Masterworks Broadway Releases Eight Long-Unavailable Cast Recordings
Sony Music Entertainment - 04/07/2009
Masterworks Broadway continues to explore the rich history of its unequaled Broadway and Off-Broadway catalogue with the release of eight new digital-only editions of classic cast recordings. For the first time in authorized versions - using the original masters as sources - DisinHairited, Hazel Flagg, Jimmy, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, Let It Ride!, New Faces of 1952, New Faces of '56 and The Threepenny Opera will be released on Tuesday, April 7. The CDs, with each album's original cover art and liner notes, are available exclusively through ArkivMusic.com.
Five of these titles have been unavailable complete since their LP release. Hazel Flagg, New Faces of 1952 and New Faces of '56 were released previously in unauthorized versions, but these Masterworks Broadway editions will be definitive, with each having been transferred and remastered from the original sources under the direction of reissue producer Didier Deutsch. New Faces of '56 will include six recently rediscovered bonus tracks of numbers from the revue that were recorded but never issued in the original LP release.
Not exactly an "original cast recording," DisinHairited is the apt offspring of Hair, a revolutionary show and a legendary Broadway hit then (1968) and now, in a critically acclaimed revival. DisinHairited is a wild compendium of songs that did not appear officially in Hair but were originally written either for the Off-Broadway staging, the Broadway production or (in a few instances) for this 1969 recording itself. The creators of Hair - James Rado and Gerome Ragni (book and lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music) - are front-and-center in this recording, along with Hair cast members. It is a fascinating footnote to the euphoric success of musical, the original cast recording of which was originally released by RCA Victor and is now part of the Masterworks Broadway catalogue. "Sweet, straight folks from RCA wandered around wondering what the hell was going on in Studio C," the liner notes for DisinHairited state about its recording session, adding, "They know now."
This 1953 musical version of the screwball comedy film Nothing Sacred is best known as the source of the 1954 Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin film Living It Up (in which Lewis played the title character, renamed Homer Flagg). The Broadway show was not a success, though it has a charming score by Jule Styne (music) and Bob Hilliard (lyrics) that includes estimable songs such as "How Do You Speak to an Angel?," "I Feel Like I'm Gonna Live Forever" and "Ev'ry Street's a Boulevard (In Old New York)." Two-time Tony winner Helen Gallagher has the title role, and the cast includes John Howard, Jack Whiting and Benay Venuta. Oscar-winning film actor Thomas Mitchell won a Tony for his performance in Hazel Flagg as Best Actor in a Musical, though he does not sing a note and appears nowhere on the original cast recording!
Perhaps hoping to imitate the success of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Fiorello!, about the legendary New York mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Jimmy looked for musical-comedy gold in the life of "Gentleman Jimmy" Walker, who was LaGuardia's flamboyant predecessor. Comedian/impressionist Frank Gorshin took the title role in the 1969 show, produced by movie mogul Jack L. Warner; it featured the irrepressible Anita Gillette and cabaret legend Julie Wilson as the women in Walker's life. Jimmy arrived on Broadway just as tradition-bound musicals were temporarily losing their appeal to the audience, and it vanished after 84 performances, leaving only the original cast recording to keep its memory alive. By the time the Tony Awards arrived in the spring of 1970, Jimmy inspired only a single nomination, for its lavish costumes. The score is by Bill and Patti Jacob, a rare husband-and-wife songwriting team, and it was their only venture on Broadway.
The Last Sweet Days of Isaac
Back when there was an active scene Off-Broadway for musicals, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac was a tidy little hit that brought success in the spring of 1970 to the songwriting team of Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, who went on to an even bigger little hit Off-Broadway with I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road. The Last Sweet Days of Isaac is perfect souvenir of its time, a sweet, gentle "rock" musical (the show is accompanied by a band called The Zeitgeist) about little people desperately yearning to embrace life at its fullest. Austin Pendleton and Fredericka Weber had breakout success the hopeless romantics whose adventures the show chronicles. Cryer and Ford's score is irresistibly sweet, couched in late-1960s grooviness, with catchy tunes and clever lyrics. The Last Sweet Days of Isaac won Obie, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards in 1970.
Let It Ride!
Let It Ride!, an affable musical version of the hit 1930s farce Three Men on a Horse, had the misfortune of opening on Broadway on October 12, 1961, two nights before How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying dazzled everyone and stole the spotlight. Let It Ride! was hardly destined for greatness - it closed after a mere 68 performances - but it features a lively score by Oscar-winning songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, performed by a cast led by TV star George Gobel and Broadway veteran Sam Levene. The score yielded only one standout song - the charming, awestruck waltz "Everything Beautiful" - but the original cast recording captures the bustle and bounce that once invigorated even so-so Broadway musicals.
New Faces of 1952
A legendary revue that was one of the surprise hits of the 1951-52 Broadway season, New Faces of 1952 famously introduced Eartha Kitt to Broadway audiences in the star-making number "Monotonous," and helped launch the careers of Alice Ghostley (unforgettable singing "The Boston Beguine"), Ronny Graham, Paul Lynde, Carol Lawrence and Robert Clary. Though a hard-to-find film was later made of this production, the original cast recording catches the fresh energy of an emerging hit. Revues like New Faces of 1952 are relics of the time before TV began to redefine the whole concept of satire or topical comedy. Sheldon Harnick, who won fame and fortune later writing songs with Jerry Bock, contributed material, much of which retains its comic inspiration.
New Faces of '56
The success of New Faces of 1952 led to a new edition four years later, this time with the year quaintly abbreviated in the title. The 1956 edition failed to catch fire like its predecessor, but it still featured producer Leonard Silliman's infallible knack for discovering talent. Among the unknowns breaking through here was, of all people, a lively young Maggie Smith, years before she became a great lady of the theater, in her Broadway debut. Also in the cast are Virginia Martin, Tiger Haynes, Inga Swenson, Jane Connell and Bill McCutcheon, all headed for big Broadway careers, as well as future Metropolitan Opera baritone (and Broadway star) John Reardon. The LP release of the original cast recording did not include a number of tracks that were recorded at the original session, and this release introduces six of them - "What Does That Dream Mean?," "The Washingtons Are Doin' Okay," "Girls 'n' Girls 'n' Girls," "I Could Love Him," "Rouge" and "She's Got Everything."
The Threepenny Opera
Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera became known to American audiences in the Marc Blitzstein adaptation, which introduced the English lyrics of "Mack the Knife." For the New York Shakespeare Festival's acclaimed 1976 Lincoln Center revival, the show was completely reconceived with a new translation and adaptation, and fresh treatment of Weill's extraordinary score by Stanley Silverman. Raul Julia is Macheath (here known as "Mac the Knife"), and the cast also includes Ellen Greene, Elizabeth Wilson, Tony Azito and Caroline Kava. This recording is one of the most effective presentations on the Brecht/Weill score, and this reissue includes a short track ("For That's My Way") that was not included in the LP release and has never before been available.
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