Rykodisc, who has been reissuing many of MGM/UA's soundtracks over the past couple of months, has just given us the first soundtracks to feature Broadway scores, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Man of La Mancha. Each disc features the soundtrack as it was originally released on LP, but each has been lovingly remastered. These are being touted as Deluxe editions, which means that, as a bonus, Rykodisc has included the original trailers of the films as shown in the theaters to view on your PC at home.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was the first Broadway musical for which Stephen Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics. It is one of two Sondheim musicals to make it onto celluloid, the other being A Little Night Music.
Forum was loosely based on the works of Plautus and has a very convoluted story that is just too involved to get into here. The film, released in 1966, only four short years after its Broadway opening, was a so-so adaptation of one of the funniest musicals to ever hit the Broadway stage. Sondheim's score, his shortest ever, was severely truncated for the movie, with only five of the twelve songs surviving.
Also on this disc is the incidental music by Ken Thorne, which is meshed together with Sondheim's original score. On the plus side, it did feature the performances of Zero Mostel as Pseudolus and Jack Gilford as Hysterium, from the original Broadway production, and Phil Silvers as Lycus, who would go on to play Pseudolus in the '72 revival. In addition, it featured Michael " Phantom of the Opera" Crawford as Hero.
I must admit that this is one recording I never thought we would see on CD, since most of the score was cut and there are three cast recordings (two Broadway and the original London) readily available. Also, the movie has been available on video for many years. Still, it is nice to have this recording, and the sound is impeccable. There is one problem, though; the included dialogue from the film sounds as if phoned in from another country, giving the disc an uneven sound at times.
Fortunately, the Pulitzer Prize winner How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying had better luck when it transferred to the silver screen in 1967. Like Forum. This musical is the work of one man, Frank Loesser, and, unlike Forum, nine of its thirteen original songs survived. It ranks as one of the finest Broadway musicals to transfer to film. Part of that success was due to the fact that Robert Morse got to reprise his Tony award winning role of J. Pierrepont Finch, a young man who climbs the corporate ladder very quickly and with no experience, thanks to a book titled .. . well, you guessed. Michele Lee was given the opportunity to recreate the role of Rosemary, a role she did not originate on Broadway (she was, however, the first replacement after the original, Bonnie Scott). Rudy Vallee also reprised his role of J. B. Biggley. Under the direction of Nelson Riddle, the score seems as fresh as ever on this reissue, and even sounds more like a cast recording since it features so many Broadway performers. The fidelity of this disc is equally impressive and is highly recommended even if you already own the Broadway cast recording. But, then again, for this movie also, the videocassette has been available for years.
Last, Man of La Mancha made the jump to celluloid in 1972 and was even less impressive than Forum. Forum, at least, featured some of the original players from the Broadway cast. For this adaptation, film stars were tapped to play the leads. Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren were cast as Don Quixote and Aldonza, respectively. James Coco also came aboard as the sidekick, Sancho Panza. Dubbing Peter O'Toole's vocals was Simon Gilbert, who does a fantastic job, thought not as good as Richard Kiley, the original Broadway Don Quixote. Unfortunately, Sophia Loren does her own singing and just doesn't cut it, but gives a great acting performance that is worth hearing. Likewise with James Coco on his two numbers, & quot;I Really Like Him" and "A Little Gossip". Only two numbers were dropped for the soundtrack "What Do You Want of Me?" and "To Each His Dulcinea". The musical direction by Laurence Rosenthal is true to the original and is grand.
Although I have stated it about the two previous CD's, I must stress again how good the sound quality is on these discs. My hat goes off to Rykodisc for doing such an excellent job. Too bad they couldn't have done something about the inserted dialogue. There is one problem with this disc; it seems the tracks are not in the correct order as they are listed on the jacket back. You can, however, make an exchange by mail if you have already purchased this disc.
Soundbytes: Upcoming releases for October 6th include The Night of the Hunter, a studio cast recording of a new musical and Linda Purl's solo disc "Alone Together". Both are to be released by Varese Sarabande. The highly anticipated original Broadway cast recording of Triumph of Love, Ron Raines' "Broadway Passion" and "What I Did For Love", and Caroline O'Connor's solo disc are all due from JAY records on the same date.
At long last, the concept album of Frank Wildhorn's new musical Civil War, featuring country artists, is due on October 13th. There is to be a pop single of the song, "Virginia," by Gene Miller who will be in the show, released prior to the release of the concept album.
That's all for this week, 'til next time, happy listening!