyrics by Peter Kellogg

Starring: Melissa Errico, Brian D'Arcy James, Kerry Butler, Gregg Edelman, Marc Kudisch, Jeff McCarthy

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I would love to know why so many new musicals sound almost the same and why most of them became monotonous after a few tunes.

Probably I can’t say that ANNA KARENINA is a new musical, in fact it opened on Broadway in 1992 and was even nominated for a few Tonys, including Best Original Score (Dan Levine & Peter Kellogg), but it had to wait all these years to be released on CD. One thing I can assure you, the cast assemble for this recording sounds perfect and I’m sure they would be great on stage. Of them, only two worked on the Broadway production; Melissa Errico that played the role of Kitty Scherbatskaya was promoted to Anna Karenina for the recording and Gregg Edelman repeats his stage role of Constantin Levin.

Dan Levine wrote a very dramatic score, with plenty of melody (maybe too much) and strong orchestrations. “Journey to Moscow” is a good, almost epic, opening number, that it’s followed by a beautiful song about love, “There’s More to Life Than Love”. “Nothing Has Changed” and, specially, “Waiting for You” are very melodic, “I Never Dreamed” is very emotional and “This Can’t Go On” is a big dramatic moment. The big problem is they sound to much alike and after a while the score becomes monotonous. That’s a pity, because there are some strong songs and performances in here; for example, Errico is great in “I’m Lost” and Jeff McCarthy delivers a strong “Only at Night”, but they never quite shine as they should.

The score reminded me of the more interesting A DOLL’S LIFE and of Sondheim’s PASSION, but the cast recordings of those shows are stronger. Anyway, there are melodies here that are worthy of discovering and the cast is flawless.

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BUSKER ALLEY - 2006 York Theatre Concer Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by and Lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. ShermaN

Starring: Jim Dale, Glenn Close, John Bolton, Cristy Candler, Bob Fitch, Jessica Grov, Michael Hall, Elizabeth Inghram, George S. Irving, Noah Racey, Anne Rogers, Michael Lane Trautman, Diane Wasnak, Patrick Wetzel

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: This show had its world premiere several years ago, with Tommy Tune in the leading role. Unfortunately, Tune broke a foot and the show never came to Broadway. In 2006, The York Theatre Company decided to revive it for a one night fundraising gala and the result is here.

With a score by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, the brothers responsible for the score of MARY POPPINS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and other movie musicals, plus the Broadway musical OVER THERE!, this is a very British musical about the London street entertainers known as “Buskers”.

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get my hands on a recording of the original production starring Tune, and this concert recording pales in comparison. What in Tune’s version is lively and exciting, here is melancholic and very quiet. In fact, this is just a matter of taste; I’m sure many of you prefer quieter things, but I love big dance numbers and here, even the title song, sounds calm. I miss luxurious orchestrations and a big orchestra.

There are some good songs in here. “Hula Love Song” and “Mates” are funny. “He Has a Way” is a nice ballad sung by Jessica Grové, who also delivers “Baby Me”, a good song that never delivers its power. “Ordinary Couple / I’m On the Inside” sound kind of exciting and “Tin Whistle Tune” is a catchy tune. In the leading role, English Jim Dale sounds a good choice and delivers his songs with the perfect accent, in fact everything sounds too British. I miss Tommy Tunne’s “Tap Happy Feet” (I think that’s the name of it) dance number, that for me was one of the best songs of the score.

There are strong rumors that a production of this musical, starring Jim Dale, may open soon on Broadway. If that happens, I hope the excitement of the Tune’s production returns to the show and with it the “Tap Happy Feet” number.

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FREE AS AIR - Original London Cast Recording - 1957 / Music by Julian Slade and Lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds & Julian Slade

Starring: Gerald Harper, Patricia Bredin, John Trevor, Gillian Lewis, Roy Godfrey, Howard Goorney, Michael Aldridge, Vincent Charles, Josephine Tewson, Dorothy Reynolds

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: British composer Julian Slade is mainly know for SALAD DAYS, that he wrote with Dorothy Reynolds. That show opened in London in 1954 and it ran for 2.283 performances. Three years later, Slade and Reynolds wrote FREE AS AIR and, although it didn’t repeat the success of their previous musical, it ran for 417 performances.

If you listen to this recording you realize that this was a very British musical, with good orchestrations that remind us of the movie soundtracks of the 50s. As for Julian Slade’s music, I’ve to confess I’m not a big fan, but this score works better as a whole than the one he wrote for SALAD DAYS.

There are a few amusing songs, like “Her Mummy Doesn’t Like Me Any More” or the title song; but the best is “A Man from the Mainland”, sung by Patricia Bredin in LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE mode. She and Gerald Harper delivered a nice love duet, “I’ve Got My Feet on the Ground”, but “Testudo” sung by her and two guys sounds too classic. There’s also the interesting “Geraldine” and the cinematic “I’m Up Early”. What sounds like a big production number, “Holiday Island”, starts well but some irritating voices almost destroy it.

I won’t say this is essential for all musical lovers CD library, but there are few songs that justify its purchase and I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy here.

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FACE THE MUSIC - City Center Encores Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by and Lyrics by Irving Berlin

Starring: Walter Bobbie, Judy Kaye, Jeffry Denman, Meredith Patterson, Eddie Korbich, Mylinda Hull, Lee Wilkof, Felicia Finley, Kevin Vortman, Timothy Shew, Chris Hoch

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Are you ready for a trip to 1932? That’s exactly what you get with this new recording. If, like me, you enjoy old fashion scores and love traditional Broadway, this one is for you. If by any chance you prefer modern beats, you should avoid it.

Irving Berlin is one of America’s most famous and prolific songwriters and he is also known as the father of the American popular song. Like all the great ones, not everything he did was gold. But even in a lesser score like this one, there are some good songs and nice surprises.

I never heard many of the songs in this score and it was nice to discover them; for that I’ve to be thankful to the people behind the City Center Encores and to Hugh Fordin for recording the show. My favorite track is Walter Bobbie’s delightful “How Can I Change My Luck”; I also enjoy the unashamedly romantic and naïve duets by the perfectly casted Jeffry Denman and Meredith Patterson (I had the pleasure of seeing her as Peggy Sawyer in the revival of 42nd STREET), among those “(Castles in Spain) on a Roof in Manhattan” and “Soft Lights and Sweet Music”. Berlin is also know for writing good comic numbers and here Mylinda Hull and Eddie Korbich have a fun time with “I Don’t Wanna Be Married (I Just Wanna be Friends)” and “You Must Be Born With It”.

Judy Kaye powerfully leads the company in what is probably the most famous song of these score “If You Believe”. Another famous song is the funny love song “I Say It’s Spinach (And the Hell With It)”. Among the discoveries (at least for me) Felicia Finley has her big moment with “Torch Song”, Jeffry Denman delivers the New York love song “Manhattan Madness”, and there’s the nostalgic “Crinoline Days”, among other songs already mentioned.

I confess I’m not a fan of patriotic songs and Berlin was an expert of the genre (probably he invented it), so I don’t care much for “Two Cheers Instead of Three” or “A Toast to Prohibition”. As for the long last number “Investigation”, there are some irritating voices in it (even so I enjoyed the comic girl chorus) and it reminded me of the much more interesting similar numbers of OF THEE I SING and LET’EM EAT CAKE.

I know I should love this recording and I wanted to, but it’s kind of dated, even for my old fashioned taste. The melodious love duets sound almost all the same and the orchestrations sound old. There isn’t a really exciting song here, but nevertheless is a pleasant trip to the past with some musical jewels in it. If you’re a true musical lover you should have this in your CD library.

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GRAB ME A GONDOLA - Original London Cast Recording - 1956 / Music by James Gilbert and Lyrics by James Gilbert & Julian More

Starring: Joan Heal, Denis Quilley, Jane Wenham, Guido Lorraine, Trefor Jones, Joyce Blair, Ina De La Haye, Donald Hewlett, Johnny Ladd, Jay Denyer

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Inspired by a publicity stunt that happened at the Venice Film Festival, where actress Diana Dors appeared in a bikini and was thrown into a canal, this British musical comedy opened in London in 1956 and ran for 687 performances.

This is a very 50s score with an Italian flavor, but the result isn’t as interesting as it sounds. Composer James Gilbert came up with a few good show tunes: the funny “That’s My Biography”, the pretty love song “Plain in Love” and the operatic “Bid Him a Fond Goodbye”. There are some irritating voices in tracks like “Jimmy’s Bar” or “Star Quality”, those some voices sometimes almost destroys the very Italian “Chianti”. One of the songs, “Man, Not a Mouse”, begins well but soon becomes uninteresting. Although the action takes place in the 50s, the rock and roll “Rockin’ At The Cannon Ball” sounds out of place; the very fifties “Rig O’ the Day” is more interesting. The score ends with the melodious “When I Find That Girl”.

In the role of the film star (Diana Dors), Joan Heal sounds perfect and lively sings, among others, “That’s My Biography” and “Cravin’ for the Avon”. Dennis Quilley strongly sings “When I Find That Girl” and the duet “Plain Love”; this is one shared with Jane Wenham, who has a lovely voice and gives it all with “Bid Him a Fond Goodbye”.

This may not be a great score (it really isn’t), but if you’re in a discovering mood I’m sure you’ll enjoy some of the songs. There are also rare tracks from London Productions of PAL JOEY and WONDERFUL TOWN, but the two bonus tracks by Shani Wallis (the Nancy from the movie adaptation of OLIVER!) are more interesting.

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HAIRSPRAY - Original Movie Soundtrack - 2007 / Music by and Marc Shaiman and Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman

Starring: Nikki Blonsky, Zac Efron, John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Marsden, Christopher Walken, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelley, Amanda Bynes, Aimee Allen

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: “Welcome to the 60s” and to the soundtrack of the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical!

It’s rare for me to prefer the recording of the movie version to the theatre cast, but it happened in the past with, for example, OLIVER!, THE SOUND OF MUSIC and, you can kill me, HELLO, DOLLY!. Now it happens again, with this lively new recording of HAIRSPRAY.

The orchestrations are more exciting, the 60s spirit is more alive, the energy is superior and everyone in the cast sounds like they’re having the time of their lives. I haven’t’ seen the movie yet so I don’t I know about it, but the soundtrack is great!

Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is a winner leading lady and strongly delivers all her songs. Michelle Pfeiffer doesn’t have a great singing voice, but she delivers “(The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs” with lots of feeling and sensuality. John Travolta has a great time with his (or should I say, her?) numbers and his duet, “(You’re) Timeless to Me” with Christopher Walken is musical heaven. We already knew that Queen Latifah has a great singing voice and here she takes full advantage of songs like “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been”. As the teenager idol, Zac Effron hit all the right notes of his numbers and, as the television star, James Marsden sounds like he just come out of a sixties show.

For me, the highlights are the already mentioned “(You’re) Timeless to Me”, “I Can Hear the Bells” and the exciting “Welcome to the 60s”. Personally, I would cut the unnecessary pop track by Aimee Allen, “Cooties”.
Composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman wrote three good new songs for the movie, “Ladies’ Choice”, “The New Girl in Town” and “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)” and I sincerely hope that at least one of them will get an Oscar nomination.

This kind of music isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it’s difficult to resist to the toe tapping rhythms and the contagious joy of living of this recording. Even if you’re a big fan of the Broadway cast recording, I’m sure you’ll love this much better rendition of the score. Believe me, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”.

