Sound Advice by Joseph Molnar
Peter Pan, Divorces and Leading Men

For my next 3 columns, I will be concentrating on 9 releases from JAY records. JAY records is dedicated to preserving musical theater scores in their entirety using the latest recording technology available. Each and every CD is recorded in full digital Dolby Surround Sound that gives the recording more of a "live" spacious sound than ever before.

Peter Pan was a boy who dreamed of never growing up and his dream came true. I had dreamed of a day when there would be a brand new recording of the Broadway musical Peter Pan and the hopes of that dream coming true seemed pretty dim; that is until now. JAY records has just released a CD of the current U.S. tour starring Cathy Rigby as the boy who could fly and Paul Shoeffler as the one handed Captain. Although not a huge hit when it first opened on Broadway, Mary Martin has become indelibly attached to the role forever as a result of an excellent cast recording and 2 TV productions, one of which is currently available on video. As a result it has since become somewhat of a classic, so it is certainly nice to have a brand new recording of it. I had seen the first Broadway revival of this show with Sandy Duncan and had prayed for a recording then, but unfortunately it never happened. That was in the early 80s, since then Cathy Rigby had assumed the role in the 90s and has made the role her own, just like her predecessors. Ms. Rigby possesses a fine theatrical voice, but is less trained than Ms. Martin. I am going out on a limb here and say that I prefer Ms. Rigby's performance over Ms. Martin's because she has a much less polished sound and as a result, sounds more "boyish." For this production, "Oh, My Mysterious Lady" has been cut, presumably because Ms. Rigby couldn't handle the coloratura-like flourishes that Mary Martin so brilliantly executed. It is sorely missed, but is an extraneous piece of music and not necessary for the story. Paul Shoeffler offers a slightly different spin on Captain Hook. He has a better singing voice than Cyril Ritchard and sounds more powerful and less sniveling in some of his line readings. Another plus for this CD is the addition of a narrator, played by Jenny Agutter, for the prologue. It helps to set up the forthcoming tale and makes it feel as if your mother is telling you a bedtime story. There are some new orchestrations on this recording as well, most noticeably in "I Won't Grow Up." So overall, I prefer this CD to the original recording and cannot wait for the show to reopen on Broadway. Till then, run out and grab this CD.

Also just released from JAY is the London cast recording of the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Divorce Me, Darling! This show is a sequel to the British musical The Boyfriend which launched Julie Andrews career and eventually got her cast in the star-making role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. In her place this time is Ruthie Henshall who has a silvery soprano, which is similar to Miss Andrews own and holds her own quite well in comparison. The Boyfriend was a little confection of a musical that was a typical "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, then boy gets girl back" story. In this sequel, Sandy Wilson reunited the same characters 10 years later in Nice in the 1930s after each has rushed into marriage. I truly believe no musical should ever have a sequel (sequels only seem to be successful in Hollywood only anyway) but when the music is as charming as this, one cannot help but forgive one for trying. The score is a pastiche of 1930s music, mostly aping the music of Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter. There is even one song that resembles one of Mr. Porter's songs too closely, "You're Absolutely Me." It is a pale carbon copy of "You're the Top." On the whole, this score is very similar to The Boyfriend and is quite charming as is the star-studded cast which includes Liliane Montevecchi, Linzi (Carrie) Hateley, Tim Flavin, Kevin Colson and Marti Webb. So if you are a fan of The Boyfriend and want to hear more of the same then I suggest you get this CD.

Released in the fall of last year, JAY's Leading Men Don't Dance features some of today's top leading men, who, unfortunately, are working in other mediums, such as television. They are George Dvorsky, currently understudying Douglas Sills as the Scarlet Pimpernel, Scott Holmes of As the World Turns fame, Richard Muenz, Byron Nease (Phantom of the Opera) and Ron Raines from Guiding Light. Leading Men Don't Dance was a revue that was originally produced at Rainbow and Stars and written by one of its leading men, Byron Nease along with Scott Barnes. They have constructed a clever revue about how leading men used to be, big guys with big voices. They sang loud, they did not dance, wear masks or cat suits or sing in falsetto. Part of the joy of this revue is that they do not take themselves very seriously and they poke fun at themselves and at each other. These five men have a camaraderie that is remarkable. You can tell they have great respect for each other's talents. It is a sin that each of these men isn't currently in a musical on Broadway. They each possess a terrific set of pipes and for the most part it is easy to distinguish between them, with the exception of Ron Raines and Bryon Nease who nearly sound a like. Each of these talented men gets to sing a song they had previously sung on stage before, which makes this CD all the more desirable for fans who have been following the careers of these actors. They cover a wide range of musical theater classics, such as "They Call the Wind Maria," "Stranger in Paradise," "There But for You Go I," and "This Nearly was Mine." They even blend their voices together for 7 of the 18 tracks and when they do, it is thrilling. Wisely, it was decided to record this CD "live" at Clinton studios in NYC before an invited audience which makes this recording even more enjoyable to listen to. It is always nice to hear an audience's reaction to a performer and there is plenty to react to; it is filled with comedic moments that will have you laughing along. This was one of my favorite theater recordings from last year and I highly recommend it, it is not to be missed.

Soundbytes: Grease is still the word! In honor of the 20th anniversary of Grease, Polydor/A & M will release a remastered edition of the soundtrack album. Let's hope they put the songs in the order in which they appear in the film. On May 5 Rhino will issue Grease is the Word: Boppin' Tunes from the Movie Soundtrack, with new versions of the songs recorded by '50s "superstars." Some of the performers on the CD will include Lou Christie, Darlene Love, Lesley Gore, Freddy "Boom-Boom" Cannon, Big Daddy, and Rosanne Limeres.

The release date for the newly remastered soundtrack of Funny Lady by Arista will be May 19. It will not include additional material as I previously mentioned. It will only contain the same tracks as the Bay Cities release, but in film sequence.

RCA Victor seems to be very busy these days. They are recording the cast albums of The Sound of Music and Cabaret revivals both of which will be released on May 19th. They are also planning on doing the cast album of High Society which will probably be released in June or possibly July.

Although nothing is set, Sony Classical is in negotiations to record Encores' St. Louis Woman. But now that Vanessa L. Williams has joined the cast makes me wonder whether or not her record company, Mercury, would want to record the event. There is also the possibility of a video of it to be a possible PBS "special event," but this is not confirmed.

Due in stores this Tuesday, March 24, are Varese Sarabande's cast recordings of the '98 S.T.A.G.E. benefit, Lerner, Loewe, and Lane and the off-Broadway revue The Irish and How They Got That Way. Also due is MCA/Universal's remastered soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar for the 25th Anniversary. A special edition of the film has been released on video in letterbox for the first time.

Finally Tom Shepard is now in London producing the London cast album of Chicago for BMG/UK with both Ute Lemper and Ruthie Henshall. It still hasn't been decided if the album will be only released in the U.K. or in the U.S. as well.

That's all for this week. Join me in 2 weeks when I will be reviewing JAY's complete recordings of Jesus Christ Superstar, On the Town and The Pajama Game. 'Till then, happy listening!

We are partners with USA. Click on links for purchase information.
In Association with

We are also partners with Amazon Canada.