Original Cast Recording- Annie Get Your Gun

And with this, we are done with our month long salute to Broadway. Overall, it went OK although I must say, I was unable to post what is my favorite musical Guys and Dolls.  Also painfully omitted is The Music Man which I already posted some time back  Other than that, here is this which has been all over this blog this month.  Well, saving the best for last with this original cast recording.

This has been the end of my month long salute to that old Broad, Broadway.  Despite really being sick of musical records this month, I learned something interesting about the evolution of musicals while doing this post.  You had the early 20th century musical theater in which you had either follies or songs that are separate and really highlight the performer rather than the story.  That is why I can name about a dozen Rodgers and Hart songs but none of their musicals (with the exception of Pal Joey but that is more because of the movie with Frank Sinatra).  Then you have the Golden Age of 1940-1964 with the book musical I have been mostly highlighting.  During this time as well as the last era, the songs were American popular music.  But the story’s and the musicals themselves were just as important.  Then finally in 1964, we saw yet another shift.  Rock and roll and other forms had pushed Broadway music out of the pop charts.  However, the works themselves had become bigger than ever.  This is still evident today as you can look at Les Miserables, Phantom of The Opera, Chicago, and so on, but would be pressed to name a song from any, despite the music is just as good as it ever was.  In short, it would seem the music and the overall work over the last century were on two different trajectories which existed together during that middle golden age. At least that is how I see it.

The original production which opened in 1946, ran 1,147 performances.  For more information, check out the video below as I am exhausted on the subject of Annie and musicals in general. I must again say, I got a lot of mileage out of these videos and found them quite enjoyable.

For a sample, I went with what is perhaps one of the greatest duets ever to grace the stage, not to mention one that I threw up several times this month, “Anything You Can Do”.

Satisfactory.  Another month done. No more Broadway for awhile.

Bravo Pops Symphony Orchestra- Gigi/ My Fair Lady

Only three more posts for this Broadway salute.  This record was only a dollar.  It contains two works of the Broadway team of Lerner and Lowe, the film the dup composed Gigi, and perhaps their most famous work, My Fair Lady.  For the purposes of this post, we are going to pretend the Gigi side does not exist, despite the fact that the duo would covert the movie into a Broadway musical in 1973.

I posted the Original Cast Recording for My Fair Lady a couple months back and had a pretty lengthy write up so I am not going to rehash many of the specifics here other than the fact that it ran for 2,717 shows, which at the time (1956-1962) was the longest Broadway production.

On the last post,  I noted that I am not a huge fan of this piece.  That has not changed.  Still do not find it believable.  I mean Professor Henry Higgins clearly prefers the company of men.  

This album is credited to the Bravo Pops Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Senati.  Senati, the orchestra and Bravo records did a series of musical albums in the late 50’s/ early 60’s.  Broadway musical albums that is.  I get that all music is musical.

But despite my feelings about this work, “The Street Where You Live” is still one of my favorite songs.  Here it is as a sample. 

Meh.  Could have used some vocals. Also, maybe at this point, I am just sick of listening to musicals.

Original Cast Recording- Little Mary Sunshine

All most done this month.  So close.  Keep focused.  Let’s get this done.  This record was $3.20.  Not sure why I bought it other than I wanted to check out a musical I was not familiar with.  Maybe the Mounties in the gatefold influenced me as well.

Little Mary Sunshine, with book, music, and lyrics by Rick Besoyan (1924-1970), was a throw back to the old timey operettas of earlier times.  Besoyan, himself, cut his teeth in performances of Gilbert and Sullivan.  The production itself, which opened in 1959, was an off-Broadway affair and is perhaps among one of the most successful, running for 1,143 shows. A West End production followed in 1962.  Today, this piece remains popular by small time/ amatuer groups.

The original production was directed and choreographed by Ray Harrison.  Eileen Brennan stared in the title role with William Graham as Captain Warington and John McMartin as Corporal Jester.  The stage production consisted of two pianos but an orchestra was added to this cast recording.

Set in the Colorado Rockies, the play involves Native Americans and Little Mary Sunshine in a land dispute with the Gubermint led by the Mounties (the play calls them Forrest Rangers which is more American but come on man, look at them.  they are clearly  Mounties). Trouble, conflict, hilarity, and love then ensue. 

