Original Cast Recording- Side By Side by Sondhiem

This week, I am showcasing various records that I bought, took home, and discovered were different then what their covers had indicated.  This unfortunately has happened more than I would care for since I started this blog.  Sometimes, I end u with something better than what I expected.  More often than not, it is the records I am most excited about that suffer this cruel fate.  Sometime there are happy endings when I find the record I was originally looking for unfortunately, that has happened only once with a Martin Denny album.

So I bought this, the movie version of the Broadway musical, The Pajama Game, for a dollar.  I got it because it is a pretty decent musical, I like John Raitt as well as Doris Day, and most importantly I wanted to write about Eddie Foy Jr, the son of Eddie Foy Sr, the turn of the 20th century vaudevillian.  I would probably have written about how the son played his father in James Cagney biopic of George Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandy. I am not sure what I would have posted as I already put my favorite song “Hernando’s Hideaway” by  Carol Haney on an earlier Broadway post.

What I received is this, the second disc of a double record from Side by Side by Stephen Sondheim, recorded by the original London Cast. It was a revue style musical based on the work of the composer, which debuted in London’s West End in 1976.  I am not sure when this came out but I guess close to its West End run which was over 800 shows.  The production moved to Broadway the following year where it ran over 300 performances.

I must say, I was impressed by the fact they put Side 3 and 4 on on disc rather than putting 1 and 4 or 2 and 3.  This is one of my pet peeves.  The disc I got has songs from Anyone Can Whistle, A Little Night Music,  Pacific Overtures, Do I Hear a Waltz?, West Side Story, The Mad Show, Gypsy, Follies, and Company.  I believe that makes up most of Act II.

So despite liking Sondheim, I was not real excited to listen to the record.  But after putting it on, I liked a lot of the songs.  Some I knew.  Some I knew of.  Others were new.  But again, I warmed up to getting this record rather than the Pajama Game. What sealed the deal for me was “I’m Still Here” from Follies, the story of old Broadway actors and actresses from the early days of musical theater who reunite years later.  The song in particular is song by one of the old actresses who is going over the peaks and valleys of her career.  I fell in love with this immediately as it is one of those “I’ve taken all life has thrown at me and survived” type songs.  I also found it quite interesting that Sondheim wrote this during out of town tryouts when another song was not working.  Upon looking for a video to post, it is apparent that this is a favorite of older actresses as I had many to choose from.  Well, Ann Miller is as good as anybody.

So it was not what I wanted but still a good album and again “I’m Still Here” is one of those songs you feel richer for knowing.  I will say this switch is quite satisfactory.

 

Lennie Hayton- Jamaica

So I got this because I saw Jamaica in big letters followed by this white guy so I thought this would be a funny album to listen to.  As it is my habit to not read the back covers of the albums I buy, I did not know that this was an interpretation of the Broadway musical, Jamaica.  So that is two musical albums in two days, despite the fact that I swore off musical albums after October.  Oh well.  This was one Yankee dollar.

Jamaica was a Broadway musical, written by EY Harburg, Fred Saidy, and Harold Allen, the team behind Finian’s Rainbow. It tells the story of an tropical island overrun by consumerism, set to Calypso music, which was quite popular at the time.  It was supposed to star Calypso’s greatest star at the time, Harry Belafonte, but Belafonte grew ill at the time of production.  The emphasis was then shifted to Lena Horne.  Also staring Ossie Davis and Ricardo Montalban, the show opened on Broadway in 1957 and ran for 558 performances, which was quite impressive at the time.  It was nominated for a good amount of Tony’s but had the unfortunate distinction of coming out the same year as Music Man and West Side Story.

Lennie Hayton, was an American conductor and composer, born in New York City in 1908.  Wikipedia points out that he was known was wearing a captains hat.  His work included stints for Bing Crosby as well as the musical director for MGM. Hayton would arrange the music for Singin’ in The Rain as well as win an Oscar for his work on On The Town.

Incidentally, Hayton served as Lena Horne’s musical director at MGM and the pair got married in 1947.  While Horne admitted that she got married to advance her career and cross the color line in Hollywood, the pair separated for most of the 60’s.  Hayton died in 1971 from heart disease brought on by heavy drinking and smoking. He was 63.

