Monday, November 19, 2007

Album Droppings: Oddities and Discoveries

I have continued to plug away at the task at hand, and am now mid-way through the D's.


My collection contains more than a few odd ducks. "Cyrano the Musical"? Yep, it's a double album and includes a healthy dose of dialogue, so Christopher Plummer's performance, which won the Tony, is much on display. The show was a failure, but they made a cast album anyway. They used to do that back then. Regional theatre director extraordinaire Mark Lamos was playing young Christian, and it was fun to catch Tovah Feldshuh in the chorus!

I love it when people who later became famous show up in these doozies early in their careers. I had multiple finds in "The Canterbury Tales" (yes, they made a musical of that too), which had a healthy run in London but failed in New York. Sandy Duncan played a supporting role (and snagged a Tony nom for it!), and the cast included that battle ax Hermione Baddeley, years before she blew "Maude" out of the water. (She sounds completely over the top as the ribald Wife of Bath, for you Chaucer fans. I'm sure she was a hoot in the theatre, but on the recording, she shouts her songs).

This is not to say that I have only been recording obscure shows. For some reason, I have never purchased any cast album of "Company" on CD, so the duped vinyl will have to do. I know why I never bought it on CD. It's never been one of my favorite Sondheims, but on hearing it again, I really don't know why I formed that opinion. It's a terrific cast of actors (I love musicals that have ACTORS in them), and the recording is swell. Of course, it includes the iconic performance of "Ladies Who Lunch" by Elaine Stritch, but the real surprise is Dean Jones. His voice is so full of emotion, so right for the guy who can't commit. How many times has "Being Alive" been recorded? His is the best I've ever heard, full of pain and longing. Sondheim experts all know that Jones left the show shortly after opening it, and I've always heard that he was very nervous about his singing. I can't tell why. But I remember hearing, years after the fact, that another reason Jones withdrew so soon after opening the hit was that he was getting pressure from the Disney people. He was under contract to the studio for several family movies, and there has always been the suspicion that the character of Bobby in Company carried homosexual undertones. Disney wanted no hint of that.

I don't know if any of that is true, though I think if Sondheim wanted to write a gay character, he would write one. In fact, he only HAS written one, to my knowledge, and he waited until the new century to do it: one of the brothers in "Bounce."

OK, back to the D's. Next on my turntable is another odd duck: "Doonesbury the Musical." What were they thinking? What was I thinking to buy it? And the worst slap of all: I actually SAW the thing.

And what is it about me that requires me to create a homemade disc of a crummy show that I couldn't stand?

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