The musical numbers hark back to those earlier romantic operettas and are very tongue in cheek as I am told.  Besoyan was highly influenced by the duets of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald as well as lyrical waltzes, and counterpoint medleys. All of which are here on this album, recorded and released in 1960.

For a sample, I went with what Wikipedia seemed to highlight, “Playing Croquet” which unfortunately has become annoying stuck in my head. So listen at your own risk.  I also like “Mata Hari” as well.

Descent album.  Satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- Gypsy

Yay.  It is Saturday and one more week of the Broadway theme I have driven into the ground.  This was $4.  It has been described by critics as the perfect mid 20th century American book musical.  Quite a bold statement.

This production, based on the memoirs of old timey stripper Gypsy Rose Lee was a project of producer David Merrick and actress Ethel Merman.  With direction and choreography from Jerome Robbins, a book by Arthur Larents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show opened in May of 1959 and ran 702 performances.  It also starred Merman, Jack Klugman, and Sandra Church.

Known as musical theater’s King Lear, the production is as much a testament to the lead character, Rose, the demanding stage mother who is either a saint or a monster, depending on what critical analysis you buy into. Regardless, the songs have become popular standards.  Various revivals have gone on over time.  The film version which was posted earlier this month also was released in 1962.

This album itself, won a Grammy. Here from that effort is the catharsis moment for the ultimate stage mother in “Rose’s Turn”.

Satisfactory.

New World Orchestra-WRC Production- The Sound of Music

Broadway month is getting closer to the finish line with this, which I bought for a dollar.  I guess a bought it to write a post on the influential Rodgers and Hammerstein production.

The Sound of Music was the last piece of work for the duo as Hammerstein would die of cancer nine months after its premier on Broadway (which was 1959).  Featuring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel in the leading roles, the story of the Austrian Von Trapp Family, the original production ran 1,443 performances and won five Tony’s including Best Musical.  A film version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer followed in 1965 which itself won five Oscars.  Numerous revivals and production followed and most every song on this has become a standard over time.

I am not sure where this came from other than a reference to the WRC (World Record Club, a UK mail subscription record club) and some information on London productions.  I believe this came out in 1961.  The credits include music by   The New World Orchestra led by Jan Cervenka, with arrangements Bobby Richards and production by Cyril Ornadel.  As far as the principal actress/actors go, that would be two London performers, Adele Leigh and Ian Wallace, both currently deceased.  I am sure I could find something more out on this if I were so inclined, which today I am not.

For some reason, Sound of Music never really took off with me. I know, even with Julie Andrews in the movie version.  I think something about seeing her as a nun probably does not do it for me.  Well, however, I feel, this was a hughly popular musical and score and as a sample I went with ” My Favorite Things”  which served as a basis for his oft-cited jazz cover which served as the basis for the Door’s Robbie Kreiger’s “Light My Fire”.

As far as this album goes though, meh.  Nothing really radical or new on this.  Have not meh’d an album all month.  Feels kind of good.

Original Cast Recording- Jennie

 Broadway month just keeps rolling on with this that I bought for $2, although I can not remember why.  Perhaps it was because it was a little known piece from a stage legend.  Maybe I was hoping for a piece of gold to come out of this. Also try not reading this post in a Forrest Gump voice.

Jennie was the last major work from the team of Howard Dietz (lyrics) and Arthur Schwartz (music).  The two had paired to write songs for over a dozen or so musicals mostly in the 1920’s and 1930’s (pre-Oklahoma days).  Among their most famous songs perhaps are “Alone Together” and “That’s Entertainment”.

With a book by Arnold Schulman, the original intent was to base the story around the life of silent film star, Laurette Taylor. But as with many biographic productions of the 20th century, it strayed pretty far off from the source material and in the end, bore little resemblance to Taylor’s story.  Also, the production was produced by Mary Martin’s husband, and financed by the both of them.

Jennie opened in October of 1963 and closed after 82 performances in December of the same year.  Pre-Broadway tryouts were plagued with problems and although audiences and critics enjoyed the songs as well as Martin’s performances, they liked little else.