So here is this album from Roulette Records in 1958.  Pretty decent stuff.  Tried to digest the story of the musical but I don’t think it matters much. Yep, vacation laziness strikes again.

For a sample, I went with “Ain’t It The Truth” as well as “Hooray for the Yankee Dollar.”

Eh.  Decent enough to garnish a satisfactory rating.

Stan Kenton- Hair

You though I was sick of posting Broadway albums after October, right?  Well think again.  Here is this, which I purchased for $1.20.  I think it the time, I was amassing various cover versions of Hair and this one popped up. Still on vacation at the time of you reading this so lets hope it went OK.

Stan Kenton has been on this site before.  Twice I believe.  One good record.  One not so good record.  Well here is this released in 1969, a year after the musical had become a sensation.  Pretty good stuff which by the way is my standard response when I do not want to put much effort into this.  Half the songs have vocals or at least a chorus.  The others do not. Musically, this is a pretty entertaining.  Could have really gone either way as when classical. old school band leaders interpret modern music, the results can be mixed.  Fortunately for Kenton, this record does well.  Key musicians include Bud Shank, Gene Cipriano, Jack Sheldon, Bill Hood, and Gil Falco.

For a sample, I thought “Colored Spade” was really funky.  So here it is.

Satisfactory record.

Original Cast Recording- Fiddler On The Roof

This Broadway gem was $4. This is the second appearance of this production this month.  If you want to learn more about its legacy, I would suggest doubling back to that post, watching the video below, or just going straight to Google for your queries.

 

As the video so neatly states, Fiddler came out at a precarious time for musicals (1964).  With the arrival of the Beatles, rock and roll became the dominate force in popular American music.  Before this, pop music was musical theater.  It was a tectonic shift of sorts but as a result, musical theater would re-invent itself in the second half of the sixties as well as later decades. Anyway, despite this trend, the songs from Fiddler were a smash hit (along with the musical itself) and remain so to this day, a testament to their place in Broadway history.

Zero Mostel originated the role of Tevye on the stage.  However, during rehearsals, Mostel feuded with director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, due to Robbins testimony in front of the House on Un-American Activities Committee.  The original production also featured Maria Kanilova as Tevye’s wife Goldie as well as Bea Arthur as the matchmaker.

The show, which opened Sept of 1964,  was a massive success with a run of 3,242 shows, the first Broadway production to run over 3,000.  For awhile, it became the longest running show on Broadway. Today it ranks #16 of all time.  The production also won 9 Tony’s including Best Musical.  Numerous revivals and productions have been staged around the world as well.

For a sample, I went with what is probably my favorite song from the production and one that due to being an ensemble piece, does not make it on many of the Fiddler records I find.  That would be “Tevye’s Dream” whereas to convince his wife let their daughter marry the tailor, Tevye concocts a dream whereas their dead relatives come back from the dead to warn of ill consequences should their daughter marry the butcher.  Pretty macabre stuff.  Again,  there were a lot of great moments on this record but I fear a may not get another chance to post this song again.

Satisfactory record.

Orginal Cast Recording- Man of LaMancha

This little gem from the Great White Way was only $1.  It contains one of my favorite songs ( and perhaps one of Broadway’s greatest),which I post quite frequently on this blog, “The Impossible Dream”.  As a side note, despite many attempts, I have yet to finish reading the source material, Don Quixote.  I get hung up on Cardenio’s story.  It seems to bring the novel to a screeching halt to me.

Man of La Mancha, with book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, and music by Mitch Leigh, was based on an earlier tele-play by Wasserman, titled I, Don Quixote, with no music.  The musical, set in a dungeon, tells the story of the author, Miquel de Cervantes telling the story of Quixote while awaiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition.  You know, a kind of play within a play thing. Apart from a double bass and flamenco guitars, no stringed instruments were used in the score.

Man of La Mancha opened after 21 previews in November of 1965.  With a run of 2,328 shows, and five Tony’s including Best Musical, it was pretty successful. The original production started Richard Kiley, Irving Jacobson, Ray Middleton, Robert Rounseville, and Joan Diener A touring production as well as numerous revivals followed (including one by Dr Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap).  A film version with Peter O’Toole was released in 1969.

