"Finian’s Rainbow" Revival on CD

When it comes to Broadway cast albums I almost always have a tendency for the original Broadway cast; they are usually definitive, including those made in the aural ice age of the 78 rpm platters or the dawn of the LP in the 1940s. Stereo came into play in 1956, Goddard Lieberson at Columbia was the champion of the original cast recording.

As the art form of the American musical has evolved, the technology with which music is recorded – and played on – has changed precipitously. Time constraints, technological limitations are no longer an issue. When there is money for an album, there is now room for dialogue, bonus material and occasionally a DVD companion. The problem is in the market – the original cast album has gone from one of the most lucrative areas of the music industry in the 1950s and 60s to a niche market. Pirating makes matters even worse. However, the producers take an extra special care in making sure the album released is the best it can be.

That said, I tend to prefer the contemporary recordings of new musicals as opposed to revivals. Perhaps its my ear lacking adjustment or just my personal preference, but in spite of all the great technological advancements, many of the older shows being re-recorded tend to lack the energy that makes the show work in the theatre, or the original cast album come to life in your room. So many of the new revivals sound as though they were recorded in a small studio, whereas the originals contain palpable theatre performance preserved for the ages. Revivals such as South Pacific, Gypsy and Hair were stunners onstage, but their respective albums fail to capture the magic. However, there are many older recordings that do capture that magic, in particular those Columbia albums of the 50s and 60s.

So while I vary my listening – I can have up to as many as 10 recordings of a particular score (and I do make it a point to listen to each to listen for variations in performance, orchestration, relevance, etc) I do find myself preferring to go back to the originals. However, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Finian’s Rainbow is one of those exceptions. I’ve never particularly cared for the 1947 original cast album released by Columbia (it was their second theatre recording; the first was the previous year’s revival of Show Boat). It preserves David Wayne’s Tony-winning performance as Og, but I’m perpetually bothered by the mannerisms of star Ella Logan. I don’t know if she found it charming, or was trying (in vain) to mask her Scottish accent, but her consonant heavy crooning gets on my nerves. A 1960 revival album is better, but lacks star power with the exception of contralto Carol Brice’s rendition of “Necessity.” Then there’s the film adaptation, a bloated anachronism from 1968 that fizzles on impact. A 2004 off-Broadway revival at the Irish Rep also received a delightful recording, but that featured that production’s spare 2 piano reduction.

It was the recent Encores! and Broadway revival that really introduced me to the many joys of its classic whimsy. This dated, “unrevivable” mix of satire and fantasy was suddenly back in fashion, a resounding production that led to its latest cast album, a stunning effort from PS Classics. The new disc is one of the most complete recordings of the score, featuring the glorious original orchestration under the baton of musical director Rob Berman. Everything sparkles from the first notes of “Glocca Mora” in the overture to its bittersweet finale. The overture is presented in its entirety, as well as the entr’acte. Recorded here for the first time is the second act “Dance of the Golden Crock” with its haunting harmonica accompaniment provided by Guy Davis. It’s noteworthy to hear “If This Isn’t Love” in its entirety, dance break and all. It was a showstopper in the theatre, and remains so on disc.

I’ve already exhausted many superlatives on this musical production, which should still be running. Despite some reservations with the book, the ebullient cast and creative team created one of the most beguiling revivals of the year, with stellar performances and the perfect mix of satire and sentiment. I expected the show to receive good notices, but I didn’t anticipate that its old fashioned charm would bring it the best notices of any show to open this season (to date).

Kate Baldwin and Cheyenne Jackson sparkle. She is entrancing from her first note in “How Are Things in Glocca Mora?” Nothing will ever erase the memory of hearing her sing this song for the first time, in the most bewitching deliveries of the ballad I’ve heard. Every element of her performance is captured here: her flirtatiousness, her feistiness and her unique charm. Jackson’s performance comes across better on disc than it did in the theatre. If Woody seemed a bit stiff onstage, his baritenor is perfect for crooning the period score. The chemistry between the two of them here is palpable (particularly on the standard “Old Devil Moon”).