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LEGALLY BLONDE - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by and Lyrics by Laurence OKeefe and Nell Benjamin

Starring: Laura Bell Bundy, Christian Borle, Orfeh, Richard H. Blake, Kate Shindle, Nikki Snelson, Michael Rupert, Leslie Kritzer, Annaleigh Ashford, DeQuina Moore

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I’m probably one of the worst persons in the world to write a review to this score. Why? Because I’m very resistant to pop scores and I love the sound of old Broadway. So, why did I buy this CD? Because I liked the songs that Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin wrote for “The Mice”, one of the three mini musicals that were part of 3HREE.

I guess I can’t say I was disappointed with this recording, I kind of guessed what was in store, but even so I expected a little bit more. Anyway, one thing is sure; no one can accuse this score of being boring or monotonous. There’re a big variety of styles here and the end result is listenable.

The majority of the songs have a pop flavor that reminded me of WICKED and I’m sure that everyone who loves that more interesting score will have a good time with this one. If, like me, you expected songs in the vein of “The Mice”, there’s “The Harvard Variations” and, in a small scale, “There! Right There!”. There’s also a more traditional Broadway song that I quiet enjoy: “Blood in the Water”. There’s also a new age/Celtic song entitled “Ireland” and a kind of soul number perfect to use in the gym, “Bend and Snap”.

In the long and funny “What You Want”, you’ll find a little bit of reggae, a little bit of Motown (DREAMGIRLS come to mind) and a lot of pop; but it works and that’s what matters. “Serious” is a curious love song with a twist and if “Take It Like a Man” sounds like a strange title for a romantic duet, is in fact an enjoyable ballad.

The lyrics are quite funny; with some nice lines like “Is he gay or European”, “Feel al those halogens” or “I pretend like I’m in… Ireland. With Enya, and the whales”. The cast sounds like they are having a good time, with Laura Bell Bundy having her big diva moments with “So Much Better” and “Legally Blonde”. At her side Orfeh and Christian Borle also have a chance to shine, her with “Ireland” and him with “Chip on My Shoulder”. The “Legally Blonde Remix” is quiet contagious

As pop musicals go, this could be worst but, thanks to its enjoyable cast and lively orchestrations, it’s quite listenable. Omigod, if only I was fonder of pop music…

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110 IN THE SHADE - Original Broadway Revival Cast Recording - 2004 / Music by Harvey Schmidt and Lyrics by Tom Jones

Starring: Audra McDonald, Steve Kazee, John Cullum, Chris Butler, Carla Duren, Christopher Innvar, Bobby Steggert

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: This musical originally opened on Broadway on October 1963 and got enough good reviews, but the opening of two new musicals, HELLO, DOLLY! and FUNNY GIRL almost eclipsed it. But thanks to its melodic score the show lived on.

This recording is the third of this show that I have on my CD collection and it’s almost as good as my favorite rendition of the score, the two disc recording inspired by the New York City Opera production. In one thing this new cast is definitely better, the winning performance by the excellent Audra McDonald (the reliable Karen Ziemba played the part on the other one).

With new luxurious orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, this new recording is a wonderful way to discover or rediscovered this beautiful score by Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones. There’s a western-epic quality that takes us right into the action and makes us feel the heat and emotions of the story. From the great overture, “Gonna Be Another Hot Day”, to the highly emotional and rainy ending, “Wonderful Music” and a reprise of “The Rain Song”, this is a score that quickly grows on you and soon you’ll be humming some of the songs.

There are several beautiful ballads like the duet “A Man and a Woman”, “Love, Don’t Turn Away” and “Evenin’ Star” (that wasn’t part of the original score); perfect plot songs like “You’re Not Fooling Me”; a delightful comedy number “Little Red Hat” and an almost enchanted company number “Everything Beautiful”.

As the leading man, Steve Kazee gives his best with the powerful “The Rain Song” and takes us into the dreamland of “Melisande” (somehow, this song always reminded me of MAN OF LA MANCHA), one of my favorite tracks. As for Audra, this is a perfect showcase of all her talents, she can be surprisingly funny with “Raunchy”, completely caring with the sweet “Simple Little Things” and pure magic with the terrific “Is It Really Me?”.

It’s very rare to find so many songs written and sang with heart and soul like the ones of this score. And, although this might not be for everyone’s taste, it deserves to be part of all musical lovers music library.

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CURTAINS - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2007 / Music by John Kander and Lyrics by Fred Ebb, with Additional Lyrics by Rupert Holmes and John Kander

Starring: David Hyde Pierce, Debra Monk, Jason Danieley, Karen Ziemba, Jill Pacey, Edward Hibbert, John Bolton, Michael McCormick, Noah Racey, Ernie Sabella, Megan Sikora

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: As a huge fan of Kander & Ebb, is always with high hopes that I receive a new score by those two geniuses. So you can imagine my excitement when I played the cast recording of CURTAINS for the first time. The immediate reaction was a little disappointment, but then I played it again and again and again… Soon I realised I was dancing and humming some of the songs; I was having an enjoyable time with the new score by John Kander & Fred Ebb and Rupert Holmes (who took over for Fred after his death).

I have to be honest, this is far from the best work of that musical team, so don’t expect a new CHICAGO, CABARET or even STEEL PIER. Keep your hopes a little lower and I’m sure you’re in for a good time. To begin with the cast is first rate; the orchestrations are true musical comedy (is there anything better?) and some of the songs are too good to be missed. It’s true, there isn’t much originality here, but who cares? We have a beautiful ballad, “I Miss the Music”, sung gorgeously by Jason Danieley; Karen Ziemba leads the company in the highly enjoyable “Thataway!”; Debra Monk’s perfect comic timing hits all the right notes of “It’s a Business”; David Hyde Pierce and Jill Paice have a lovely duet “A Tough Act to Follow” that ends as an exciting production number; there’s also the funny “What Kind of Man” and, my favorite, Pierce leads the entire cast in the new theatre anthem “Show People”.

If, like me, you’re a fan of conventional Broadway scores, the kind “they don’t write it like that anymore”, this one is for you and I bet you’ll play it again and again. This might not be musical heaven, but it’s better than most of the new musicals scores and at least you’ll have tunes to carry on. Don’t miss it!

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WHITE CHRISTMAS - Original San Francisco Cast Recording - 2004 / Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin

Starring: Brian d'Arcy James, Anastasia Barzee, Jeffry Denman, Meredith Patterson and Karen Morrow

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: What a delight it is to put a CD playing and feel transported to a magic world of song and dance. That’s what happens to me each time I play this cast recording.

At first I thought this stage adaptation of the classic movie would sound much like the original soundtrack, imagine my surprise when I realized that this improved on the original. To tell the truth, I think Irving Berlin’s score never sounded so good.

One of the great joys of it is the fact that, besides the classic songs, there’s a couple of lesser known (I think I never heard them before) Berlin tunes and both are delightful; I’m talking about “Love and the Weather” and “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun”. As for the classics, the terrific cast and the new orchestrations by Larry Blank give them new life and the likes of, among others, “Snow”, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”, “Blue Skies” and “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” sound better than ever.

For me the highlight is the contagious “I Love a Piano”. A terrific musical number that will put you tapping wherever you are. I can’t have enough of it! Ah, I almost forgot, there’s also “White Christmas” (not my favorite Christmas song, that honour belongs to “Sleigh Ride”) and its rendition is simply great.

Brian d’Arcy James, in the Bing Crosby role, shows why is one of the best leading actors of his generation and Anastasia Barzee, in the Rosemary Clooney role, is a true revelation. The singing & dancing team of Jeffry Denman and Meredith Patterson is a perfect match and the veteran Karen Morrow gives her all in “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy”.

This is a fantastic cast recording and a must in every musical fan library. Don’t miss it!

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A CHORUS LINE - Broadway New Cast Recording - 2006 / Music by Marvin Hamlisch and Lyrics by Edward Kleban

Starring: Charlotte d'Amboise, Michael Berresse, Natalie Cortez, Mara Davi, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Deidre Goodwin, James T. Lane, Alison Porter, Jeffrey Schecter, Chryssie Whitehead, Tony Yazbeck

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I know I’ll be crucified by saying this, but I really think this new cast recording of A CHORUS LINE is better than the original, although (okay, you can kill me now) I still prefer the movie soundtrack.

The new cast may not have such strong voices as the original or the one in the soundtrack, but they are so thrilled by singing the songs that you forget all about it. There’s a sense of excitement in this recording that becomes contagious and it’s easy for you to be emotional involved.

For many of you, the biggest reason to buy this new CD is the fact that this is the most complete recording of the score. The fact that the “montages” are almost all here helps you to feel the show and makes the act of listening to it a theatrical experience.

I’ve to confess that I never forgive this musical for wining the Tony for Best Score in the same year that the superior CHICAGO opened. Nevertheless I always enjoyed the Marvin Hamlisch & Edward Kleban songs and one of them, “One”, is among my favorite show tunes. But there are other great songs here, the moving “Nothing”, the amusing “Dance. Ten; Looks: Three” and the dramatic “At the Ballet”. Here they are all well sung by, respectively, Natalie Cortez, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Deidre Goodwin, Alisan Porter and Mara David.

The biggest surprise is the hilarious “Sing”, perfectly sung by Chryssie Whitehead and Tony Yazbeck. As for Charlotte d’Amboise, her rendition of “The Music and the Mirror” is probably the weakest track of the this new recording.

This may be the CHORUS LINE for the new generation, but I’m sure that like me (the other generation) you’ll be able to find plenty of things to enjoy.

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GREY GARDENS - Off-Broadway Original Cast Recording - 2006 / Music by Scott Frankel and Lyrics by Michael Korie

Starring: Christine Ebersole, Mary Louise Wilson, Sara Gettelfinger , Matt Cavenaugh, Sarah Hyland, John McMartin, Michael Potts, Bob Stillman, Audrey Twitchell

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I haven’t seen this show yet, but it seems that the people who did can be separated in two groups, the ones who love it and the ones who think it’s too boring and pretentious. I confess that after listening the cast recording, I’m not very interesting in seeing it.

The story takes place in two distinct periods of time and the creators of the show try (and sometimes succeed) to recreate those times in their songs. Let’s begin with the first act, we are in 1941 and so it’s natural that the songs remind us of the work of Cole Porter, “Peas in a Pod”, and specially Noel Coward, “Body Beautiful Beale” could have been easily written by him. Unfortunately these two songs are almost destroyed, the first one with a terrible beginning and the second one with several lines of dialogue. But there’s more to appreciate here, the melodious love song “Drift Away”, an entertaining “Hominy Grits”, the old fashion “The Five-Fifteen” and, my favorite track, the jazzy “Better Fall Out of Love”, sung beautifully by Sara Gettelfinger and Matt Cavenaugh.

For the second act we’re transported to 1973 and one of its songs has its heart deep into the 70s, I’m talking of “Choose to Be Happy”. It’s in this act that Christine Ebersole really shines, first with the comic number “The Revolutionary Costume for Today” and later with “Another Winter in a Summer Town”, that brings the music of Stephen Sondheim to mind. Mary Louise Wilson gives her all with “Jerry Likes My Corn” and both end the show with a deep felt duet, “”Peas in a Pod” (in reprise).

This is a sad musical about loneliness and lost opportunities and its music reflects it, specially in the end of act one, “Will You”, and with the haunted waltz “Entering Grey Gardens”. It’s possible that this is one of those scores that grow on you after repeating listening, but I won’t be playing it so many times. I think it’s kind of monotonous and some of the talking voices are very irritating, something that get into my nerves. Nevertheless this is an interesting score, with a few good songs and some terrific singing performances.

