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?

Dance, Gypsy, Dance!

I took a bit of a break from the unwieldy task I have given myself, to convert my vinyl album collection to CD, and popped down to Signature Theatre to see what's doing.

I wasn't expecting much from "The Studio," as the review I read was pretty lukewarm, but I enjoyed the piece very very much. I love any behind-the-scenes look at how art is created; who doesn't love "Amadeus" on film, or "Sunday in the Park with George" onstage?

The performances of the two dancers really came alive during the movement portions of the play, and I have a hunch that these two are actual triple threats. They weren't given a whole lot of depth to play with in the text, so I hope the playwright continues to refine his piece. But it was a surprising and fulfilling evening of theatre


Album Droppings: TV Musicals

Two of the first vinyl albums which I converted to digital format were soundtracks for musicals presented on television. Hard to imagine these days, but back in the 50s and 60s, the major networks occasionally presented large scale Broadway-style musicals on the small screen.

Everybody knows all about Rogers and Hammerstein creating "Cinderella" for TV, starring Julie Andrews, and as the step-sisters, Kaye Ballard and the late great Alice Ghostly. Everybody also knows all about the perennial Mary Martin starrer, "Peter Pan," which was a moderate Broadway success, but which became a national triumph on TV.

But not many people know that Cole Porter also created a show specifically for television. "Aladdin" starred a young (get this) Sal Mineo, who thankfully was not required to sing much. The score was instead placed in the seasoned hands of Cyril Ritchard, Basil Rathbone, and Anna Maria Alberghetti. As I recorded the album onto my computer, I could recognize that the highlight of this Porter score was the hilarious patter song which opened the show, "Come to the Supermarket," sung by Cyril Ritchard as "the Magician":
"If you want to buy a saw,
Or a fish delicious when it's raw,
Or a pill to kill your mother-in-law,
Or a cloak inclined to cling,

Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking!"

(I guess this version of "Aladdin" was placed in China, though how the hell Sal Mineo ended up in it is anybody's guess...)
The second TV Musical soundtrack which I converted was "Brigadoon," starring Robert Goulet and Sally Anne Howes. The album severely abridges the original score ( I guess the TV show did too), but I purchased the recording primarily because I appeared in the show at Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre several years ago. Soft place in the heart and all that. In this TV version, Peter Falk played the role I played at SSMT.

(That's me, not Peter Falk)

I guess in light of Goulet's recent demise, it should be noted that nobody ever sang these gorgeous tunes better. Or, from the sound of the album, was more boring doing it.