Jim Norton supplies his gruff but lovable Finian, getting to do more singing than most prior actors in the role. Christopher Fitzgerald chews it up as the impish leprechaun Og, who score major points with the eleven o’clocker “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love.” Terri White’s “Necessity” would bring down the house in the St. James, Carnegie Hall or Giants’ Stadium. Her contralto reverberates like thunder on the horizon – and rightly stopped the show at every performance. Chuck Cooper leads the second quartet “The Begat” with charm and gusto.

For those who are still lamenting its premature closing, much like myself, the recording recalls many fond memories. Those who missed it will get a feel for the treasure they missed. The resulting product is in my estimation the definitive cast recording of Finian’s Rainbow and one that I plan on revisiting time and again.

Kate Baldwin: "Let’s See What Happens"

Christmas came early this year. It started in October when Kate Baldwin released her sublime solo CD “Let’s See What Happens.” The album features Baldwin singing the songs of Lane & Harburg, the men responsible for her current success in the Broadway revival if Finian’s Rainbow, and is a disc that I find myself listening to on a regular basis. I treated myself to a rather luxurious Christmas present: an evening at Feinstein’s hearing Kate singing selections from her album.

Truth be told, I actually met Kate Baldwin the person before I became familiar with Kate Baldwin the artist. We were introduced to one another by SarahB last November at Birdland, where she and I simultaneously geeked out when Jonathan Tunick conducted the Broadway Moonlighters in the Merrily We Roll Along overture. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat star struck by her warm, gracious and effusive personality.

The first opportunity I had to see the actress at work was in the Encores! presentation of Finian’s Rainbow last March. There was something ethereal in the moment she opened her mouth to sing the first few measures of “How Are Things in Glocca Mora?” The quality of the vocal timbre, the tone, vibrato and underlying emotion were fused in this beguiling sense of entrancement. Her understated, showstopping delivery was one of the highlights of the musical, which charmed enough critics to warrant a Broadway transfer. Kate Baldwin entered, as she calls it, “Leading Lady Land.”

While Baldwin has amassed some impressive credits over the past ten years, she has remained mostly on the periphery. She has appeared in some shows off-Broadway and Encores, but mostly understudied major roles on Broadway in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Wonderful Town, plus noted turns in Opening Doors at Carnegie Hall and at Wall to Wall Sondheim. In regional theatres around the country, she has had the opportunity to play many of the classic musical theatre heroines: Nellie in South Pacific, Maria in The Sound of Music, Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, Amalia in She Loves Me, etc, etc. and so forth. Kate is a performer of such versatility that she can easily be both ingenue and soubrette. In fact, were she born in the Golden Age of musical theatre, the creators of these shows would have breaking down her door to write for her. It is the unexpected and deserved success of Finian’s Rainbow that has catapulted her into the big leagues and is likely to be a serious contender for a Tony nomination this spring.

Sarah informed me of Kate’s plan to record a solo album, which would homage the canons of both Burton Lane and Yip Harburg, the men responsible for the Finian’s score. It was the news that she would record “That Something Extra Special” from Darling of the Day had me about as thrilled as you can imagine. That show, which featured Harburg’s lyrics set to Jule Styne’s music, is one of my all-time favorite scores. It was a fast failure in 1968, but earned Patricia Routledge a Tony, and became a cult favorite of many musical theatre enthusiasts, Baldwin included.

On the night of the first preview of Finian’s Rainbow, I had the pleasure of talking with Kate about the songs on her album, our mutual admiration for Patricia Routledge and many long-forgotten scores that languish in obscurity. There is a great similarity between her and the great Maureen O’Hara. Both are feisty, independent yet always feminine (and both excellent singers) Such is the case I think Encores! should revive Donnybrook! (the underrated musical version of The Quiet Man) for her. She is also exceptionally well-versed in the history of musical theatre, and is one of the few people able to keep up with my inherent esoteric rambling. (Like true musical theatre geeks we finished each other’s sentences about various shows and various composers). One of the beautiful things about her solo album is that most of the song selections are obscure gems that have long been waiting for rediscovery.