For a sample, I was pulled in a few directions.  I liked the dancing instrumental “Sauce Diablo”.  I also really liked “High is Better Than Low”.  Finally, here is the only song I know of about Seattle, “See Seattle” sung by Commando Cody, himself, George D Wallace.

Eh.  I could go both ways on this.  There was nothing that really jumped out as great but I did like several numbers and I posted three samples.  Satisfactory.

Doris Day & Robert Goulet- Annie Get Your Gun

Our month long salute to Broadway continues with this $3 selection based on the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun, with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and book by Dorothy and Herbert Fields.

The musical was a fictional account of the romance between sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.  So in love were the real couple that when Oakley passed in 1926, Butler quit eating and starved to death 18 days later.  In the 1950 film version, however, that romance was fictionalized as in the fact that the principle actors, Howard Keel and Betty Hutton, hated each other.

This album released in 1963, was the one in a series of albums by Columbia Records featuring contract artists interpreting musicals.  I.E. there was no underlying production to accompany this.  As both principles were huge stars, this was probably the biggest release of the series. Under the direction of Franz Allers and the arrangements of Phil Lang, Doris Day who was  a huge star at the time recorded the vocals on the West Coast and sent them to the East for production.  Lang then wrote the arrangements around Day’s vocals.

Day, for her part, does great with this giving Annie’s songs a touch of country bumpkin which I feel is needed for the role.  I think that Hutton did the best in this vein as compared to a Merman or a Garland, but this is my opinion.  Goulet, does as Goulet does.  That is quite well.

For a sample, I decided to showcase Day’s contribution with “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” along with her and Goulet with “Anything You Can Do”, which I feel is a bit more remarkable since it was recorded so disjointedly.

Satisfactory

OST-The Pirates of the Penzance

When I first got this, Kevin Kline was on cable on a pretty solid basis, most notably the Cole Porter Biopic De-Lovely.  When I was picking out records for the month, this trend continued but with the movie based on the Broadway production this soundtrack is from.  So it kind of went full circle.  Plus bring a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan in general made this purchase inevitable, especially with the low price of $1.20 with discount for a double record.

The Pirates of the Penzance, was G&S’s fifth collaboration and actually the first of their productions to open in the US (it opened in New York in 1879).  This was done to combat the lack of international copyright laws in the US. With their previous works such as HMS Pinafore, over 150 production companies staged unauthorized performances in America with many liberties to the text and no money in the pockets of the creators.  After a three month run (that initially remedied the fore mentioned problem), the production was opened in London in 1880 and ran for 383 performances, garnishing praise from both critics and audiences. Filled with the patter and counterpoint vocals common in G&S’s work along with a playful parody of the works of Verdi, Gounard, Mozart, and Donizetti, Pirates remains one of the pairs most popular works today.

Though there have been many productions over the years, the most notable was staged in 1980 by Joe Papp and the New York Shakespeare in the Park organization.  After 10 previews and 35 performances, the production was moved to Broadway  were it ran 20 previews and 787, becoming a massive success. The performance featured more swashbuckling (which makes me cringe to think what prior versions were like), more musical comedy, enhanced instrumentation and arrangements, and a restoration of the original G&S ending. The production was nominated for seven Tony’s, winning three including one for Best Revival and a Best Director nod for Wilford Leach. It is this Broadway production for which this album is based. It has also served as the musical basis for most productions since.

Based on the success on Broadway, a movie version of this production was made with most of the principals in place.  This was released in 1983 but was not as successful as its stage counterpart.  Maybe perhaps as America was not ready to accept movie-musicals again but also in part because a good amount theater owners boycotted the release due to the fact that it was also released to a direct home market thru subscription tv at the same time.  What ever reason you want to believe, the movie was a box office bomb.  However, growing up in the mid-80’s, I do vividly recall HBO playing the crap out of this as well as making a big deal about it.  This and a half naked Brooke Shields were my early memories of HBO (reinforced because Rex Smith looked very similar to the actor in Blue Lagoon).  Anyway, back to this narrative, I tried watching it as a 10 year old on TV at the time but could not as ultimately I found it too silly. (I also found Blue Lagoon to be boring despite a half naked Brooke Shields).

Well,  I watched again for the first time last month and again, I found it was still rather silly.  But then again, wast G&S production isn’t?  I was impressed this go around by both the music and the actors and found it to be an enjoyable movie.