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THE DROWSY CHAPERONE - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2006 / Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison

Starring: Bob Martin, Sutton Foster, Danny Burstein, Beth Leavel, Troy Britton Johnson, Eddie Korbich, Georgia Engel, Edward Hibbert, Jennifer Smith, Garth Kravits, Jason Kravits, Lenny Wolpe, Kecia Lewis-Evans

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I believe we all have a “Man in Chair” inside ourselves and, like him, every time we feel blue we play our favorite cast recording. For our pleasure, his favorite show is THE DROWSY CHAPERONE and he is willing to share its delights with us.

It’s been a long time since I felt so excited about a new score, but Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison came up with a truly original 20s musical comedy and the result is a joy to our hears and heart. Many people call it a pastiche score, but for me that doesn’t mean a bad thing, personally I think Broadway needs more scores of this kind.

When I heard the “Overture” for the first time I knew this one was for me. I always had a thing for the 20s musicals and this score bring us back to a happier and simpler time, when a musical was just supposed to be fun and to entertain. On those times no one cared much about messages or pretended they were doing something important, they were just having a good time and, hopefully, so were the audiences.

After playing this CD no one will doubt that the cast is having the time of their lives and everyone sounds just like those 20s stars. From Sutton Foster to the lesser known Jennifer Smith, everyone is giving their best and the result is one of the best new scores in years. Even the CD booklet is a treasure and I don’t doubt everything about this show and cast recording was done with lots of love and respect for those old Broadway classics.

It’s true, this isn’t as good as THE BOY FRIEND (a favorite of mine), but I’m playing it time after time and there’s always something new to discover. The catchiest number is Foster’s terrific “Show Off”, but “Accident Waiting to Happen” is a gorgeous melody, Beth Leavel have a great time with “As We Stumble Along”, Danny Burstein give us the funny “I Am Aldolpho” and the entire cast delivers the contagious “Toledo Surprise”. In fact, every member of the cast as a chance to shine, and shine they do.

There’s also a couple of cut numbers from the show and even these are a joy to hear. I’m glad that it won this year’s Tony for Best Score and I hope there will be more like this one in the near future. So, put all your troubles away and enjoy this delicious traditional Broadway score. A MUST!

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THE PAJAMA GAME - New Broadway Cast Recording - 2006 / Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross

Starring: Harry Connick Jr., Kelli O’Hara, Michael McKean, Peter Benson, Joyce Chittick, Megan Lawrence, Roy Ryan

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Did we need another recording of the Richard Adler & Jerry Ross musical THE PAJAMA GAME? The answer may be no, but after listening this new rendition of the score I’m forced to say yes. In fact it’s a big yes!

Written in 1954, this was always a highly enjoyable score with a couple of classics among its tunes. It was also one of the few stage musicals that didn’t lose much of its score when it was adapted into a movie. When it opened on Broadway it was a huge success and so it’s no surprise that someone would produce a revival of it nowadays.

I haven’t seen the revival, but this cast recording is the best one I heard. The score never sounded better and livelier. It’s funny, contagious and there’s a freshness to the orchestrations that make it sound like something new. I’ve to confess that one of the songs, “Her Is”, has always been part of the score but only now I really notice it, and I loved it. There are also some new songs (cut from the original or written for latter productions) that help to make this recording the definitive one for this score.

Of course the songs just for themselves wouldn’t make this a definitive recording, but with a splendid cast like the one ensembled here there’s no room for mistakes. Harry Connick Jr.’s voice is perfect for the classic ballads and here he surely melts the heart of the hopeless romantics. At his side Kelli O’Hara is a true revelation and together they make magic. The rest of the cast is also perfect, Michael McKean shines with “The Three of Us” (one of the never recorded songs), Megan Lawrence is a riot with “Hernando’s Hideaway” and together with Peter Benson made me took notice of “Her Is”. Joyce Chittick delivers a new exciting “Steam Heat”.

When a new recording of an old show is as good as this one, there’s no doubt we need a new cast album of the score.

There’s only a negative issue regarding it. To be able to buy it, we are forced to buy HARRY ON BROADWAY ACT 1 that also includes a new recording of Harry Connick Jr.’s THOU SHALT NOT. Although he and Kelli O’Hara know how to sing these songs, the truth is that the jazzier orchestrations sound monotonous and kind of boring. I know that the cast recording of that ill-fated musical isn’t a classic, but it’s much better than this new recording.

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JULE STYNE IN HOLLYWOOD - 2006 / Music by Jule Styne

Starring: Brent Barrett, Klea Blackhurst, Philip Chaffin, Victoria Clark, Eric Comstock, Jason Danieley, Sutton Foster, Jeff Harnar, The Lascivious Biddies, Norm Lewis, Rebecca Luker, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Kelli O'Hara, Johnny Rodgers, Leslie Uggams, Sara Zahn

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Jule Styne is mainly known as the Broadway composer of classics like GYPSY, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES and FUNNY GIRL, but he also wrote lots of songs for several movies and was even nominated for several Oscars. Probably his most famous song written in Hollywood is the Oscar winner “Three Coins in the Fountain”.

Well, thanks to Tommy Krasker and the folks at PS Classics Records, we now have a terrific new CD that pays tribute to Jule Styne and his work in Hollywood. Simply entitled JULE STYNE IN HOLLYWOOD this is an indispensable recording for fans of good music, specially musicals.

A splendid cast was ensembled to give life to more than a dozen songs written by Styne in Hollywood during the 40s and 50s. Among those, there’s an “Academy Awards Medley” by Jason Danieley & Marin Mazzie that includes the already mentioned “Three Coins in the Fountain” and there’s a couple of well know songs, “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night in the Week)” and “Time After Time”, that sound great in the voices of Norm Lewis and Brent Barrett respectively.

But the most interesting for musical fans is the rarely heard (I confess that I never heard some of them before) songs and here there’s room for some delicious surprises: Audra McDonald gives it all in the funny “10,432 Sheep”, Sutton Foster delivers an exciting “There’s Nothing Rougher Than Love”, Kelli O’Hara sounds perfect in the melodious “Blame My Absent-Minded Heart”, Philip Chaffin has a swing time with “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” and Klea Blackhurst sounds delightful with “That Ain’t Hay (That’s the USA)”.

There’s more to discover and enjoy in this CD and we shall all be thankful to the guys at PS Classics for releasing it specially for us. Have a great time!

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THE BUCCANEER - Orginal London Cast Recording - 1955 / Music and Lyrics by Sandy Wilson

Starring: Kenneth Williams, Sally Blazely, John Faassen, Pamela Tearle, Betty Warren, Eliot Makeham, Thelma Ruby, Ronald Radd

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: British composer Sandy Wilson wrote one of my all time favorite scores, the delightful THE BOY FRIEND, and I’m always very eager to discover his scores. So when Sepia Records announced that they’ll release Wilson’s THE BUCCANEER I could hardly wait to have it on my hands.

With so much expectation it was easy for me to be a little disappointed and in fact this isn’t in the league of THE BOY FRIEND and its sequel DIVORCE ME, DARLING. Anyway, this musical play about “the invasion from America of the so-called “Horror Comcs” which was threatening to corrupt the British innocent children”, has its moments.

Wilson’s music is always melodious and his lyrics funny and unpretentious; this score is no exception. There are old fashion love songs like “Unromantic Us” and “You’ll Find Out”, comic tunes like “Why Did It Have to Be Spring”, “Good Clean Fun” and the witty “Something’s Missing”. Of course there’s a BOY FRIEND kind of song, “Captain Fairbrother”, and one that could easily fit in his later score for VALMOUTH, “Behind the Times”. As for the cast everyone do their best and sound like they were having fun.

If, like me, you like old fashion songs and you don’t mind the fact that all this sounds to British, I’m sure you’ll have a good time with this score.

One last word, this CD as several bonus tracks where you can find songs from ROMANCE IN CANDLELIGHT and THE LISBON STORY.

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THE TWO SVENGALIS - Original Cast Recording - 2006 / Music and Lyrics by Fred Barton

Starring: Toni DiBuono, Fred Barton

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: When this CD was released earlier this year it didn’t catch my attention. I didn’t know who Fred Barton was and I never heard anything about this show. Imagine my surprise when, by chance, I found it at iTunes.

Although this isn’t a great score, I really enjoy this musical comedy tribute to the 40s movies and the great divas of the genre. Fred Barton wrote the humorous lyrics and the period music and the result is worthy of discovering. Of course there are two major downfalls: there’s a little bit to much synthesisers sounds for my taste and Barton doesn’t have a good singing voice (although it’s much better than mine).

On the plus side Toni DiBuono is a terrific leading lady and her voice is perfect for the role and Barton gave her the best material. From a Judy Garland kind of torch song, “Break My Heart”, to the amusing “I’d Love to Love Someone”. There’s also a forties jazzy song, “I Guess I’ll Have to Go Back to My Man”, a funny bitchy one, “I’m the Queen and You’re Not” and the a terrific show tune that could stop the show, “Party Girl”.

Barton has his best singing moment in the duet “Welcome to the Theatre” and almost delivers the quiet melody “There’s a String Tied to a Good Time”. But I’m sure he had a great time writing the music and lyrics; regarding the last ones, lines like “super diva is cruising the hall” are always able to put a smile on your face.

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WARM SPRING NIGHT - 2005

Starring: Philip Chaffin, special guest star: Rebecca Luker

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Usually I don’t review this kind of recordings, but don’t ask me why. So, to break that habit, here is my first review of a solo album.

A few years ago I was delightfully surprised by Philip Chaffin’s terrific WHERE DO I GO FROM YOU? and I eagerly waited for his next album. Finally it’s here and it’s a must for all musical fans. 
 
Chaffin’s perfect sweet tender voice is matched by lush orchestrations and the result is a true haunting recording. The songs were carefully chosen and the most recent ones blend perfectly with the old ones, showing that there’s still life in the American Songbook. What the new songs need is great orchestrations and here they have that. Just listen to what they did to KING DAVID’s “Warm Spring Night” and “When in Love” and you realize that those two songs don’t sound like they were written just a few years ago (the pop flavor is gone). The same can be said of MY LIFE WITH ALBERTINE’s “If It Is True”. I’ve to confess that I heard that songs before but they never caught my fancy; when I listened to them in this CD I could hardly believe they were the same songs.

Besides the standards “My Romance” and “Out of My Dreams” (I wouldn’t have use these two classics, but since Chaffin sings them so well I forgive him for including them), the rest of the recording is made almost of rarities. Among these there’s the delicious “There’s a Room in My House” and a Stephen Sondheim song that I don’t recall hearing before, “Silly People”. Other song I think I never heard before is “That’s All”, a simple melodious song beautifully sung by Chaffin.

Rebecca Luker joins him for a definitive rendition of “Sailing at Midnight” and there’s also a lovely sung “Haunted Heart”, a very rare Gershwin song “Evening Star” and a medley of two songs from Cy Coleman’s WILDCAT. Of course I also have to mention the two terrific songs by Jerome Kern, “Don’t Ever Leave Me” and “Heaven in My Arms”. I think Chaffin’s voice and Kern’s music is a perfect match made in heaven; let’s hope that someday Chaffin will record a Jerome Kern album.

What more can I say? I love this album and of all the CDs I bought this year so far this is the one I play more often. Don’t miss it, it’s simply terrific!