The album was released in October by PS Classics, just before opening to unanimous raves from the NY critics. The disc is a necessity for any musical theatre fan. Not only is it an auspicious debut effort, but it’s also one of the best solo albums I’ve heard in quite some time. The first cut is the aforementioned “That Something Extra Special,” which establishes the intimate tone for what’s to come, and is also an apt description of Kate’s vocal styling. Kate possesses a voice that is as at ease in soprano ballads as it is in uptempo jazz. She also enlisted many of the friends she’s made for orchestrations, including Jason Robert Brown, Rob Berman (her musical director and pianist at Feinstein’s), Georgia Stitt, and EGOT winning Jonathan Tunick (who also played clarinet for one of the cuts – even Benny Goodman would eat his heart out!).

It’s hard to pick out favorites, as I don’t think there is a single track on the album that I don’t enjoy. But my love goes out to the combination of “Let’s See What Happens,” also from Darling of the Day and “Open Your Eyes” from Royal Wedding, combined in a simple, elegant piano arrangement by Berman (who fuses the songs with the unexpected but brilliant “Emperor’s Waltz” by Johann Strauss). There are upbeat readings of “Come Back to Me” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Lerner & Lane), “I Like the Likes of You” from Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 (Vernon Duke & Harburg) and “Have Feet, Will Dance” from the 1957 TV musical Junior Miss (Lane & Dorothy Fields). Contrasting are plaintive readings of “Here’s to Your Allusions” from the infamous Flahooley (Sammy Fain & Harburg) and “Paris is a Lonely Town” from Gay Purr-ee (Harold Arlen & Harburg). She also plants the tongue firmly in cheek as she takes on Lena Horne’s unusual eleven o’clock number “I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today” from Jamaica (Arlen & Harburg), an infectious calypso dismissing suicide. The album ends with a stunning “The World in My Arms,” originally from Hold on to Your Hats (Lane & Harburg). Her reading of the song is so intimate and so personal, it’s like stumbling across a love letter that fell out of the pages of a diary.

Being at Feinstein’s last night felt like a sort of throwback as we watched Kate Baldwin the Broadway star became Kate Baldwin the chanteuse. It was her first time performing at the venue, and apparently her first attempt at cabaret. She delighted with her effortless charm and offbeat sense of humor, all the while radiating a luminescent star quality. Her banter included lots of love for her husband, the equally charming and gracious Graham Rowat, as well as stories from her musical theatre background. The audience was smitten from the very start and laughed amiably as she recreated her high school performance as Evita (completely with all operatic head voice and absolutely no chest voice), a summer camp performance as Gloria Rasputin in Bye Bye Birdie as well as stories about looking up various fans on Facebook.

She set list for the evening contained mostly gems from the CD, delivered with the same intimacy and compelling intelligence found on the record (did I mention she referred to it as her “record” all evening? Points for period charm). Poised, patrician and elegant she was at ease with a ballad as she was with an uptempo number; transforming before our very eyes into a girl singer along the likes of Rosemary Clooney. She also added a few numbers not found on the album: “Too Late Now,” the gorgeous ballad by Lerner & Lane from Royal Wedding and a charming rendition of “The Merry Old Land of Oz” from, well, you know, but that included some tongue in cheek nods to other’s songs in Finian’s Rainbow. She also interrupted herself during Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields’ “I’m the Bravest Individual” from Sweet Charity to relay amusingly self-deprecating anecdotes of the unintentionally back-handed compliments she’s received over the years. Which leads me to a question: when will Ms. Baldwin record an album of Coleman songs?

Kate ended her set with “The World in Your Arms,” which is, as I have been known to put it, musical theatre zen. Her encore was the delicate arrangement of “How Are Things in Glocca Mora?” from her album, which brought the enchanted crowd to its feet. If Mr. Feinstein is smart, he should already be arranging her next engagement before the Cafe Carlyle and Metropolitan snatch her up (which given her exceptional year, is an inevitability).