The star of both the Broadway production and the movie, was undoubtedly Kevin Kline who played the Pirate King.  This was one of his early roles but the Tony he won for Best Actor in a Musical was his second.  As he would later win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in A Fish Called Wanda, he is only short an Emmy and a Grammy to complete the EGOT.  Also, Kline did what Judge Reinhold could not, land Pheobe Cates.  The pair has been married since 1989.  But back to something relevant, Kline’s performance shows a strong comedic timing and great vocal performance.

When the movie played on HBO, the station made a big deal over the performance of Linda Ronstadt, who at the time was a major singing star.  Given her penchant for collaborating with many different styles of artists.  Ronstadt, who played the female lead of Mabel, was nominated for a Tony for her role and generally gave a great performance in the production from at least what I have heard.

The only role that really changed radically thru the Papp productions was that of Little Ruth.  Ruth was played by Patricia Routledge in the Shakespeare in the Park version.  She was later played by Sweeney Todd murderess/ Murder She Wrote sleuth Angela Lansbury in the movie version.  However, for the Broadway run, the role went to Estelle Parsons.

After seeing performances from all of the above (well more like hearing), my favorite tends to lean towards Parsons, although both Lansbury and Routledge gave fine performances. It does prove however, the G&S were able to do something that Hollywood can not do today: provide great roles for older actresses.

The most popular song in the production as well as perhaps the most popular song in all of G&S’s catalog is the “Modern Major General”song.  It has been widely covered, parodied, lampooned, and praised as it showcases the rapid fire patter execution that is the work of the duo.  For the Papp production, the role of the Major General was played by George Rose.

Of course the main plot device centers around the main protagonist, Young Frederick who finds that he is still a slave to duty to the pirates as he was born on the last day of February in a leap year and thus, going by birthdays as per his agreement, is 5 years old and not 21 as he believed.  There was a teacher at my middle school who had the same affliction (although not contractually bound to pirates or such).  She used to tell students that she was 8 years old.  Honestly even at my age back then, I found it annoying. It should also be noted that the role of Frederick, who is the central character was played by Rex Smith, who did an excellent job. He was also the first actor to portray Marvel Comic book hero, Daredevil and I am speculating he was neither the best or the worst at it.

Also of note, the music to the song “With Cat Like Tread” was used for the American song, “Hail, Hail The Gangs All Here” in 1917.  It was subsequently borrowed by Glasgow Celtic fans for their cheers.  The original melody by Sullivan was meant to parody Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus”.

The Papp production also added two songs from other G&S works; “Sorry Her Lot” from Pinafore, and “My Eyes Are Fully Open” from Ruddigore.  It is the latter that has become one of my favorites as it again highlights the rapid fire delivery as well as the vocal interplay that G&S made famous.  The lyrics have been slightly modified to fit the subject of Pirates, but in general, the verse that was suited for Mad Margaret seems a bit strange for Ruth.  However, you fans of  meta-reference should note that Ruth mentions that this is from Ruddigore. And yes, that is Vincent Price in the video below.

In general, I find plot and story wise, that the endings of G&S work are quite silly and Pirates does not detour much from this route.  To find that suddenly, the pirates are all actually noblemen and thus resolved seems kind of weak. Plus I am not sure how stopping pirates by reverence to the Queen would play for a US audience. Music-wise, however, I have the opposite opinion as I feel G&S finales really wrap up the production.  This finale references the big numbers including “General” and “Poor Wandering One”.  It should be noted that for Papp’s version, he restored the original G&S ending as well as returned the “General’s Song” to the finale.

Man, that is a lot of writing.  Well for samples. I decided to go with the “Matter Patter” as well as the Finale.

Top rated album for sure.  Really good job by all involved.  Man, this post turned into more of a book. Expect short posts the rest of this week.

 

VA-This is Broadway’s Best

At a dollar for this double record, I might as just of have walked out without paying for it.  Besides all the really great Broadway songs from some of the greatest Broadway productions by some of the most talented people to grace the stage, this record also includes a detailed booklet of some of the more popular Broadway productions as well as a cover with illustrations from the famous New York cartoonist, Al Hirschfeld.