Finally, the song “Impossible Dream” has become an enduring standard with many, many cover versions.

For a sample, I went with the Finale as I felt it tied up all the great musical numbers together.

Great little album.  Satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- Hello Dolly

So somewhat already getting sick of the Broadway theme we are ding this month, but too late to change gears now.  This was $1.20.  Not really familiar with Hello Dolly as compared to other works I have put on this month.  I had an opportunity last night to watch the movie for some background but a romance between Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau is a bit much for me to bear.

Hello Dolly was a musical with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, all based on Thorton Wilder’s 1938 play The Merchant of Yonkers.  It tells the story of a matchmaker who tries to find a mate for a unmarried half-millionaire.  The producers had Ethel Merman in mind for the lead role who turned it down.  Ditto for Mary Martin.  After consideration of Nancy Walker, the role went to Carol Channing, who went on to make it her signature role.

After some rocky reviews in previews, the show was retooled and opened on Broadway on Jan 16, 1964.  It became a smash hit, running 2,844 performances, a record at the time.  In fact, despite the advent of rock and roll, ten Broadway productions in the 60’s would run past 1,000 performances,  Three of which would go over 2,000 Anyway, back to this, Hello Dolly won 10 out of 11 Tony’s a record until 2001.  Channing won for Best Actress in a Musical despite stiff competition between Streisand with Funny Girl.

And as inferred above, a film version which was directed by Gene Kelly, came out in 1969.  It would win three Oscars. As this still remains highly popular, various revivals have been performed through out the years including a 2017 run with Bette Midler.

The album was pretty darn successful as well, going to the #1 spot in the US.  The theme song has become a standard of sorts, is some part due to Louis Armstrong’s cover version, which knocked the Beatles out of the #1 spot in 1964. In 2002, this album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, although I am not too certain what that means.

But here is this, featuring Channing, David Burns, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jerry Dodge, and Eileen Brennnan. For a sample, I went with “Dancing” as it features most of the principles.

Not bad little record but not one pf my favorites .  But still…. satisfactory.

Orginal Cast Recording- Two By Two

Here is a strange piece of musical theater that I purchased for $4.  As a kid, I watched a lot of Danny Kaye movies, plus as I am a big Richard Rodgers fan (as previous posts would indicate), I wanted to check this musical I never heard of out.

Two By Two, with music by Rodgers, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Peter Stone, was based on an earlier play from 1954, The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets.  It tells the Biblical story of Noah through the flood, as well as his relations with his wife and family as well as the relationships of his sons.  Modern themes such as the generation gap and the atomic bomb were also worked into the story.  I am told that despite the story coming from the 50’s, it worked quite well in a 1970’s context.

Kaye, who had problems with the script, took to regularly ad-libbing, much to the producers chagrin.  Also, apparently after an injury, he took to performing both on crutches and in a wheelchair, both of which he used as comic ploys to run down cast members. That also tells me that the success of this musical must of been driven by Kaye if they would allow him to perform incapacitated. According to some reports, his one man vaudeville routines and asides to the audience drove word of mouth and increased sales.  According to other reports, these unprofessional gestures irritated viewers.

The show itself opened on November 10th, and ran for ten months.  After this, it kind of fell by the wayside as there have not been too many revivals since.  One side note to this performance is that it features an early role on Broadway for Madeline Kahn.  Kahn, who made her Broadway debut a year earlier, stars as Goldie, who as far as I can tell, is from a idol worshiping sect who somehow found her way on the ark and enters into a love triangle with one of Noah’s sons.

I am not sure when I will get a chance to blog this so I will say it here.  Rodgers was the first person to enter the EGOT club.  That is to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award.  Furthermore, his Pulitzer win puts him in an even smaller club with Marvin Hamlisch. Anyway, Rodgers went on after this to work on a few more productions with different lyricists until his death in 1979. Kaye, for his part, did mostly humanitarian work thereafter as well as television, (most notably in my memory, a guest spot on The Cosby Show) until his death in 1987. I was not sure I would be able to tie this paragraph into the wider narrative, but I seem to have done so nicely.