The season of Kate Baldwin, as Sarah has dubbed it, continues as Kate, Cheyenne Jackson and the cast of Finian’s recently recorded their revival cast album, which will be released by PS Classics early next year. Last night wasn’t just Kate’s first time at Feinstein’s, but also mine. (I even wore a suit for the occasion, and those who know me well know that’s a feat in itself). I couldn’t imagine a better first experience than hearing Kate, while sharing more laughs and good times with those good and crazy people, my friends Sarah, Kari and Roxie. Fortunately, this time no one yelled at us, nor did Roxie yell at anyone famous. So in all, it was an evening I shall never forget. Oh – and one more innocent confession: I’m a little bit in love with Kate Baldwin. (I hope you don’t mind, Graham). But truth be told, is there anyone out there who isn’t?

Kritzerland Does It Again!

Following the highly successful limited releases of Anya and Illya, Darling on CD, Kritzerland is bringing us their next offering: the first ever CD issue of the 1968 off-Broadway revival of Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s House of Flowers. The original 1954 Broadway production struck out with critics (mostly over the book, of course) and lasted 165 performances. Saint-Subber, the original producer and Capote felt that the production was too big for such an intimate story, so they reworked the show for a smaller venue. However, this production at the Theatre de Lys in 1968 proved even more shortlived than the original, lasting only 57 performances. The recent concert at Encores! also proved the book was mostly unworkable in spite of the phenomenal Arlen-Capote score (which gave the world such great songs as “One Man (Ain’t Quite Enough),” “A Sleeping Bee,” “I Never Has Seen Snow,” “Two Ladies in de Shade of de Banana Tree,” and “Don’t Like Goodbyes”).

Having never heard this particular recording, I would find it hard to believe it will live up to the essential original Broadway cast album with Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll and Juanita Hall. However, this particular album is essential for my fellow aficionados because it has several songs not present on the original cast recording as well as different, more authentically Caribbean orchestrations from Joe Raposo, who would later find great success for his musical contributions to “Sesame Street.” Kudos to Bruce Kimmel and the folks at Kritzerland for giving us yet another long forgotten album (and with this the third United Artists LP being put on CD, I hope it’s not long until the London Promises, Promises with Tony Roberts and a sublime Betty Buckley comes to disc). This will be another limited release of 1,000 copies only.

And they all go to the seashore!

I’ve been obsessed with the CD release of Illya Darling. I received the album the other evening and have been unable to listen to anything else. The show was a musical adaptation of the hit 1960 comedy Never on Sunday about a Grecophile from America traveling to Greece in search of a lost ideal, something he finds in a carefree prostitute in Piraeus and tries to reform her. The film was directed and written by Jules Dassin, who also appeared in the film as the American (probably due to the budget constrictions). The film was an unexpectedly huge success, as it was a small independent produced for $150,000 and released through United Artists. The film turned Melina Mercouri into an international superstar and a sex symbol at the age of 40 (suck it, Hollywood!). The score and the Oscar-winning title song were composed by Manos Hadjidakis, which also took on a popularity of its own. Dassin and Mercouri received Oscar nominations; he for writing and directing, she as Best Actress.

The musical opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1967 directed by Dassin and starring Mercouri. Orson Bean was Homer, the priggish American and Hal Linden made his Broadway debut. In an unusual move, two other actors from the film reprised their roles for the stage show: Titos Vandis and Despo (who was playing the earthy, older prostitute named Despo). The show received mostly negative reviews, but managed to play 320 performances based on Mercouri alone (who received nothing short of love letters). The musical was nominated for six Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Actress in a Musical, but went home empty-handed.

The cast album was released on record by United Artists, the company that had distributed the original film as well as the other Dassin-Mercouri smash hit Topkapi. For whatever reason, the songs were placed out of order on the LP, most likely to fit the time constraints (which is why material was left off the album). Well, Illya had remained a vinyl collector’s piece for 42 years until this week when Kritzerland released it. There had been word of a release from DRG, but it kept getting postponed and postponed. But now it’s finally here. Kritzerland founder Bruce Kimmel has worked considerably on the album, restoring the score to its show order, improving the sound for CD and restoring two cut bits, one of which is the show’s opening number. When I first read that “Bouzouki Nights” was not the overture, and wasn’t even the real name of the piece, I was a bit disappointed. It’s one of my favorite tracks and is one of the most joyous instrumental pieces recorded for an original Broadway cast album.

