Although not a perfect piece, the two things the original Broadway cast recording had going for it was the star power of Bernadette Peters and Martin Short in the leads and a purely old-fashioned Broadway score. They were perfectly cast as the unsuspecting lovers Paula and Elliot, who, through unusual circumstances, are forced to live together and eventually fall in love in spite of themselves. In their place for the London cast recording are Ann Crumb and Gary Wilmot who do respectably well given the lack of depth in the new material. Sorely missed though are Martin's frenetic energy and Bernadette's belt. Adding to the disappointment in this new score is the fact that 2 of the old tunes, "Elliott Garfield Grant" and "Good News/Bad News," were left in and that is the only time the recording jumps to life. In place of such tunes as "No More," "A Beat Behind," and "I Think I Can Play This Part?" we have "I'll Take the Sky," "Body Talk," and "The Future Isn't What It Used To Be." Being that there was nothing wrong with the original songs, I can't understand why they replaced them. In fact, they are inferior, musically and lyrically. There is only one song that is a major improvement, which is sung by Mrs. Crosby, played by the talented Shezwae Powell, and that is the song "If You Break Their Hearts." It shows the character has some emotional attachment to Paula and her daughter, Lucy. On the whole, the melodies are pleasant but the lyrics dull and largely forgettable. Not only that, the lyrics seem to be mirror images of what Mr. Zippel wrote in the first place. Since this production closed as quickly as the Broadway one, I think it is fairly obvious at this point that the lyrics weren't at fault. Maybe this property wasn't worth musicalizing in the first place? I doubt that since this is a love story and love stories are ideally suited to musicalization. Emotions run high in this story and that certainly gave the writers plenty of opportunity to give each character a reason to sing, which is what they did in the original score. In the new recording, they seem to be reining in the emotions, which doesn't seem to work. The original recording was over-orchestrated, even threatening to drown out Bernadette at times. This new one seems anemic by comparison using a smaller orchestra of 10 pieces as opposed to the original's 39.
Anyone who was a fan of the original Broadway cast recording will most certainly dislike this new one. Unfortunately, I could not recommend that anyone buy this CD, unless you are a Marvin Hamlisch, Ann Crumb or Gary Wilmot fan. I do recommend the original Broadway cast recording though. One interesting observation is that this London production was produced by a man named Paul Elliott which I thought was interesting considering the names of the main characters are Paula and Elliot.
The latest blockbuster to hit Broadway, Ragtime, has just been reinterpreted by the Brad Ellis Little Big Band and released on Varese Sarabande records. To anyone who is a fan of this musical, this CD is a must have. To start off with, it includes the first ever recording of "Sarah Brown Eyes" and includes what may be the only recording of the cut song, "I Have a Feeling." But that is not the only reason to acquire this terrific recording. Unlike most jazz interpretations, they stick to the melodies very closely and every song is instantly recognizable. "Daddy's Son" is done with a bluesy feel to it featuring mostly horns. Likewise on the intro to "'Till We Reach That Day" which has a morose sound to it as a result, which is very appropriate to the tune. But on the upside, there are toe-tappers too, including the title song, "Gettin' Ready Rag," "New Music," "Henry Ford," and "What a Game!" You will soon be dancing and tapping your toes to these rousing tunes. Mr. Ellis adds nice arpeggio flourishes to "Goodbye My Love" that adds a bit of excitement to it. Although Lynn Ahrens' lyrics are without a doubt brilliant, it is nice to hear Stephen Flaherty's wonderfully melodic and intricate music without any vocals. He has written some of the finest music to ever hit a Broadway stage since the late 60s. This CD will whet your appetite for the forthcoming 2 disc Broadway set which I, for one, can hardly wait. But I am truly happy to have this recording along with the original concept recording to satisfy me in the meantime.
Soundbytes: Varese Sarabande will release the concert recording of the 14th annual S.T.A.G.E. benefit, Lerner, Loewe, Lane & Friends on March 24th.
Some sad news to report. The previously announced reissue of Promises, Promises appears not to be happening in May. According to the press offices at Rykodisc, it is not on their release schedule in May or anytime in the near future, so it seems it is off for now. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Arista will be re-issuing Funny Lady in May. The new CD will feature a small amount of additional score music, plus remastered sound quality.
John Yap of JAY records is currently at work on mixing and editing the following musicals as part of their Master Works series, which is preserving classic musicals as they were first heard on the Broadway stage with the original book, lyrics, music and orchestrations. Most of these releases will most likely be 2 disc sets since they feature all the dance music as well as all reprises.
First up is My Fair Lady to be released some time in March and then Lady in the Dark starring Maria Friedman in May. After which 110 in the Shade, Wonderful Town, Fiddler on the Roof, and Anyone Can Whistle will be released. Also on their schedule are Annie, Brigadoon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Music Man, 42nd Street and Anything Goes.
And in the studio recording is The Most Happy Fella with Karen Ziemba reprising the role of Cleo that she played in the NYCO production. After all of this, work will begin on Finian's Rainbow, Meet Me in St. Louis and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
On top of all this John plans to have the complete recording of Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby ready for when the touring production opens on Broadway.
There are conflicting reports out there as who is to "blame" for there not being a West End recording of Chicago. Playbill has reported that it is Ute Lemper's record label that is the problem and my sources have said that it is Ruthie Henshall's. Both women are now exclusive artists of PolyGram records and BMG has the recording rights to record Chicago and apparently have no intentions of waiving their rights either. So it will either be recorded with Ute's replacement by BMG or PolyGram will record it with Ute and Ruthie using different supporting singers and different orchestrations. So stay tuned, this could get interesting... as if it weren't already. For those who can't wait for a recording can buy Ute's new CD, The Best of Ute Lemper, which features her singing "All That Jazz."
Join me in 2 weeks when I will be reviewing Leading Men Don't Dance,
Divorce Me Darling and Davis Gaines solo CD, Against the
Tide. 'Til then, happy listening!