Sound Advice by Joseph Molnar

The second installment of Broadway Masterworks CDs from Sony Classical/Legacy includes two Leonard Bernstein scores - West Side Story and On the Town - plus Annie and The Sound of Music. Unlike the previous set of releases, there is no restored original cast material, but all have bonus material added this time. Like the previous set, the sound is incredible and worth repurchasing.

The "baby" of the bunch is Annie, which opened in 1977 and made a star of its original Annie, Andrea McArdle. Annie, of course, is based on the comic strip "Little Orphan Annie" and tells the tale of Annie and her quest to find her biological parents. Cast in the role of the mean old spinster in charge of the orphanage where Annie lives is the incomparable Dorothy Loudon, who is deliciously evil in her two comic numbers. While many people think of Annie as a children's show, it is a solid piece of musical theater, and its score is among the best in Broadway history. It has an old-fashioned score that contains the standard used by all little girls for auditions, "Tomorrow."

This is the first time Annie has been remastered for CD, and this time around they have added bonus material. That material consists of six songs from a backers' audition in 1972 that were eventually cut from the show, and the first public performance of "Tomorrow." These cuts songs demonstrate why it took Annie an additional five years to make it to Broadway. Four of these songs are unknown except "Just Wait" which has the same melody as "Little Girls" and "We've Got Annie" which was rewritten for the film version.

The Sound of Music, which is currently enjoying its first Broadway revival, has been remastered for CD for the 3rd time, having previously been released in 1986 and 1993. This time around there are two bonus tracks - a symphonic medley of songs from the show as performed by William Steinberg & The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a single version of "Do-Re-Mi", by Mitch Miller and the Sing-Along chorus and the Kids from The Sound of Music. In addition, this reissue reproduces the original artwork for the first time. This recording is irreplaceable due to the presence of Mary Martin in the lead and Patricia Neway as Mother Abbess. Back in May, when the revival cast recording was released, I discussed in greater detail the few recordings that exist, so I will not repeat myself here.

West Side Story is also receiving its third remastering for CD. This is the first time that it is remastered at an affordable price. When West Side Story opened on Broadway, no one involved could have realized the impact the show would make on musical theater, having become a ground breaking musical using dance - equally as much as songs and dialogue - to tell the story. While there have been numerous recordings of this score since, this recording remains unmatched. No one comes close to Chita Rivera, except perhaps Caroline O'Connor on JAY's complete recording, and no one can top Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert as the star-crossed lovers. There is also the excellent soundtrack, but many of those performers were dubbed.

The bonus tracks on this CD consist of symphonic dance music that went unrecorded when the original Broadway cast recording was done. These tracks were recorded four years after the show opened on Broadway and they are performed by the New York Philharmonic and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. While these selections have been included on recent recordings of this score, they are nice additions to this release.

On the Town is currently enjoying its second revival on Broadway, so Sony's remastering is timed perfectly. Back in April, I discussed the few recordings that exist of this show, so there is no need to reiterate. This recording is more of a studio recording as opposed to a cast recording, since it was recorded 16 years after the show opened on Broadway. Nonetheless, it is a recording worth having, since it is the first recording of the score and is the only recording available on CD that can be considered an original cast recording.

Four of the original cast members were used here; Nancy Walker and Cris Alexander were reunited with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green. John Reardon was hired to fill-in for John Battles in the role of Gabey and does a fine job. There is no restored material that was cut from the original release, but, as with West Side Story, the bonus material consists of three dance episodes conducted by Leonard Bernstein and performed by the New York Philharmonic. Also included is a recording of the overture conducted by Lehman Engel.

That's all for now. Join me next time when I will be reviewing the next set of Broadway Masterworks CDs, Company, Girl Crazy, A Little Night Music, Oh, Kay! and South Pacific.

'Til then, happy listening!

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