However, as soon as I pressed play on the overture, a delicate and sweeping paean to the bouzouki (an instrument I just love), I was immediately taken with the new recording. Hearing the subtle nuances of Ralph Burns’ masterful orchestrations with such clarity had an unexpected effect on me. I had previously found the cast album on record to be something of a guilty pleasure, but now I was finding myself genuinely enjoying the score. It never achieves greatness but thrives on the music of Manos Hadjidakis and the charming Mercouri. I have never understand why Joe Darion worked as a Broadway lyricist, whose work here is less than stellar. His big show is Man of La Mancha, and don’t get me started on the quality of those lyrics… As it turns out, Sondheim himself was brought in to doctor the lyrics while the show was in previews, but none of his work actually appears in the final show. There’s an amusing anecdote regarding Mercouri and Sondheim in the liner notes, and the reason why she reverted back to Joe Darion’s version of “Piraeus, My Love.” Turns out she dropped his lyric because he “didn’t go backstage every night to pay homage to his star.” I question the validity of this assessment, but it makes for amusing reading, no? Kimmel wrote the liner notes himself and they are concise and endlessly informative.

There are a couple of strong numbers – the song “Never on Sunday” was recycled into the second act (retaining its original character-driven Greek lyric, not that vapid English substitute so widely recorded), a lovely ballad “After Love,” the comic “Medea Tango” showcasing Illya’s warped interpretation of Greek tragedy (this post’s title) and the charming finale “Ya Chara.” On the other hand: in Open a New Window, Ethan Mordden’s tome on 60s musicals, the author calls “I’ll Never Lay Down Anymore” the worst theatre song of the decade. (Like I said, there is not a lot of critical love for the show).

Tangent: The show opened April 11, 1967 on Broadway. Ten days later the Greek military junta took over in Greece. Mercouri became an avid anti-fascist activist almost instantaneously. Being in New York and out of Greece, the junta seized her property and revoked her citizenship. She rallied around the world and became an iconic figure promoting the re-establishment of democracy in her homeland. When asked for comment about the loss of her citizenship, Mercouri said “I was born a Greek and I will die a Greek. Mr. Pattakos (who revoked it) was born a fascist and he will die a fascist!” Mercouri spoke out against the tyranny of Greece in speeches world-wide, leading rallies and marches, singing and recording albums of protest. She was subject to several terrorist attacks and even an assassination attempt, which only made her more determined. When the junta fell in 1974, Mercouri became involved in Greek parliament eventually becoming the first female Minister of Culture for Greece. Her contributions on the political level in Greece made her a national treasure. Mercouri died in 1994 and she was given a state funeral with Prime Minister’s honors. Thousands upon thousands of Greeks came out to mourn. There is a bust of the actress/politician in Athens, right near the steps leading to the Parthenon, for whose preservation as an archaeological park she worked tirelessly. Truly a remarkable life. End tangent.

It’s highly unlikely that the show will ever be revived (even though I was surprised to see it listed on the Tams-Witmark licensing website), so this album remains one of the few links to this rather obscure musical. Here is the song order from both releases to give you an idea how inaccurate the record album was in representing the show. Let me tell you, it makes a difference to hear the score as it should be heard.

The LP release track list:

1. Bouzouki Nights
2. Piraeus, My Love
3. Golden Land
4. Illya, Darling
5. Medea Tango
6. I’ll Never Lay Down Anymore
7. Never on Sunday
8. Overture (Entr’acte)
9. Love, Love, Love
10. I Think She Needs Me
11. Dear Mr. Schubert
12. Heaven Help the Sailors on a Night Like This
13. After Love
14. Yorgo’s Dance
15. Ya Chara

The new CD track-list (and proper show order):

1. Overture (formerly Entr’acte)
2. Po, Po, Po (previously unreleased)
3. Piraeus, My Love
4. Golden Land
5. Yorgo’s Dance
6. Love, Love, Love
7. I Think She Needs Me
8. I’ll Never Lay Down Anymore
9. After Love
10. Birthday Song (previously unreleased)
11. Medea Tango
12. Illya Darling
13. Dear Mr. Schubert
14. Never on Sunday
15. Heaven Help the Sailors on a Night Like This
16. Taverna Dance (Bouzouki Nights on LP)
17. Ya Chara