 

Hirschfeld’s Web Page

Hirschfeld, born in St Louis in 1903, moved to New York with his family and studied art.  He became a commissioned cartoonist for The New York Times and as a self described “Characterist”, he drew countless portrayals of artists, performers, politicians, and other celebrities for just about every publication there was at the time.  

His unique use of pure black lines against white backgrounds made his work iconic.  Hirschfeld passed on in New York in 2003, just months shy of his 100th birthday.

This record, as suggested above, is a collection of iconic Broadway tunes from top productions such as Gypsy, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Finian’s RainbowShow Boat, Kiss Me Kate, West Side Story, Pal Joey, and The Sound Of Music among others.  Performers include Carol Channing, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Ethel Merman, Carol Lawrence, Mary Martin, the list goes on and on.  What more can I saw?  Iconic performers giving performances from iconic productions.  The booklet is also real neat as it has a bunch of pictures. It was released by Columbia Records in 1961.

For a sample, I was pulled in show many directions.  I could have listed the whole album. However, I decided to go with three samples.  First off , from On The Town, here is the signature song, “New York New York”.  Written by Adolphus Green and Betty Comdon in 1944 with music by Leonard Berstein, the original version which ran 462 performances differed from the movie version, which cut all but three of Bernstein’s song. Comdon had a role in the Broadway play along with Green who is here on this track with John Reardon and Cris Alexander.  Also different from the movie is the exclamation that New York is a H-E- double hockey sticks of a town. I realize this is a side note, but I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the filming of the movie version of this musical, just to see a perfectionist Gene Kelly swear and berate Frank Sinatra for missing cues.

I also went with Bye-Bye Birdie’s “Kids”, mostly as a tribute to the Simpsons who both parodies the song as well as the actor who sung it, Paul Lynde. He is joined by Marijane Maricle on vocals.

Finally, just because I like the song, here is Carol Haney with “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game.

Great album.  Great cover.  Great packaging. Top Rated.

OST- Wildcat

I had seen this record over and over during the years and I am not sure why I finally bit on it this January.  I mean besides the obvious tie in to oil and gas, why now? And why at $4.  On a related note, the HGO’s season closed out for me on Saturday with a performance of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seragilo. Overall it was a very good performance (most notably the singer who played Osmin) but it came to close on the heels of the last opera I saw.  So it was a bit of an adjustment to go from epic German opera with fire, swords, and magic helmets to a Viennese Rom-Com.  Interestingly enough, at the time of the original production, the Ottoman Empire and the Turks were to European entertainment what the Australians were to the US in the 1980’s.

Back to this record, this marks Lucille Ball’s first and only foray into Broadway, at the ripe age of 48.  With the book by Richard Nash, music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, this was largely a Ball driven vehicle.  Nash had originally envisioned his lead, “Wildy” Wildcat Jackson to be in her 20’s.  But when Ball showed interest in staring as well as financing the production, the rewrite took place.  It opened on Broadway and ran 171 performances due to lukewarm reviews and the illness of Ball.  The crowds clearly came to see her and when when fell ill, the production had to be suspended.  When she was able to return, the musician’s union demanded payment for the time spent idle and as a result, the production was permanently shelved.

Broadway Database for Wildcat

The story was set in 1912 at the border town of Centavo City.  Wildy and her sister try to take advantage of the recent discovery of oil, navigating a world normally reserved for rough  men.  Along the way she meets Joe Dynamite and the two fall in love in the Broadway sense of the word.  By that I mean, at first, he rejects her but after some musical numbers and some exposition to the story, Joe realized he loves her as well and by the time the final curtain falls, Wildy gets her man as well as a gusher from her well.  The musical also stars Edith King, Paula Stewart, Clifford David, Keith Andes, and Swen Swenson.

The songs are ok.  The big number that seemed to have a life after the production was “Hey Look Me Over”.  I am not sure if it was my set up but Ball’s vocals on the first side seem to be a bit muffled.  Besides that, the music is ok and there are some decent numbers in the show.

For a sample, I went with “El Sombrero”, sung by Ball and the various people at a fiesta.  I also went with “Corduroy Road” which is sung at the erection of the derrick, which in some ways is much different today and and others, not so much so.

Eh.  It was a bit pricey, but decent enough record.  Satisfactory.