- by Stephen Peithman
New musical theatre recordings, plus this year's best books
If you’re looking for gift ideas for the theatre people in your life, you might consider one of the several new musical theatre recordings, or one of the books we’ve reviewed highly this year.
Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Complete Broadway Musicals, is a 12-CD box set from Masterworks Broadway that includes Oklahoma! (1979 Broadway Revival Cast), Carousel (1965 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast), State Fair (1996 Broadway Cast), Allegro (2009 Studio Cast), South Pacific (1949 Broadway Cast), The King and I (1977 Broadway Cast), Me and Juliet (1953 Broadway Cast), Pipe Dream (1955 Broadway Cast), Cinderella (1957 Television Cast), Flower Drum Song (1958 Broadway Cast) and The Sound of Music (1959 Broadway Cast). A 100-page 12-inch-by-12-inch book contains essays on each show, production and behind-the-scenes photos, biographies, a timeline of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s careers, liner notes by Rodgers & Hammerstein President Ted Chapin and more. Available for around $134, depending on the retail source.
Much farther back into musical theatre history is Eileen, composer Victor Herbert’s favorite of all his works (including Naughty Marietta and The Red Mill), even though it was not a commercial success. Now, in its 2-CD world premiere recording, it’s easy to see why the Irish-American Herbert loved this 1917 musical tale of romance and conflict during the Irish Rebellion of 1796-98. The show’s hit song (lyrics by Henry Blossom) was “Thine Alone,” but the score’s at its best in the extended scenes at the opening and closing of each act, weaving dialogue with musical underscoring, soloists and chorus in surprising ways. [New World Records]
New from Masterworks Broadway is the Encores! cast recording of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Megan Hilty (Smash) is outstanding as Lorelei Lee, as is Rachel York as best friend Dorothy. Songs by Jule Styne & Leo Robin include “A Little Girl from Little Rock,” “Bye, Bye Baby,” and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.”
From Broadway Records comes the new Jekyll & Hyde 2012 Concept Recording, with Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox in the lead roles. Although the show ran on Broadway for 1,543 performances from 1997 through 2001, composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Leslie Bricusse have since tinkered with the music and words, leading to this new recording. An accompanying booklet contains behind the scenes photos from the recording, plus essays by Wildhorn, Bricusse, Maroulis and Cox.
Finally, celebrating the Broadway arrival of A Christmas Story: The Musical, Masterworks Broadway has released the show’s cast recording. Music and lyrics are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul , with a book by Joseph Robinette, based on the movie and the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd. The 18-track recording features John Bolton as The Old Man, Liz Callaway as Mother and Tom Wopat as Jean Shepherd. Clarke Hallum stars as Ralphie. The songs follow the film closely, although sometimes making obvious what was simply implied in the original. Justin Paul’s inventive vocal arrangements are a major plus. [Masterworks Broadway]
A number of books we’ve reviewed in 2012 are prime candidates for holiday giving, covering a wide range of theatre-related topics.
John Holloway’s Illustrated Theatre Production Guide covers a broad range of theatre operations and equipment, including a new section on stage management, and completely revamped chapters on metal frame construction and entertainment lighting. [$46.95, Focal Press]
The Astaires: Fred & Adele, Kathleen Riley’s highly readable portrait of the personal and working relationship of the great 1920s song-and-dance team, draws on newly released materials and offers dozens of photos. [$27.95, Oxford University Press]
Fledgling and experienced directors alike should enjoy Directing Plays, Directing People, Mary B. Robinson’s thoroughly engaging look at the collaborative art of directing for the theatre. [$17.95, Smith and Kraus]
In To Be or Wanna Be, Sean Pratt pinpoints why some talented actors succeed and others fail, and explores likely paths to success. [$19.99, CreateSpace.com]
The Playbill Broadway Yearbook, covering the 2011-12 New York season, provides a comprehensive record of the season’s shows, including insider production stories from members of each production’s cast or crew. [$39.99, Applause Theatre & Cinema Books].
World Scenography 1975-1990 is a lavishly illustrated collection of 430 significant theatrical set costume and lighting designs from those years, from 61 countries around the globe. [$55 from www.worldscenography.org]