There were only 1,000 copies of the cast album printed, and the album is almost entirely sold out. But if you’re interested, there are still a few copies left. With this and the recently released Anya, Kimmel has hinted there more to come. Both were recorded on the United Artists label, so perhaps I should keep my fingers crossed for a CD release of the original London cast album of Promises, Promises with Tony Roberts and Betty Buckley…

Upcoming releases, plus a thorough wishlist…

Winter’s on the wing and the weather has been turning magical and resplendent. But with such resplendence comes the sweet poison of pollen. Flowers, grasses, trees. You name it. It’s floating out there. And making evil of me. I know many of you must be suffering as I am. Well, thankfully I’m not as bad I have been thanks to ongoing allergy immunotherapy, lots of pharmaceutical assistance and my neti pot.

Enough about my woes… There are treasures to be had this spring in the guise of DVD and CD product.

On April 29, DRG is releasing two: the CD premiere of the 1967 musical Illya, Darling, a vehicle for Melina Mercouri based on her blockbuster success Never on Sunday. While not a spectacular score by any means, it has some interesting items, most especially “Bouzouki Nights,” the show’s Grecian-flavored overture. Also coming out on that day is the CD reissue of the Merm’s Happy Hunting, which is considerably less exciting, but still, it’s good to have it out there. Also, Sh-K-Boom will be releasing the cast recording of William Finn’s Make Me a Song.

No word on when the Gypsy cast album will be recorded and released, but the South Pacific cast recording was made yesterday and will be released on May 27. (Kelli O’Hara, who has missed performances for the first time in her career according to Playbill.com, is suffering from a severe cold and will record her tracks at a later date). The same day we also get the original Broadway cast recording of A Catered Affair.

It’s nice to hear that DRG is still bringing out the cast recordings. Apparently many of the titles are now only available via Arkiv. I know they’re officially licensed with reprinted liner notes and all, but I feel somewhat cheated getting a CD-R of an original CD. For my money, give me an official remastered issue. There are still many older cast albums on LP that have been left on the shelves and in used music stores that should come to CD. Of the New York entries there’s The Consul, Cry for Us All, Anya, A Time for Singing, Donnybrook!, Doonesbury, Maggie Flynn, The Threepenny Opera (’76 revival), the NYCO Regina, and the off-Broadway The Cradle Will Rock. There are a lot of original London cast albums that have never been issued on CD: Carnival, The Most Happy Fella, The Music Man (the budget CD issue doesn’t count, it’s missing 7 or 8 tracks), Camelot, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, I Do! I Do!, Man of La Mancha, 1776, Once Upon a Mattress, Do Re Mi, Promises Promises, and Hello Dolly!. As has been the case, copyright laws in Britain expire after 50 years, sending recordings into the public domain. Look for some of these recordings to be released when that occurs.

And inevitably, those albums previously available on CD that are now out of print: Darling of the Day, Little Me (OBC, OLC & NBC), Sugar Babies, 110 in the Shade (OBC), Woman of the Year, Wish You Were Here, Me and Juliet, Wildcat, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, High Spirits (OBC & OLC), Sugar, Tenderloin, Black & Blue, Mr. Wonderful, Take Me Along, Minnie’s Boys, High Button Shoes, Sophisticated Ladies, Hello Dolly! (with Pearl Bailey), Two on the Aisle, Henry Sweet Henry, Milk and Honey, Prettybelle, Do Re Mi, Zorba (OBC), Mr. President, and One Touch of Venus/Lute Song. The original London cast albums of She Loves Me, Flower Drum Song, Forum, Where’s Charley?, Cabaret (with Judi Dench as Sally Bowles), Passion Flower Hotel, Company (the OBC with Larry Kert dubbing over Dean Jones), Anne of Green Gables and Charlie Girl; all of the latter were either part of the long-defunct Sony West End series, a London counterpart to the Sony Broadway series of the early 90s or the West End Angel Series. Also, The Good Companions, Little Mary Sunshine (with our beloved Patricia Routledge in the title role), A Little Night Music (OLC & RNT w. Judi Dench), City of Angels, The Card, 70 Girls 70, Anything Goes (with Elaine Paige) and the Donmar Company revival.