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BLITZ! - Original London Cast Recording - 1962 / Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart

Starring: Amelia Bayntun, Bob Grant, Grazina Frame, Graham James, Thomas Kempinski, Toni Palmer, Edward Caddick

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Probably most of the people don’t recall this lively score, but if you never heard it I promised you’re in for a treat. This is probably one of the best scores ever written for an English musical and, although I believe the show wouldn’t probably work outside England, the cast recording is a must for every musical fan.

This was Lionel Bart’s follow-up to his famous hit OLIVER! and I confess that I think he came up with a much better score for this musical, with the action taking place in London during World War II. The show ran on the West End for more than two years, the cast album reached the Album Chart of that time where it remained for 21 weeks (something almost impossible to happen with the recent cast recordings) and one the songs, “Far Away”, was a hit in the voice of Shirley Bassey.

When you put this recording on your CD player the first thing you heard are the sirens warning of an air raid over London, followed by the rousing music-hall song “Our Hotel” and the mood is set for an highly enjoyable time. From there to the end there are plenty of songs to keep you entertained like “I Want to Whisper Something”; the beautiful ballad “Far Away”, tenderly sung by Grazina Frame; strong characters songs like “Tell Him – Tell Her” and “Be What You Wanna Be”; a big Broadway kind of number sung by Graham James, “Who Wants to Settle Down?” and a lively wedding song, “Is This Gonna Be a Wedding?”.

Of course the best is “Who’s This Geezer Hitler?”, sung with gusto by the excellent Amelia Bayntun and Company. With a line like “He’s a nasty little basket with a black moustache / And we don’t want him here”, this is another funny Hitler song, almost as good as “Springtime for Hitler”.

Besides Bayntun, who easily steals this recording, there’s also the good Toni Palmer who leads the Company in “Leave It to the Ladies” and the contagious “Down the Lane”, that always made me want to join them. Thomas Kempinski has a great time with the comic war song “Duty Calls” and the sweet voice of Vera Lynn delivers the most touching moment of the score with the nostalgic “The Day After Tomorrow”.

It’s true, the entire cast sounds very British and that may put some of you off, but it wouldn’t work any other way and the end result is a score that should make part of every musical lover CD library.

As for the show, let’s hope that this reissue of the cast recording will catch the ear of some theatre producers and that one day, in the near future, there will be a big London revival of this show. Until then enjoy the score and let it transport you to another era, you won’t regret it!

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HAIR- Actors' Fund of America Benefit Recording - 2004 / Music by Galt MacDermot and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado

Starring: Lillias White, Lea Delaria, Euan Morton, Laura Benanti, Gavin Creel, Raúl Esparza, Adam Pascal, Liz Callaway, Norm Lewis, Harvey Fierstein, Harris Doran, Chuck Cooper, Julia Murney, John Tartaglia, Ann Harada, Billy Porter, Sherie Rene Scott, Christopher Sieber, Darius de Haas

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Can I call this musical a classic? When it opened, back in 1968, it couldn’t be more different from the musicals of the time and couldn’t be farther from the genre classics. Today it garnered the reputation of a cult classic.

There have been many recordings of the score and my favorite was always the movie soundtrack. Taking in consideration my musical tastes I shouldn’t like this score, but I really enjoyed some of the songs (“Good Morning Starshine”, “Easy to Be Hard”, “Where Do I Go?” and “Manchester, England” are my favorites) and the score was always pleasant to listen.

I was kind of disappointed with this new recording, because I thought it was a live recording and I think it should have been one. I’m sure it would have been much more exciting. Anyway, with a cast like this, how could they go wrong? And let’s not forget the terrific members of the Tribe.

Things begin well with Lillias White giving us an exciting “Aquarius” and ends even better with Norm Lewis powerful rendition of “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)”. In the between Adam Pascal (“I Got Life”), Raúl Esparza (“Hair”), Eden Espinosa (“Hippie Life”) and Billy Porter (“Four Score/Abie, Baby”) show they have the perfect voices for this kind of songs. Annie Golden delivers a sweet “Frank Mills” and Laura Benanti sounds great with “Initials”. Toxic Audio’s rendition of “Electric Blues” is a strange version of that song and it’s surprising to hear “Where Do I Go?” beautifully sung by a woman, Julia Murney. Liz Callaway sings a perfect “Good Morning Starshine” and the ladies, Kathy Brier, Orfeh and Ann Harada have a great time with “Black Boys”. The lesser know titles “Dead End” and “Sheila Franklin/I Believe in Love” are well sung by Ana Gasteyer and Shoshana Bean respectively.

These are some of the highlights of what was a great time out with The Actors’ Fund of America. It’s just a pity that this one night only event wasn’t recorded for a future DVD release, but at least we have this CD (with a great cover). I haven’t made my mind yet if I prefer this rendition of the score to the movie one, but I’m sure this is one of the best recordings of it.

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CAPTAIN LOUIE - Original Cast Recording - 2005 / Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Starring: Brandon M. Arrington, Alexio Barboza, Jodie Bentley, Jimmy Dieffenbach, Kelsey Fatebene, Sara Kapner, Ronny Mercedes, Sarah Stiles, Mark Whitten

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The question here is how much you like Stephen Schwartz. If, like me, you aren’t a big fan of his work, just forget about this new cast recording. On the other hand, if you enjoy his work this is definitely for you.

It’s true, WICKED put the name of Schwartz in everyone’s mouth and so it isn’t surprising that this small children’s musical was recorded and released. Personally, and although I like WICKED’s score, this new score failed to conquer me.

This is too pop for my taste and, although it uses different kinds of orchestrations, the songs sound too similar and there isn’t one that outshines the others. One of the songs, a kind of tango entitled “Shadows”, could fit easily on the WICKED score and “Big Red Plane” begins well but than changes into a kind of off-Broadway pop song. But even those are forgettable and they all sounds like variations of the same melody.

This is a children’s musical, but there isn’t any magic in the music and the innocence of childhood can’t be found in any of the songs. Of course this is just my humble opinion and if you are a Schwartz fan I’m sure you’ll love this score. By the way, on the plus side this has a great CD booklet.

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VIRTUE IN DANGER - Original London Cast Recording - 1963 / Music by James Bernard and Lyrics by Paul Dehn

Starring: Patricia Routledge, Jane Wenham, John Moffatt, Barrie Ingham, Patsy Byrne and Gwen Nelson. Score by Paul Dehn & James Bernard.

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The “Must Close Saturday Records” label main interest is to release British Musicals on CD; some of the titles are known, others are almost forgotten scores that deserved to be, at least, discovered.

VIRTUE IN DANGER, a 1963 London musical whose action takes place on the seventeenth century, belongs to the last ones. Although this isn’t by far a great score, it has its moments and the presence of the great Patricia Routledge is reason enough to buy it. She was great in LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE and here she easily reminded me of that score, specially with the best song of this musical, the funny duet “Wait a Little Longer, Lover”. She also shines in “I’m in Love With My Husband” and “Berinthia’s Recit”.

This is one of those shows that sounds very, very British and to tell the truth I doubt I’ll play it very often. Anyway it has a few interesting songs; besides the already mentioned ones, there’s a nice romantic melody “Say the Word” and a good musical number “Why Do I Feel What I Feel?”. The orchestrations make a good use of old musical instruments and there’s an operetta style through the all score.

This wasn’t a big hit when it opened in London and probably will never be revived. If you are into old fashion British musicals this is for you. As for the rest of us, well, it’s just a curiosity.

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ALL SHOOK UP - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2005

Starring: Cheyenne Jackson, Jenn Gambatese, Alix Korey, Leah Hocking, Curtis Holbrook, Nikki M. James, Mark Price, Sharon Wilkins, Jonathan Hadary and John Jellison

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I think this musical could have been called “The Elvis Presley Songbook”, because that’s what this really is. So if you’re an Elvis’ fan this may be for you and I say may because some of the songs (“Heartbreak Hotel” for example) are very different from the way he sang them.

I was never very fond of Elvis or his songs, but I was kind of curious with this new musical. Since this wasn’t the typical songbook revue could they make the songs work in the context of a story? By listening to the recording it seems so, but I’m sure the score works much better on stage than on CD.

Cheyenne Jackson’s voice has a 50s pop/rock flavor that makes him the right choice for the role; just listen to the songs “Roustabout”, “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock” and you’ll see what I mean. But for me his best number is “Don’t Be Cruel”, a funny and lively duet between him and Jonathan Hadary. The leading lady is Jenn Gambatese, who shows a good voice in songs like “Love Me Tender”, “One Night with You” and “Fools Fall in Love”.

The supporting cast also has their moments: Alix Korey makes the most of her “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise”, Mark Price gives a true 50s rendition of “It Hurts me” and Sharon Wilkins as a great time with the torch song “There’s Always Me”.

Some of the orchestrations seem a bit too modern for the songs and there’s too much guitar acoustics for my taste. But on the whole this kind of works and there’s a couple of contagious numbers, “C’mon Everybody” and “Blue Suede Shoes”, to keep us entertained. Anyway, I must confess that I know for sure I won’t be playing it often and that my CD library could have survived without it.

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BASHVILLE - Original London Cast Recording - 1983 / Music by Dennis King and Lyrics by Benny Green

Starring: Christina Collier, Douglas Hodge, Peter Woodward, James Cairncross, Joan Davies, Vincenzo Nicoli, Donald Pelmear, Ewart James Walter.

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The reason why a large number of British musicals aren’t produced out of the United Kingdom it’s because they are too English and so, with few exceptions, the scores don’t translate very well. This 1983 musical is a good example of that.

What we have here is a score with old fashion melodic songs and a good cast singing them. Among the actors, Joan Davies has a good time with the operatic “He Is My Son”, Douglas Hodge delivers a beautiful love song “Because I Love Her” and Peter Woodward sings the best song of the score, the simple “A Gentleman’s True to His Code”. None of these songs are classics, but they are melodious and nice to listen.
There’s also a couple of true British Music-Hall numbers, “8-9-10” and “One Pair of Hands”, a catchy title number, a song (“Take the Road to the Ring”) that reminded me of the superior HALF A SIXPENCE score and the nice musical number “Hymn to Law and Order”.

Other numbers are less interesting (specially “Blackman’s Burden”), but in the whole this plays nicely enough for a few listenings. Probably in a few months time I’ll put it in the shell and I’ll forget about it for a long time, but that doesn’t mean this is bad score, just an interesting and kind of forgetful one.

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DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2005 / Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek

Starring: John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz, Joanna Gleason, Sherie Reen Scott, Greg Jbara and Sara Gettelfinger

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: To begin with I have to confess that I didn’t like David Yazbek’s score for THE FULL MONTY. With the exception of one or two songs I really didn’t care much for it, so it was with some apprehension that I bought DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS.

The first thing that stroked me was the fact that this new score doesn’t have much in common with THE FULL MONTY and second that it was quiet enjoyable. I would have never guessed that it’s the work of the same composer, this meaning that Yazbek is a very versatile one.

Listening to this score we soon realize that it doesn’t have a definitive style, with different kinds of music mixed in a pleasant way. Although I think the main style is a kind of 60s jazz sound and a French flavour that brings the work of Michel Legrand to mind, specially in the songs “Chimp in a Suit” and “Here I Am” ( that could have been written to “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort”), there are other influences as well. For example the “Overture”, that promises something funny and mysterious, reminds me of Henry Mancini’s theme for “The Pink Panther”. We have a funny and delicious Noel Coward number, “All About Ruprecht”, sung in perfect style by John Lithgow and there’s two numbers that could have been written by the late Cy Coleman. I’m talking about “What Was a Woman to Do”, that sounds like something from the score of CITY OF ANGELS, and the country-western “Oklahoma?” could easily fit in the score of THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES.

