The 1966 Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret, is once again the toast of the town in a brand new production revised and directed by Sam Mendes. This new recording is the third recording of this show to be released in the last six months. In addition to the current recording, back in December of '97 JAY records released the first complete recording of this musical and four weeks ago Sony Legacy remastered and re- released the Original Broadway Cast album. In total, on CD, there are six English language recordings of this score: two London cast recordings, the original of the 1968 and the 1986 revival, the film soundtrack and the three that I mentioned above.
For this current production, Mr. Mendes has rewritten the book as well as edited the score. Deleted from the score are "The Telephone Song," "Meeskite," the original "Money" song, "Why Should I Wake Up?" and its Broadway revival replacement, "Don't Go". To offset this, Sally Bowles is given additional songs from the film: "Maybe This Time," "Mein Herr," and "Money." The cut song "I Don't Care Much," used in the last Broadway revival and recorded for the first time on the JAY recording, is used here as well. "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" is now sung by a boy soprano instead of the waiters and Emcee. There are new orchestrations by Michael Gibson which are perfectly suited to the new production and the members of the ensemble all play instruments.
It was wisely decided to recreate the atmosphere of the Kit Kat Klub by adding applause, laughter and whistling after and during the numbers that take place in the cabaret. Even though these sounds are canned, they are mixed in beautifully and are never intrusive. In fact, it adds to the overall theatricality of this recording and makes it one of the liveliest recordings of a musical ever. Although I haven't had the opportunity to see this show yet, I can understand why Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson won their Tony awards. Both offer stellar performances that are absolute perfection. Neither of them are great singers, but they sure can put their songs across with great effect. As Fraulein Schneider, Mary Louise Wilson has a great voice and hits some pretty good notes, but she is surpassed by Lotte Lenya, Lila Kedrova and Judi Dench on previous recordings. Ron Rifkin, another Tony winner for his role of Herr Schultz, exhibits a good singing voice and is excellent in his musical theater debut.
The new recording is a perfect representation of a new and exciting revival that will, no doubt, run for many years. You will be playing this disc over and over again even if you own one of the many recordings I mentioned.
Saturday Night was to have been Stephen Sondheim's Broadway debut. It was announced many times in the New York Times, but never materialized. When finally it was going to get a production, Mr. Sondheim pulled the plug saying that he did not want to go forward with it at the moment. So it lay dormant for many decades, that is until now. Students of the University of Birmingham presented extracts from the show in a concert in the presence of Mr. Sondheim himself. He then allowed The Bridewell Theater Company in London to present the first full production. First Night records is kind enough to give us the world premiere recording from this production.
Saturday Night is about a group of young people in Brooklyn who invested in the stock market in 1929. Mr. Sondheim's score is slightly reminiscent of Merrily We Roll Along, which isn't surprising since it also centers on a group of close friends who happen to be young. While Merrily did not bring to mind a specific time period, you do get the feeling of being in 1929 from listening to Saturday Night. There have been various recordings of individual songs from this score recorded over the years, most notably from Marry Me a Little, which featured the songs, "So Many People," "A Moment with You," and the title song, "Saturday Night." It is nice to have a full recording at last instead of scrounging around on different recordings for songs from this show.
There are rousing tunes as well as lilting ballads. This score took a while to grow on me, but then most Sondheim scores usually do. I found the title song, "Saturday Night", to be very catchy and "So Many People" brings to mind "I Remember" from Sondheim's TV musical Evening Primrose. The CD booklet lacks a synopsis to tell you how these songs fit into the story, but one can still enjoy Sondheim's tuneful score.
Since there are no listings as to who is singing what, it is hard to pick out any outstanding cast members, but all are superb. It is an energetic cast and though each one has to use a Brooklyn accent, not once do any of them come across as phony. Of course, the Sondheim fanatic will have to have this disc.
Mercury Records will record St. Louis Woman with DRG's Hugh Fordin producing. Sessions are scheduled for July 2 - 3. There is no release date set at the moment, but it is likely to be out in the "early fall."
The London cast album of Stepping Out is to be released on August 3rd on First Night records. Due later in the month from the same label is the cast recording of the off-Broadway musical, Zombie Prom from the creators of The Fix.
JAY records has recorded the recent Stephen Sondheim tribute, presented in London in May of this year. The 2-disc set should be released in the fall. Also due from this label is a complete recording of the musical, Sweet Charity, starring Jacqueline Dankworth. They also have a solo disc from Caroline O'Connor, "What I Did for Love," that will be released in Australia first, to coincide with the opening of Chicago in which Miss O'Connor plays Velma. She opens her disc with "All That Jazz" and closes it with "Nowadays." It will also feature the first commercial recording of a song from the cult musical, Side Show, "Who Will Love Me As I Am?", sung as a solo.
That's all for this week. Join me next week when I will be reviewing a few singles from various musicals that have been released over the last 2 months. 'Till then, happy listening .