We have quite the minimal market, so it makes sense why many titles haven’t yet been released, or have been deleted from their respective catalogues. Most of the major labels don’t go in for a cast album unless it’s one of the major shows. It’s up to Ghostlight/Sh-K-Boom, PS Classics and Nonesuch to pick up the slack and integrity. I didn’t even bother going into the studio cast albums because there are way too many to be taken into consideration. Anything I missed? Anything you want to see out there? Discuss.

Some cast recordings and DVD releases

While I couldn’t care less about the impending CDs of The Little Mermaid or Ring of Fire, DRG is putting out three on March 4 that make me considerably happy.

Happy Hunting1956 OBC. Initially released by RCA Victor, the album has been long out of print and goes for a costly used fee on amazon.com or ebay. It’s the weakest of the post-WWII musicals to feature Merman. However, due to Merman’s audience appeal, she managed to keep the show running for a year, and allowing it to make a profit. Working with the inexperienced song-writers on this less-than-stellar project was the reason she nixed Stephen Sondheim as composer for Gypsy, demanding an established professional (Jule Styne) take the honors. So I guess we can thank Harold Karr and Matt Dubey for indirectly leading to the 1959 musical of musicals being the perfection that it is. “Mutual Admiration Society,” an upbeat mother-daughter charm duet, is the only song that had a life outside of the show (I enjoy the recording made by the late Teresa Brewer).

Annie Get Your Gun1962 studio recording. This one features Doris Day and Robert Goulet in the leading roles. I assume it’s not faithful to the stage orchestrations and it more of a curio than a document of the stage show. This is the first time the CD will be available in the US. This was originally supposed to be released on the Sony Masterworks series in the late 90s/early 00s (which appears all but dead).

Say, Darling1958 OBC. This is more a play-with-music than an actual musical. Loosely inspired by his experiences adapting his novel Seven and a Half Cents into The Pajama Game, Richard Bissell wrote Say, Darling which documented a musical going through its creative and rehearsal periods. The cast features Robert Morse, Vivian Blaine and David Wayne. Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green supplied the score.

It’s good to have DRG keeping up on the neglected scores, especially with the market being anything but stable for lost treasures and curiosities. And while I’m on it, whatever happened to the CD premiere of my beloved guilty pleasure Illya, Darling?

DVD front: The 1961 film Fanny is being released on DVD for the first time on June 17. The film was an adaptation of the 1955 Harold Rome musical (which in itself was based on the Marcel Pagnol film trilogy of the 1930s). Directed by Josh Logan (who also co-wrote and directed the Broadway production) and starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Boyer, the film adaptation eliminated the singing and adapted the musical themes as underscoring. I saw the film before I knew that, but it doesn’t have any impact on how much I enjoyed this Oscar-nominated and underrated classic. (A Best Picture nominee… it was lost in the shuffle of The Hustler, Judgment at Nuremberg and West Side Story). And while I’m on the DVD front, there are going to be DVD premieres of Kismet (and a handful of other musicals in a boxed set and individual) and Light in the Piazza (both from Warners). Criterion is issuing a boxed set of Ernst Lubitsch musicals of the early 1930s (including The Love Parade, Monte Carlo, One Hour With You and The Smiling Lieutenant). There will be restored reissues of The Music Man, Gigi, An American in Paris and The Great Ziegfeld. (the latter two may actually just be an upgrade from those awful cardboard snapcase DVD cases to the plastic keepcase, that is most prominent; I refuse to buy any of the card board ones, part of my OCD). The Member of the Wedding is going to be issued as a part of a Stanley Kramer boxed set, which is irritating because I already own Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night and would prefer to purchase this one separately. There will also be a reissue of Ship of Fools in the set, and one hopes that they present it in its actual original aspect ratio.

I’m still waiting for DVDs of The Magnificent Ambersons, The Enchanted Cottage, Love With the Proper Stranger, The African Queen, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Wings. Also, it’s time that someone reissued Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound (previous Criterions, long since deleted) and MGM should get Wuthering Heights w. Olivier and Merle Oberon back into circulation.