There are a few more pop oriented numbers like “Great Big Stuff”, the title number and “Love is My Legs”. These songs are more in tune with his previous work and I think that the last one is Yazbek’s more personal song written for this score. Of course we also have a funny comic number for Lithgow, “Rüffhousin’ mit Shüffhausen” and two beautiful romantic ballads, “Love Sneaks In” and “Nothing is Too Wonderful to be true”, which is my favorite song of the score.

Every member of the cast delivers strong performances and seems like they are enjoying their work. Lithgow is truly funny and Nobert Leo Butz has the chance to show how good he can be and he takes full advantage of it. In the female department Sherie Rene Scott is the queen, but Joanna Gleason and Sara Gettelfinger also have their chance to shine.

I can’t say this is a fantastic score but it’s a fresh and enjoyable one, quite amusing and kind of nostalgic (it really reminds me of the movie soundtracks of the 60s) and that’s not bad, not bad at all.

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LITTLE WOMEN - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2005 / Music by Jason Howland - Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein

Starring: Sutton Foster, Maureen McGovern, Megan McGinnis, Jenny Powers, Amy McAlexander, Danny Gurwin, Janet Carroll, Robert Stattel, Jim Weitzer and John Hickok

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: There are scores that we may know aren’t that good or original but something in them touches us and we can’t resist them. That’s what happened with me when I heard this new cast recording.

This isn’t a flashy or a serious Broadway score, but a simple and melodious one. I call it a highly emotional one and, believe me, if you let yourself go I’m sure that you’ll share a tear or two with Jo and her sisters. I don’t recall hearing the names of composer Jason Howland and lyricist Mindi Dickstein before, so for me they are a revelation.

The rich “Overture” promises an old fashion score and that’s exactly what we get. No one here is trying to discover new ways of writing musicals or to write the next big Broadway score. What they wrote are real character and plot driven songs and the result is quite delightful. It’s true, none of the songs may have a live outside the show, but they work inside it (at least in the cast recording, I didn’t see the show) and that’s what counts.

Among the good cast, two ladies shine more than the rest. One is Maureen McGovern who strongly delivers two beautiful and sad ballads, “Here Alone” and “Days of Plenty”. The other is Sutton Foster (a word of warning, if you don’t like her you’ll hate this cast recording) and she has a full day here. She sings in more than half the tracks and gives her best in all; they could be powerful solos like “Astonishing” and “The Fire Within Me” (there’s one or two shadows of Stephen Sondheim’s PASSION here), ensemble numbers like “Our Finest Dreams” (a truly Sutton Foster festival) or comic numbers like “Could You?”. She sings them all with gusto and she really has a strong and beautiful voice. The truth is I think every one in the cast sung like they are the real characters and just listen to “The Weekly Volcano Press” number, a kind of mini-play inside the show, to see what I mean.

Many people may not be familiar with the interesting score written by George Stiles and Paul Leigh for THE THREE MUSKETEERS, but that’s the show that came to my mind when I first heard this LITTLE WOMEN; unlike that one, the pop flavour here is almost inexistent. I know I’ll be crucified because of what I’m about to say, but something in this score reminded me of MY FAIR LADY. Anyway, what matters is that this is one of those scores that grow on you with repeated listenings and I think it deserves to be discovered and enjoyed by every musical fan.

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SPAMALOT - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2005 / Music by John Du Prez & Eric Idle - Lyrics by Eric Idle

Starring: David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, Hank Azaria, Michael McGrath, Christopher Sieber, Sara Ramirez, Christian Borle, Steve Rosen, Brad Bradley and Thomas Cannizzaro

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The big question here is if you like or not the Monty Python’s style of humour. If you do, you’re in for a joy ride; but even if you don’t, I believe you will have a good time anyway. Like Mel Brook’s THE PRODUCERS before, this score pays tribute to the Broadway Musical in a crazy and political incorrect way, although the music isn’t as good as the one written by Brooks.

More than the music, quite enjoyable in its own way, what matters here are the lyrics, that are pure Monty Python and it’s impossible not to laugh while you’re listening this mad score. It’s true, the music itself isn’t as good as the highly musical “Overture” (in the grand style of old Broadway) promises and the best song is the already known Monty Python’s anthem “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. But even so there’s plenty to keep us satisfied.

There’s a twisted funny ode to Broadway entitled “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” and a gay number with a contagious disco sound bit that would make the Villlage People proud, “His Name is Lancelot”. A crazy cheerleader group takes us to the pop opera (Webber or Boublil & Schonberg anyone?) ballad with a twist “The Song That Goes Like This” sung with gusto by The Lady of the Lake and Sir Galahad. The Lady of the Lake returns to delight us with the big production number “Knights of the Round Table”, where she sings in the style of Judy Garland and other divas (Michael Jackson included); later she will do her Jennifer Holiday impersonation with “Diva’s Lament (Whatever Happened to My Part?)” and before that she delivers the Eurovision Song Contest worthy “Find Your Grail”. There are a few more typical Monty Python’s numbers, “He Is Not Dead Yet” or “Runway” for example and a sad and melodious ballad for our Knights, “I’m All Alone”.

The orchestrations are great and the cast couldn’t have been better chosen. It’s like they all have been possessed/inhabited by the Monty Python’s spirit and corrosive sense of humour. Of all members of the cast I have to mention Sara Ramirez, at least on the cast recording she really stands out and is a true revelation, giving us some of the best tracks of the CD.

This is a very amusing score, that won’t fail in putting a smile on our faces and, although this isn’t a brilliant score, just look at the bright side of life and allow yourself to have a good time.

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MARY POPPINS - Original London Cast Recording - 2005 / Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman - New songs and additional Music and Lyrics by George Stiles & Anthony Drewe

Starring: Laura Michelle Kelly, Gavin Lee, David Haig, Linzi Hateley, Charlotte Spencer, Harry Stott, Rosemary Ashe, Jenny Galloway and Julia Sutton

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The movie adaptation of MARY POPPINS was a huge hit for Disney and it comes as no surprise that it finally becomes a stage musical. The original score was by The Sherman Brothers, the team responsible for several Disney movies and other children adaptations (CHARLOTTE’S WEB, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and, my favorite, THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE), and it won Oscars for Best Original Music Score and Best Song – “Chim Chim Cher-ee”.

The stage adaptation is based not only on the Disney movie but also on the original stories by P. L. Travers and the creative force behind this show decided they needed new songs, so the team of George Stiles & Anthony Drewe was brought in. They not only wrote new songs but also additional lyrics and music to the original ones; combine that with new orchestrations by William David Brohn and the result is a new score that’s very different from the MARY POPPINS we know. And that’s not bad news.

It’s true, this new recording may be too British, but the fact is that the action takes place in London so it makes perfect sense it sound like that. As for the new songs, they blend perfectly with the old ones and there’s a dark side here that hardly exist in the Disney version and which is pretty evident in two of the new songs - “Temper, Temper” and “Brimstone and Treacle”.

Some of the classic songs like “Feed the Birds”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” use the original lyrics but have a different sound. Others like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “Step in Time” and, my favorite tune from the movie, “Jolly Holiday” are almost new songs and they’re much more musical than the original versions. As for the entire new songs, “Practically Perfect” is a perfect character song for Mary Poppins and finally Mrs. Banks have something to shine – “Being Mrs. Banks”. There are also the previously mentioned darker songs and there’s the terrific “Anything Can Happen”. This new song is a truly life affirmation hymn and fits like magic in the score; it’s also one of those songs that can easily survive outside the show.

As Mary Poppins, Laura Michelle Kelly may not be Julie Andrews, but she has a beautiful strong voice and sounds very convincing in the role. Gavin Lee is a perfect Londoner Bert, Linzi Hateley as Mrs. Banks makes us wish she had more to sing and Charlotte Spencer & Harry Stott are good as the kids. There’s also Julie Sutton who delivers a touching “Feed the Birds” and Rosemary Ashe who has a full day with “Brimstone and Treacle”.

Although I always liked the movie and I’m a huge fan of Julie Andrews, I was never a big fan of the score. The first time I listened to this new cast recording I was kind of disappointed, but after playing it a few more times I come to enjoy it and I prefer it to the movie soundtrack. It has a theatrically that I really like and is always a pleasure to discover a new great song like “Anything Can Happen”.

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THE FROGS - Original Broadway Cast Recording - 2004 / Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Starring: Nathan Lane, Roger Bart, John Byner, Peter Bartlett, Daniel Davis, Burke Moses and Michael Siberry

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: A few years ago there was a concert presentation of this show and a studio cast recording was released in CD, Nathan Lane sung in both. So it wasn’t surprising that Lane would return to this show, this time not only as an actor but also as a writer (according to the CD cover “even more freely adapted by Lane” from a comedy by Aristophanes) and he was even able to convince Stephen Sondheim to write a few new songs for it. That new version opened on Broadway in 2004 and now we finally have an original Broadway cast recording of that show.

I’m a big fan of Sondheim, but I have to confess that I never cared much for the score of THE FROGS. Anyway I think this new version it’s much more interesting than the previous studio cast, although it’s far from my favorite Sondheim works.

If someone asked me which adjective that comes to my mind when I think about THE FROGS I would be forced to answer the following one: irritating. The truth is I can’t stand some of the chorus and “frogs” of this show, for example they almost ruined the delightful “I Love to Travel” and I always jump to the next track every time I hear “The Frogs”.

The show starts with a good comic song, “Invocation and Instructions to the Audience”, and there’s real chemistry between Lane and Roger Bart. The new song “Dress Big” sounds like something written to “A Funny Thing…” and “All Aboard” is a dark song à la SWEENEY TODD. With “Ariadne” Sondheim shows once again that he can write romantic songs, although this isn’t a great song.

For me “Hymn to Dionysos” is probably the best of the original production songs, but I had a full day with “Hades”. This number must have been written specially for Susan Stroman and it’s a dance number with funny lyrics, “Here where everyone is gay – No, not that way – No, I mean gay – Oh, never mind” (doesn’t it sound like something Lane could have sing in THE PRODUCERS?) and Peter Bartlett has a great time singing it. What follows, “It’s Only a Play”, is a typical Sondheim song and than it’s time for a MY FAIR LADY inspiration number, “Shaw”, that also reminded me of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. This is a light song and if we close our eyes we can almost see the entire company dancing and, why not, let’s dance with “Shaw”. Unfortunately everything that follows kind of kills the enjoyment of this number.

With the exception of Daniel Davis (who sounds boring) the entire cast lives up to the Sondheim score and there’s plenty here to keep us interested, but it’s not the kind of score I play very often; in fact, I expected more from Mr. Sondheim. Of course there’s always the fact that this might be too intellectual or serious for my simple tastes.

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THE NEW MOON - City Center Encores Cast - 2004 / Music by Sigmund Romberg & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel and Laurence Schwab

Starring: Christiane Noll, Peter Benson, Rodney Gilfry, Simon Jones, Burke Moses, Lauren Ward, Brandon Jovanovich and Alix Korey

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: For some reason I don’t remember, when I was a child I loved opera. As I grew up I start thinking that it was kind of boring and I stop listening to it. Anyway I never stopped enjoying operetta, so it was with opened arms that I received the City Center Encores! cast recording of the classic THE NEW MOON.

