Recently released on Q records is the cast recording of the revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man. Hugh Fordin produced this recording as he did this season's other big revival, Kiss Me, Kate (which was released on his own label DRG). This, the fifth recording of the Music Man score to turn up on CD, follows the original Broadway cast recording, the London cast recording, the film soundtrack and an a nearly forgotten studio recording featuring opera stars.
Naturally, the original Broadway cast is a must have CD for any Broadway fan because it preserves one of the finest performances ever on Broadway -- that of Robert Preston in the role of Harold Hill. It also has the exceptional Barbara Cook as Marian Paroo. On the London cast CD Van Johnson and Patricia Lambert (Harold and Marian, respectively) are fine but not nearly as good as their Broadway counterparts and there is less material here.
Then there is the film soundtrack, but since the film is readily available on DVD there is little need to own the soundtrack. Robert Preston got to preserve the role he created which few performers get to do. Shirley Jones was his Marian and she does a fine job though she didn't get to sing "My White Knight," which was replaced by "Being in Love."
The studio cast recording features both "My White Knight" and "Being in Love," and a mixture of both the original orchestrations and the film's orchestrations. Timothy Noble, baritone, as Harold and Kathleen Brett, soprano, as Marian are adequate but rarely make the score shine as it should. An acceptable recording, but hardly necessary, unless you are looking for a complete version.
The cover of the new Broadway recording includes this statement: "Premiere Cast Recording of the Complete Meredith Willson Score!" and it certainly is. It features more dance music than before and, for the first time ever, the reprise of "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" plus more dialogue leading into songs. Movie actor, Craig Bierko, was cast as Harold Hill after an extensive search was held and I must say he is a fine choice. Much has been written about how much he resembles Robert Preston and that can't be denied. However, after listening to all five recordings back to back I can say that he doesn't sound exactly like Preston. He manages to emulate Preston while creating his own character.
Rebecca Luker won the coveted role of Marian Paroo in this revival and I must say she is much better cast here than in the recent revival of The Sound of Music. Her voice is perfectly suited to the music and she sings exquisitely, though lacking the depth of Barbara Cook. Max Casella is Harold's friend Marcellus; he sounds eerily like Buddy Hackett from the film version. Ruth Williamson is a hoot as the Mayor's wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shin. There are new orchestrations by Don Besterman that fit the score and production, but I wonder what was wrong with Don Walker's originals?
While I was not too fond of this production is the theater, I find the CD much more enjoyable without the visuals. This is a sparkling recording of what I found to be an uneven production.
That's all for this week. 'Til next time, happy listening!