For a sample, I originally wanted to go with “You Have Got To Have A Rudder On The Ark” which I felt was among one of the better numbers.  However, as I was driving around a post-Harvey Houston on Aug 27th, the first Wednesday after the flood hit, this song “When It Dries” came up on my I-Pod.  I found it quite funny, driving down 290 in Houston listening to a song about how great everything will be around here when it dries up.  So here we are with “When It Dries”.  Also , because I like Madeline Kahn, here is her number ” The Golden Ram”.

I can kind of see how this might have come off as a mixed musical, I guess depending on how you view Kaye’s performance.  It is also a bit on the high end, but as far as the album goes, I found it all right.  Satisfactory.

Orginal Broadway Cast- Oklahoma

Well, there is no tribute to Broadway without this, which I purchased for $3. This production launched the beginning of the Golden Age of the Broadway Musical.  This groundbreaking work paved the way for many things which seem standard today.

Oklahoma! really separated two eras of Broadway musicals and gave way to the rise of the “book”musical as the dominate art form.  As opposed to musical follies or productions where the songs were simply vehicles for the star and unrelated to the story, the book musical used music and lyrics to advance the story line.  This form was kicking around here and there before, most notably in 1927’s Showboat but Oklahoma! came to symbolize the genre and therefore changed all of Broadway thereafter.

Both principle’s Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were well established before they teamed up in the early 40’s.  Rodgers had his share of success working with lyricist Lorenz Hart.  Hammerstein had also worked with a myriad of music writers including Jerome Kern on the aforementioned Showboat.  Both men had entertained the idea of converting the earlier play Green Grow The Lilacs into a musical.  However, Kern had refused to work on this production and Hart had sunk into a great depression that would eventually lead to his death.  Thus, Rodgers asked Hammerstein (who incidentally had six flops in a row and was starting to have self doubt) to partner up and thus history was made.  As a side note, the partnership worked well for both men’s habits.  As opposed to their former partners, Hammerstein preferred to write the lyrics first before the music was written as Rodgers preferred to write the music to lyrics.

Two other interesting aspects to this production, Oklahoma! was cast with singers who could act as opposed to actors who could sing, and as a result, there were really no big stars on opening night.  Furthermore, one of the musicals most notable features was the 15 minute dream ballet, choreographed by Agnes DeMille, niece of Cecil.  It is not only the use of dance but the importance of it in explaining the character’s feelings that make it truly groundbreaking.

During out of town tryouts, producer Mike Todd walked out of the first act noting that the show had no chance of success.  However when retooled and debuted on Broadway in March of 1943, Oklahoma! was a smash hit with critics and audiences.  Due to the unprecedented demand for tickets, the show ran for five years or 2,212 performances, a record at the time. National tours followed along with a big screen adaptation in 1955, various revivals, and performances around 75% of the high schools in this country. Unfortunately, there were no Tony awards in 1943 so none to be won.  However, I found it interesting that his former partner, Hart, told Rodgers upon viewing. that it was the best evening he ever experienced in theater, before dying later in the year.

Another groundbreaking fact, when Decca Records released a set six 10 inch 78 rpm’s from the musical, it was the first original cast recording from a Broadway production (for all practical purposes), paving the way for many more for many years.   This set was a success as well, selling over a million copies.  Due to this, the set was repackaged and reissued thru the years.  This record, is a 1955 re-issue.

Here on this record, the original cast and chorus belt out some of the songs which by now are Broadway standards.  Cast members Alfred Drake ( Curly) , Joan Roberts, (Laurie), Howard Da Silva (Jud), Lee Dixon (Will Parker), and Celeste Holm (Aldo Annie) all shine on this effort.  Pretty good album despite not having my favorite song, “The Farmer and the Cowhand Should Be Friends” on it. Personally, and I think I made it known on some older posts, my interest in Oklahoma! has waned over the years, although I still do like the songs.  However, I still feel that Jud got a bad deal in the story. But since the movie version has both Shirley Jones and Gloria Grahame in it, it will always get watched by me.