With music by Sigmund Romberg and written by Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Mandel and Laurence Schwab, this operetta opened on Broadway in 1928, on a time that art form was already near death, and it was a success, becoming one of the most famous titles of the genre.

There are other recordings of this score, but this new one is not only the more complete of all but also the best of them. Once again City Center Encores! come up with a perfect cast that delivers the songs with emotion and an orchestra that plays the music with gusto.

Even if you don’t like operettas, you might be surprised to find something here that will keep you interested and to realize that this show as more to do with musical theatre than with opera. Among the famous tunes you’ll find the melodious romantic “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”, “One Kiss” and “Lover, Come Back to Me” and the epic “Stouthearted Men”. There’s also lighter numbers like “Gorgeous Alexander”, “The Trial (Ladies of the Jury)”, “Marriage Number / Try Her Out at Dances” and “Funny Little Sailor Men”.

As for the cast the likes of Rodney Gilfry, Christiane Noll, Brandon Jovanovich, Lauren Ward, Peter Benson and Alix Korey (who sounds like Judy Kaye) are completely in tune with the rich orchestrations and the result is an enjoyable cast recording.

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FINIAN'S RAINBOW - The Irish Repertory Theatre Cast - 2004 / Music by Burton Lanr & Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg

Starring: Melissa Errico, Malcolm Gets, Jonathan Freeman, Max Von Essen, David Staller, Jonathan Hadley, Terri White, Eric Jackson and Kerry O'Malley

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I’m one of those guys who thinks that a cast recording is only worthy as long as it has an orchestra playing the score, so I was very suspicious about this new FINIAN’S RAINBOW recording; since I always loved the score I decided to give it a chance. I was in for a pleasant surprise!

Played only by two pianos but with new wonderful orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Mark Hartman, I soon forgot that there wasn’t an orchestra playing and I found myself enjoying it immensely. The music by Burton Lane sounds as better as ever and the lyrics by E. Y. Harburg are clear as water.

The terrific cast couldn’t be better, Melissa Errico is a perfect Sharon and Max Von Essen delivers a strong beautiful voice as Woody. Jonathan Freeman as Finian shows why is one of the best musical character actors of today, as for Malcolm Gets his Og, the Leprechaun, is good but it should be funnier. Terri White delivers a wonderful “Necessity” and the rest of the company is in great shape, making this recording a lively rendition of the score.

As for the score, what can I tell that you don’t already know? Among its songs there are several classics like “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”, “Old Devil Moon” and “Look at the Rainbow”, my favourite “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love” and great ensemble numbers like “That Great Come-an-Get-It Day” and “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich”.

This new cast album from The Irish Repertory Theatre production is a must in every musical fan CD library and we should all be thankful to Ghostlight Records for releasing it.

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LOOK MA, I'M DANCIN'! - Original Cast Recording - 1948 / Music & Lyrics by Hugh Martin

Starring: Nancy Walker, Harold Lang, Sandra Deel, Bill Shirley, Loren Welch and Hugh Martin

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: 2004 was a good year to Hugh Martin, this cast album being his third work to be release on CD, following LOVE FROM JUDY and MAKE A WISH. As a result we now have all his stage scores on CD.

This LOOK MA, I’M DANCIN’! begins with the exciting “Gotta Dance” and its followed by the funny “I’m the First Girl in the Second Row”, the first sung by Harold Lang and the second sung with perfect comic timing by Nancy Walker, who also have a good time with “I’m Tired of Texas”. There are also a couple of melodious songs, “I’m Not So Bright” and “Tiny Room” (both in the vein of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, special the last one). The typical 40s musical sound can be heard in “The Little Boy Blues”, “If You’ll Be Mine” and “Shauny O’Shay”. Two previously unreleased tracks, “Let’s Do a Ballet” and “Horrible, Horrible Love”, are added to extra impact and they look like two solid musical numbers.

Besides Land and Walker, the cast includes Hugh Martin himself, who shows a pretty voice in “The Little Boy Blues” and Sandra Deel who sings “Shauny O’Shay” beautifully. One last word to Bill Shirley, who reveals a sweet tender voice in “Tiny Room”.

This isn’t one of the best scores written for the musical theatre and it’s not Hugh Martins’ best work, but in its own right it’s a pleasant recording and there’s plenty to enjoy here.

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MAKE A WISH - Original Broadway Cast - 1951 / Music & Lyrics by Hugh Martin

Starring: Nanette Fabray, Helen Gallagher, Stephen Douglass, Harold Lang and Melville Cooper

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: When this show opened on Broadway in 1951 it didn’t find its audience and closed after 102 performances, leaving behind an interesting score that only now, and thanks to Sepia Records, comes available on CD.

It’s true this isn’t the best score of the 50s, far from it, but Hugh Martin’s work is highly pleasant and it deserves to be discovered. It also remind us that on that time even lesser shows come up with better scores than most of the Broadway musicals of today. Just listen at Nanette Fabray (at the top of her form) having a great time with “I Wanna Be Good ‘N’ Bad” and you’ll see what I mean; today no one writes songs like this one.

Besides Fabray, the cast includes Stephen Douglass, Helen Gallagher and Harold Lang, and all of them sound like they were having a real good time recording this score and with songs like “Who Gives a Sou?”, “Over and Over”, “That Face” and the delightful title number, so will you.

I know that Hugh Martin also wrote MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, but I think some of his best work is here and I strongly recommend this cast recording. There are also bonus tracks by Stephen Douglass singing songs like “Long Ago and Far Away”, “She Didn’t Say Yes” and “They Didn’t Believe Me” among others.

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LA STRADA - Cast Demonstration Recording - 1967 / Music & Lyrics by Lionel bart

Starring: Madeline Bell and the Michael Sammes Singers

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: For what I think is the first time ever, we have a cast demonstration recording release of a score that was severely cut before it opened on Broadway. The truth is that when LA STRADA arrived on Broadway, of the original Lionel Bart score only a couple of songs remained on the show. So here we have the score that Bart wrote for the show.

I was never a big Lionel Bart’s fan and it isn’t with this recording that I’ll become one. I can see the purpose of this new release on a historic level, but that’s all. To be honest it doesn’t seem strange to me that this score never made it to Broadway, because in my opinion this is hardly interesting.

Of course this isn’t a true cast recording, but Madeline Bell and the Michael Sammes Singers make it sound like one and the fact that a true orchestra plays the score give us an idea of how it might have sound on a stage. The problem are the songs, most of them are irritating (“The Seashell Game” and the terrible “Tan-tan-ta-ra! Farewell!”) others are depressing (“Belonging”) and there’s only a couple that I like (“Hullo and Goodbye” and the melodious “My Turn to Fall”).

Like I said before this works on a historic level and for that purpose only it might be interesting, but its one of those CDs that will rest on my shelf for many years without being playing. Anyway we should praise the work of the guys at Bayview Records and let’s hope that in the future they will come up with more rewarding recordings.

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DIVORCE ME, DARLING! - Original London Cast - 1965 / Music & Lyrics by Sandy Wilson

Starring: Joan Heal, Patricia Michael, Anna Sharkey, Maria Charles, Cy Young, Irlin Hall, Joan Sterndale Bennett, Fred Stone, Geoffrey Hibberd

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Do you remember THE BOY FRIEND, that delicious little spoof of the Twenties musical comedies? It’s among my all time favourite scores. Well, in 1964 (tens years after the original) its author Sandy Wilson decided to write a sequel to that show and the result was another enjoyable simple score.

The first time I heard this score was when TER / JAY released the cast recording of 1997 Chichester Festival Theatre production, starring Ruthie Henshall, Liliane Montevecchi, Tim Flavin and Marti Webb among others. I instantly liked it and although it isn’t as good as THE BOY FRIEND it still is highly enjoyable.

This time we have the Original London Cast recording and I can only say that once again I had a great time listening to this score. This cast may not have such strong voices, but they sound perfectly in tune with the mood of the show and it’s a pleasure to hear these songs. The orchestrations are terrific and this is a contagious tuneful score.

The perfectly dated “Overture” is an exciting prelude of things to come and they sure came. Among them we can accept an invitation for the “Paradise Hotel” or for being “On the Loose” and dancing free. I wouldn’t mind having “Someone to Dance With” and even without him/her it’s impossible to remain still with “Out of Step” or with the contagious “Swing-Time is Here to Stay”. For the romantic in us we have those 20s typical “Together Again” and “Back Where We Started”. There’s also a comic duet, “You’re Absolutely Me”, that could have been written by Cole Porter and a cabaret number, “Blondes are for Danger”, that would make Marlene Dietrich proud.

If you like your musicals light, funny and tuneful this one is for you. Join the cast in this journey back to a time where life was simple and musicals were happier and innocent. As for me, I love the 20s and I can’t resist a Charleston, so “Lights! Music!” and go with the show. .

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BELLE - Original London Cast - 1961 / Music & Lyrics by Monty Norman

Starring: George Benson, Virginia Vernon, Rose Hill, Nicolette Roeg, Davy Kaye, Jerry Desmonde, Susan Irvin

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The British record label “Must Close Saturday Records” keeps doing the good job of releasing forgotten scores of English musicals and although not all may be worthy they are all kind of interesting. That’s the case with this BELLE, also known as THE BALLAD OF DR. CRIPPEN.

Like SWEENEY TODD, this one tells a love story and a murder one. But if SWEENEY is almost an opera, this BELLE is a true British Music-Hall example. The problem here is if you love or not these very British kind of scores; if like me you’re not a big fan you probably won’t have a great time with it. But even so this is an interesting one, with a cast whose voices are a perfect match for the songs.

My favourite song is “I Can’t Stop Singing”, very old-fashion and hummable. There’s also a charming little love song “You Are Mine” and then we have the very typically music-hall tunes “Mister Lasherwood and Mighty Mick” or “Ain’t It a Shame”. For pure fun there’s “Meet Me at the Strand” and “The Bravest of Men” and a couple more. But the problem is the rest, mainly the irritating “The Ballad of Dr. Crippen”, which has several versions.

If you’re in a discovery mood this may prove quiet interesting.

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WONDERFUL TOWN - Broadway Revival Cast - 2003 / Music by Leonard Bernstein - Lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green

Starring: Donna Murphy, Jennifer Westfeldt, Gregg Edelman, David Margulies, Michael McGrath, Raymond Jaramilo McLeod, Peter Benson, Nancy Anderson

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Of all Leonard Bernstein scores this has always been my favourite and it never sounded as good as it sounds in this new cast recording. Thanks to Rob Fisher’s musical direction and vocal arrangements it sounds more exciting than ever and the result is a fresh rewarding recording.

Like in the show, the best thing is Donna Murphy (who should have won this year’s Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical) and it’s her tracks that make all the difference. “One Hundred Easy Ways” is sung with perfect comic timing and it was never funnier. Her renditions of “Conga!”, “Wrong Note Rag” and specially the hilarious “Swing” are a riot. She’s brilliant!

The rest of the cast gives her good support and have their moments. Jennifer Westfeldt is a sweet Eileen and has a good moment with “It’s Love”, like Greg Edelman (who sounds better on the CD than on stage) has.

There are a couple of songs that I never cared much, like “Pass the Football”, “Conversation Piece” and “What a Waste”, and I haven’t changed my mind with this new cast. But the rest of the score is so good that I prefer to forget that those songs are there. My favourite song has always been “Wrong Note Rag”, specially the middle section, and here it’s simple fantastic. And of course I love the beautiful “It’s Love”.

