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.