But for a sample, I went with one of my favorite numbers, the duet between lovers Will Parker and Aldo Annie, “All or Nothing”.

Not sure why I felt the need to write a book about this but it is done so there.  Satisfactory.

 

VA- A Stephen Sondheim Evening

Back to Back Stephen Sondheim efforts as we conclude our first week of Donkey Show’s month long salute to Broadway.  This double album was $1.  Pretty darn cheap from this Broadway legend.

In fact, if Sondheim retired in the 1950’s with the lyrics to West Side Story and Gypsy under his belt, it would have been a pretty good career.  But no, Sondheim went on to achieve greater fame writing music and lyrics to such musicals as A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, Assassins, In The Woods, and my favorite, Sweeney Todd, of which I saw a wonderful version by the HGO two years ago. In a way, he really bridged the gap between the Rogers and Hammerstein era of the 40’s and 50’s with the later theater style of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Coming from a broken home, a young Sondheim befriended one James Hammerstein son of Oscar Hammerstein II.  The elder Hammerstein became a father figure, mentor, and teacher extraordinaire to the boy.  Wikipedia relates a tale how a young  Sondheim brought an early piece of work to Hammerstein for his opinion.  Hammerstein remarked that it was terrible, but if he wanted to know why, Hammerstein would tell him.  That day, the elder gave his pupil a master class in song writing.

Hammerstein’s death in 1960 was a blow to the composer and I am sure there is something to be said about his pre-1960 work as compared to his post 1960 work in relation to this event but would take more journalistic effort on my end which I am not willing to do on a Saturday post.  The video below also sums it up better that I could (or am willing today- it is Labor Day at the time of this writing).  In short, post 60’s, Sondheim not only pushed the envelope; he broke though it.  I will also say this:  Sondheim is an Emmy short from going EGOT so start working on those TV shows.

 

Anyway, here is this.  A recording from a 1983 concert sponsored by the Whitney Museum’s Composer’ Showcase series, under the direction of Charles Schwartz.

With a six musician ensemble, Sondheim’s work from his repretoire of music and lyrics (no Gypsy or West Side Story) is performed by actors and actresses who previously performed his work on the stage.  Such personnel include Judy Kaye, Cris Groenendaal, Steven Jacob, Thomas Faye, George Hearn, Victoria Mallory, Liz Callaway, and Bob Gunton.

Normally, I like the more obscure numbers on albums for samples, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, I decided to go with one of Sondheim’s more popular numbers, from A Little Night Music, “Send In The Clowns” sung by Angela Lansbury, who was not only in the Todd clips above, but made her first musical theater debut in 1964’s production of nine shows, Anyone Can Whistle.  If you notice the laughter and applause when she mentions she brought her own accompanist, that is because she is joined by Sondheim on the piano.

Sondheim’s body of work along with his many Tony’s speak for themselves.  Satisfactory record.

 

 

OST-Gypsy

Broadway month continues to roll on here at the show and I am still at the time of this writing waiting for Houston to dry up after the weekend that Harvey struck.  Hopefully I can go back to work in another day or so.  This was $1.  I got it mainly because I love Rosalind Russell.

Which is strange as the vocals on this record are not 100% hers.  Rather, they are blended with contro-alto Lisa Kirk.  Russell, who was not stranger to singing having performed on Broadway in Wonderful Town, found that the vocals were beyond her scope (or more likely this was found for her).  Oddly enough, Russell and her husband had flirted with a straight drama adaptation of the source material. the 1957 autobiography of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee but were unable to get the rights.  The actress who played Gypsy Rose Lee, Natalie Wood, sung her own songs, which is surprising as she did not do so on West Side Story.

But here is this 1962 movie, based on the 1959 production of which some critics have called the perfect musical.  With a script written by Leonard Spigelgass based on the original book by Arthur Laurents with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jules Styne, the film was a critical and financial success, earning three Oscar nominations.  The film also stared Karl Malden and was produced and directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

For a sample, I went with “Some People”.

Satisfactory.  Again, I would expect to hear more about the Broadway production when that album comes up. For the record, I liked Russell’s version of “Rose’s Turn” better then Merman’s but felt perhaps that song should go to the originator.