Until now my favourite recording of the score have been the London cast with Maureen Lipman, but now of all WONDERFUL TOWN recordings this revival is the one that I recommend and I’m sure you’ll have a great time with it. .

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FINE AND DANDY - Studio Cast Recording - 2004 / Music by Kay Swift - Lyrics by Paul James

Starring: Carolee Carmello, Gavin Creel, Andrea Burns, Mark Linn-Baker, Mario Cantone, Deborah Tranelli, Anne Kaufman Schneider, Jennifer Laura Thompson

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: It’s hard to describe the pleasure we can feel when we discover an old forgotten show, but it can be a highly rewarding experience. Well, that’s exactly what happened when I first played the CD of this FINE AND DANDY.

Written in 1930 by Kay Swift & Paul James and lost until now, this is the kind of score that makes me wish I was born during the golden age of musical comedy (“the most glorious words in the English language”). Of course this is an old fashion musical, with simple tuneful songs, a contagious joy of living and a freshness that is missing from almost all contemporary musicals.

A great cast was ensemble by PS Classics (who gave us the great THROUGH THE YEARS) and they couldn’t have made a better choice. Carolee Carmello, Gavin Creel (this boy is going to go far), Jennifer Laura Thompson, Andrea Burns and the rest of the cast sound like they were having the time of their lives and their voices are a perfect match for the terrific songs. The same can be said about the exciting orchestrations by Russel Warner, Larry Moore and Hans Spialek.

There’s something Gershwin and Porter about this score, but that’s natural since their shows belong at the same age. Some of the songs (“Etiquette” and “Wedding Bells” for example) could only have work in the 20s or 30s, but some of them are true jewels like the romantic “Can This Be Love?” or the great “Nobody Breaks My Heart”, sung with gusto by Carmello. She and Creel have a fine moment with the funny “Let’s Go Eat Worms in the Garden” and he delivers a perfect “Starting at the Bottom”. Martin is fantastic with “I’ll Hit a New High” and the dance sensation “The Jig-Hop”. And let’s not forget the comic title number and the tuneful “Rich or Poor”.

This is one of the big surprises of the year and we all should thank Tommy Krasker and Philip Chaffin for producing and sharing this enjoyable score with us. If today someone was able to write such a score, Broadway would be a much happier place.

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BOUNCE - Original Cast Recording - 2003 / Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Starring: Howard McGillin, Richard Kind, Michelle Pawk, Jane Powell, Gavin Creel, Herndon Lackey

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Let me begin this by saying that Stephen Sondheim is one of my favourite composers and several of his scores are among my favourite list (you can check it by visiting my page on the subject) so, except the fact that he should write musicals more often, I don’t have anything against him. I was expecting something really special for his first musical in years and I wasn’t prepared to feel disappointed by it, but that’s what happened.

This recording begins with an exciting Overture that promise a lot and it’s followed by a good and hummable title tune. There’s plenty to enjoy in what follows, but by the end you get the idea that all songs sound almost the same and that makes this score kind of monotonous. Don’t get me wrong, the orchestrations are great and the cast is in good shape (although I don’t like Richard Kind’s singing voice), but this isn’t Sondheim at his best.

Among the songs my favourites are, besides the title number, the romantic with a twist “The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened”, the haunting waltz “Next to You”, the rousing “You”, and another interesting Sondheim song about art “Talent” (beautifully sung by Gavin Creel). There’s also the funny “Addison’s Trip”, two big productions numbers “I Love This Town” and “Boca Raton” and the melodic “What’s Your Rush”. The problem is that all these songs are quiet similar and some of them and more than reminiscent of PASSION, INTO THE WOODS, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.

On the plus side this is better than most new musical scores and after a few listening it kinds of grow within you. As for the cast, besides Kind and Creel, Howard McGillin and Michelle Pawk give their best to the songs and it’s a pleasure to hear MGM’s old glory Jane Powell once again.

By listening to the recording and reading the story of the musical it comes as no surprise that it didn’t make it to Broadway. Maybe someday someone will be able to fix its book and maybe Sondheim will write a few and better new songs, maybe than it can became a hit. Let’s hope so, because there’s some good music here.

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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - Broadway Revival Cast - 2004 / Music by Jerry Bock- Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

Starring: Alfred Molina, Randy Graff, Sally Murphy, Laura Michelle Kelly, Tricia Paoluccio, Nancy Opel, John Cariani

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Although it’s one of Broadway’s great classics, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF isn’t among my favourite scores. I love some of the songs, with “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Now I Have Everything” being my top ones, but on the whole it never conquered all my heart.

The original production was a hit when it opened on Broadway and the movie adaptation was also a success, both providing us with good renditions of the score. Now it’s time for a new Broadway cast recording and the result is very disappointing. Although I don’t like rock or pop versions of the classics I’m not a true purist. To tell the truth I’m quiet fond of several new cast recordings of old shows, in some cases I even prefer the new ones (“Kiss Me, Kate”, “The Music Man” and “Nine” among others), so I was expecting something better from this new Fiddler.

It’s true, the songs are all here, plus a new uninteresting one, but everything sounds dull. Someone said this was a boring recording and I have to agree. There’s no excitement here and the cast is everything but lively. The orchestrations sound boring and Alfred Molina’s sounds kind of dead; and if the actor who plays Tevye is a bore there’s no way this will live up to the standards of the other recordings.

On the plus side the production of the CD is good, attractive and it’ll look nice on any cast album collection, but for the real thing buy the original Broadway cast with Zero Mostel or the movie soundtrack with Topol.

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SHERRY! - Studio Cast Recording - 2003 / Music by Laurence Rosenthal - Lyrics by James Lipton

Starring: Nathan Lane, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Tommy Tune, Tom Wopat, Mike Myers, Phyllis Newman, Lillias White, Siobhan Fallon

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: The first time I heard anything about this musical was when I bought the first CD of the “Unsung Musicals” series, where Christine Baranski and Jonathan Freeman delivered a fabulous rendition of the terrific title song. Since than that I’ve been waiting to hear the rest of the score, even do I doubted that there’s something as better as that fantastic title song. Finally my prayers have been answered and we have a brand new all star studio cast recording of that 1967 flopped musical.

Like I thought, none of the other songs is a strong as the title number, but even so this is a pleasant score and there’s plenty of songs to enjoy. In fact this is a very tuneful score with beautiful ballads like “Maybe It’s Time for Me”, “With This Ring”, “Imagine That” and funny songs like “Putty in Your Hands”. The high profile cast make it sound like a truly original cast recording and the final result is a positive one. Anyway, I regret to inform that Nathan Lane and Carol Burnett’s rendition of “Sherry!” isn’t as strong and as funny as the one by Freeman and Baranski, although I know their names will sell more CDs.

While I was playing the CD I start imagining that if it becomes a hit, maybe a Broadway revival may not be out of the question. I would cast Freeman as Sherry and Baranski as Lorraine Sheldon, with Karen Ziemba as Maggie Cutler (the Bernadette Peters role), Noah Racey as Beverly Carlton (the Tommy Tune role) and Brent Barrett as Bert Jefferson (the Tom Wopat role). But probably that will never happen, but no one can stop us of dreaming.

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THREE LITTLE WORDS - Original Movie Soundtrack - 1950 / Music by Bert Kalmar - Lyrics by Harry Ruby

Starring: Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Anita Ellis, Arlene Dahl, Helen Kane, Gloria DeHaven, Gale Robbins

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Today the names of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby may not say much to a large majority of musical fans, but in the 20s they were responsible for several Broadway musicals and I’m sure everyone knows songs like “I Wanna Be Loved by You” (popularized by Marilyn Monroe in SOME LIKE IT HOT) and “Who’s Sorry Now”. These two titles along with a large numbers of other songs make the soundtrack of this MGM musical.

Fred Astaire plays Kalmar to Red Skelton’s Ruby and both sound good in their roles, the same can be said about the female voices of Arlene Dahl, Anita Ellis (dubbing Vera-Ellen) and Helen Kane, who dubs Debbie Reynolds for her signature song “I Wanna Be Loved by You”. What this enjoyable movie soundtrack does is to make us aware of Kalmar & Ruby’s songbook and their work, with titles likes, “Nevertheless, I’m in Love With You”, “All Alone Monday”, “Thinking of You” and the title song, is worthy of discovery.

Also on this CD we can find, as a bonus, the delightful soundtrack of YOLANDA AND THE THIEF, another Fred Astaire vehicle this time with a score by Harry Warren and Arthur Freed. This is another of those MGM musicals that today almost no one remembers, but it was an entertaining little film with a couple of good dance numbers. On CD the songs sound even better, with titles like “Coffee Time”, “I’ve an Angel” and “Will You Marry Me?”, and are a truly invitation to dance.

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THE MUSICAL OF MUSICALS - Original Off-Broadway Cast - 2003 / Music by Eric Rockwell - Lyrics by Joanne Bogart

Starring: Joanne Bogart, Craig Fols, Lovette George, Eric Rockwell

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I believe that on paper this may have sound as a great idea and I don’t doubt that on stage it works better than on this CD, but I’m afraid that as a cast recording this isn’t as interesting as they make us believe.

We aren’t very far from the FORBIDDEN BROADWAY territory and that means that after a couple of hearings there’s nothing much to discover and the jokes became tired. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a bad score, but as an original score there’s nothing original about it. I think that although they tried to imitate the styles of those musical creators, the composers should have tried to write something that doesn’t sound just like a poor imitation of the originals. Maybe I didn’t get it and that was just their idea.

Of the five mini musicals (CORNY! in the Rodgers & Hammerstein style; A LITTLE COMPLEX in the Stephen Sondheim style; DEAR ABBY! in the Jerry Herman style; ASPECTS OF JUANITA in the Andrew Lloyd Webber style and SPEAKEASY in the Kander & Ebb style) the one that works better is SPEAKEASY, with really funny lyrics by Joanne Bogart. The least interesting if CORNY! and DEAR ABBY! is a missed chance.

My favourite track is “Done”, a kind of the A CHORUS LINE “One”, that ends the show in a positive note.

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LOVE FROM JUDY - Selections of the Original London Cast - 1952 / Music by Hugh Martin - Lyrics by Hugh Martin and Jack Gray

Starring: Jean Carson, Adelaide Hall, June Whitfield, Bill O'Connor, Johnny Brandon, Audrey Freeman

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I hate when they do this! It’s very disappointing to buy a CD convinced that you’re getting the Original Cast recording of a musical and to discover later that all you got is a few selections of it. That’s the case with this new CD release. On the front cover it says the Original London Cast of LOVE FROM JUDY but if you read the back cover of the CD you’ll know that there’s less than 18 minutes of that score. I believe that all the songs of that show are here, 13 titles, but they’re all played in 4 medley tracks and that’s very irritating. The rest of this 24 tracks CD, has the cast members singing songs from other sources and it isn’t very interesting. The problem is, if like me, you buy the CD by mail order you won’t be able to read the back cover.

But let’s talk about LOVE FROM JUDY. From what we hear here it sounds like a charming little musical and it was a hit when it opened in London in 1952. Based on the “Daddy Long Legs” novel by Jean Webster, this has a score by Hugh Martin and Jack Gray. There are two beautiful ballads “Here We Are” and, specially, “I Never Dream When I’m Asleep”, that remind us of the Hugh Martin of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, and a couple of comic songs, the kind they only wrote back then. I’m talking about “What Do I See in You” (that could have been written by Comden & Green) and “Dum-Dum-Dum”. Although I didn’t like Bill O’Connor’s voice, the rest of the cast goes pretty well and Adelaide Hall reveals a rich warm voice. As the title Judy, Jean Carson shows a nice voice.

I don’t know if the complete cast recording of this score is available, but I hope that one day we’ll have it or maybe a studio cast recording. As it is, this was a miss chance for Sepia Records and one that leave us, musical fans, suspicious about future releases by this label.

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AVENUE Q - Original Broadway Cast - 2003 / Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx

Starring: John Tartaglia, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Ann Harada, Natalie Venetia Belcon, Rick Lyon, Jennifer Barnhart, Jordan Gelber

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: A few years ago we had THE PRODUCERS, than URINETOWN, now it’s time for another political incorrect score. Who would have thought that a puppet musical would deliver such a winning score? But the fact is that Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx songs are among the best Broadway have heard in years.

The cast couldn’t be in better harmony with the material and among the highlights we have the cheerful “It Sucks to Be Me”, the hilarious “The Internet Is for Porn”, the funny “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and the beautiful torch song with a twist “The More You Ruv Someone”, sang in Judy Garland mode by the comical Ann Harada.

This is one of those scores that will leave you humming a few songs and that’s a rarity in new musicals.

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BROWNSTONE - Studio Cast Recording - 2002 / Music by Peter Larson & Josh Rubbins - Lyrics by Josh Rubbins

Starring: Liz Callaway, Brian D'Arcy James, Debbie Gravotte, Rebecca Luker, Kevin Reed

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: This musical began its life back in 1979, open on Broadway in 1986 but it was only recorded after its Berkshire Theatre Festival sold-out run in 2002. The action takes place in a New York building where all the characters live and so the melodic score deals with real characters in real situations.

This mix of comic, romantic and dramatic songs sounds just like real life. Among the musical numbers we have the interesting “Someone’s Moving In” for opening; the beautiful “Not Today” sung with gusto by Debbie Gravitte; the 80s style “He Didn’t Leave It Here”; the sad ballad “Since We Stayed Here” and the romantic lushly “We Came Along to Late”.

The voices of the talented cast blend in perfect harmony and the end result is a small lovely piece of musical theatre.

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FADE OUT, FADE IN - Original Broadway Cast - 1964 / Music by Jule Styne - Lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green

Starring: Carol Burnett, Jack assidy, Dick Patterson, Tiger Haynes, Mitchell Jason, Lou Jacobi

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: That this new collaboration between composer Jule Styne and lyricists Comden & Green (together they wrote BELLS ARE RINGING and DO RE MI) failed on Broadway was kind of a surprise for everyone involved. Not even the star power of the hilarious Carol Burnett, who sounds great at this recording, saved the show. Anyway, someone decided to record the score and finally someone release it on CD.

What we have here is a highly tuneful and funny score, with some terrific songs like “Call Me Savage”, “Lili Tremaine”, “You Mustn’t Be Discouraged” and, a special favorite of mine, “The Usher from the Mezzanine”.

This is a musical worthy of discovering and it shows that even a lesser Jule Styne is better than almost all of the contemporary new Broadway musicals.

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FLOWER DRUM SONG - New Broadway Cast Recording - 2002 / Music by Richard Rodgers - Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Starring: Lea Salonga, Randall Duk Kim, Sandra Allen, Alvin Ing, Jose Llana, Jodi Long, Allen Liu, Hoon Lee

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I’ve to confess that I never cared much for this 1958 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. It’s true, it had a few great songs like “I Enjoy Being a Girl” and “Love, Look Away”, but on the whole it didn’t sound very interesting.

Surprise! This Broadway revival cast recording brings new life to the score and thanks to new orchestrations by Don Sebesky and an appealing cast I really enjoyed it for the first time on my life. Purists may discharged it as a crime, but when a new recording help us to rediscover an old score, that’s hardly a crime. Like me you may not like the modern beat at the middle of “Fan Tan Fannie”, but it made me smile and the new “I Enjoy Being a Girl” number sounds like a great piece of musical entertainment.

With a fabulous CD package this is a must have on any musical fan CD library.

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SEVENTH HEAVEN - Original Broadway Cast - 1955 / Music by Victor Young - Lyrics by Stella Unger

Starring: Gloria de Haven, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Clary, Kurt Kasznar, Chita Rivera, Patricia Hammerlee, Gerrianne Raphael

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Everyone knows that not all 50s musicals were hits or classics, but even the ones that weren’t, usually had interesting scores. That’s the case with this forgotten show.

The music was by Hollywood composer Victor Young (THE QUIET MAN, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH) and in his Broadway debut he came up with a good share of attractive songs, like “Where Is That Someone for Me”, “Camille, Collette, Fifi”” and, my favorite of the whole score, “Sun At My Window, Love At My Door”. The cast included film stars Gloria de Haven and Ricardo Montalban in their Broadway debuts and both reveal fine voices. Among the cast there’s also the terrific Chita Rivera, here in her first recording album.

This isn’t a great score but I wish today someone were able to write songs like these and I always have an agreeable time each time I hear it.

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WICKED - Original Broadway Cast - 2003 / Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Norbert Leo Butz, Joel Grey, Carole Shelley, Michelle Federer, Christopher Fitzgerald, William Youmans

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: Stephen Schwartz never conquered me with any of his previous scores and when I saw WICKED on stage I wasn’t impressed with his songs. Even so I decide to buy the cast recording and when I played it I discovered that after all this was a very interesting score.

I’m not the kind of guy who likes pop flavour musicals and there’s plenty of that in here, but there’s also some powerful songs (“The Wizard and I”, and “Defying Gravity”), funny ones (“Popular”, “What Is This Feeling”) and a traditional eleven o’clock number for the wizard, “Wonderful”. I would prefer a more conventional score and there are a few glimpses of better songs (the “Wizomania” in the middle of “One Short Day” and the too small part that Elphaba mother’s lover sings in “No One Mourns the Wicked”).

Anyway this is a strong, sometimes epic, score that results in a pleasant listening. The cast couldn’t be better, with Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel giving their best at the leading the roles.

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CHICAGO - Original Movie Soundtrack - 2002 / Music by John Kander - Lyrics by Fred Ebb - Additional Music by Danny Elfman

Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reily, Taye Diggs

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: I've to begin this review by saying that John Kander & Fred Ebb's score for CHICAGO is my all time favorite. I had the pleasure of seeing the current Revival five times and I'm never tire of it. So when I heard that someone was going to adapt it for the screen I was both excited and afraid. I haven't seen the movie yet (it only opens in February, here in Portugal) but by listening to the movie soundtrack I have to say that I'm surprised. It sounds great!

I knew that both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere had done stage musicals in their past, but I never thought that they would sound like this. Zeta-Jones shows a strong, sensuous voice that's perfect for Velma Kelly and Gere's nasal singing is really 20s style. Queen Latifah is a terrific Mamma Morton (it's a pity they cut the "Class" number from the finished film) and John C. Reilly is a convincing Amos Hart. As for Renée Zellweger she sounds like Marilyn Monroe and, although her voice isn't as strong as of her partners, she delivers her numbers with style.

The orchestrations by Doug Besterman (who won Tonys for THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, FOSSE and THE PRODUCERS) are simple terrific, giving the entire score a really hot and decadent sound that's perfect for the story. Even the original tracks by Danny Elfman fit like a glove with the songs.

Of course I don't care for the two "modern" tracks at the end of the CD, they are out of place and neither of them are interesting. The producers would have done better if they had given Christine Baranski the opportunity to sing "A Little Bit of Luck" just for the recording.

But there's a new song by Kander & Ebb. It's titled "I Move On" and it's a contagious duet by Zeta-Jones and Zellweger. I just hope this year Oscar for Best Movie Song will be deliver to this terrific song, but maybe there's no good taste at the Academy.

This is an high enjoyable CD, perfect (if you cut the last two tracks) for continuous listenings and, although I still prefer the Broadway albums, a good rendition of the most fabulous of all musical scores. Don't miss it!

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THE AMAZONS - World Premiere Recording - 2002 / Music by John Addison - Lyrics by David Heneker

Starring: Lucy Montgomery, Stuart Pendred, Abthony Dawes, Elizabeth Counsell, Myra Sands, Ellis Kerkhoven, Jamie Beamish, Chevaun Marsh

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: With this recording and with THE CROOKED MILE, a new CD label - Must Close Saturday Records - begins releasing cast recordings of forgotten British musical. If like me you have an adventurous spirit this is great news and let's hope many more titles will come our way. This THE AMAZONS is a quiet charming little score, with a few enjoyable tunes waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately the lack of a full orchestra (for budget reasons they only used a piano) doesn't help this interesting score. Nevertheless this is an almost perfect example of old-fashioned English Music-Hall.

A musical comedy in its own right, the show had its opening in 1971at Nottingham, run for just 21 performances and failed to reach the West End. The music was by film composer John Addison (THE ENTERTAINER, TOM JONES, A BRIDGE TOO FAR) and lyrics by David Heneker (HALF A SIXPENCE, THE BIOGRAPH GIRL, CHARLIE GIRL), with a book by Michael Stewart (CARNIVAL, HELLO DOLLY!, MACK AND MABEL). It told the story of three sisters who were brought up as boys and all the confusion caused by that.

Among the songs there's a curious hymn to England titled "There's Nothing Wrong with England" and a sexual ambiguous song, "A Nice Young Fellow", where a man sings about the "… nice, good looking, fresh…, clean cut hair… young fellow" he met in the streets. There's also the quiet romantic waltz "Don't Follow the Music", the simple and contagious dance tune "Stag Party", the happy and melodic "The Coast is Clear" and the delightful simple "We Shall See What We Shall See".

This world premiere recording was made after the 2002 production of the Theatre Museum in Convent Garden. The entire cast, where the more famous names are the ones of Elizabeth Counsell and Myra Sands (both of the original 1972 production), sounds too British with very strong accents, but that is perfect for this little show and for the spirit of the play.

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THE CROOKED MILE - Original London Cast - 1959 / Music by Peter Greenwell - Lyrics by Peter Wildeblood

Starring: Elizabeth Welch, Jack MacGowran, Millicent Martin, John Larsen, Alan Thomas, Elwyn Brook-James

Rated by Jorge:

REVIEW: A look at London's Soho "low-life" of the 50s, this musical begins with a sinister melody that kind of warn us that this is going to be a dark score, but we soon discover that although it tells a story of a group of marginal characters with troubles this isn't a sad show, on the contrary.

Peter Greenwell wrote a rich score that goes from conventional musical tunes to operatic levels and thanks to Gordon Langford's terrific orchestrations it has a lush sound that's high rewarding. There's a beautiful ballad, "If I Ever Fall in Love Again", sang with feeling by Elisabeth Welch that haunts the entire score and "Free" is a strong melody that kinds of set the feeling of the whole play.

Besides the beautiful voiced Welch, there's the funny Millicent Martin who has a great time with "Horticulture" and shares in perfection a funny duet, "Meet the Family", with Welch. Jack MacGowran doesn't have a great voice but he delivers "Free" and the sad "Spare a Penny" with sentiment. Both John Larsen (who has an amusing duet with Welch, "Cousin Country", about the differences between English and Americans) and Alan Thomas have strong operatic voices to which they give full range in "Down to Earth" and "Luigi" respectively.

I'm not going to say that this is a great score, but it deserves a place in any musical fan's cast album collection. You may not fall in love with it, but after a few listenings you'll find plenty to be pleased about.

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