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Well, my "little vacation" ended up lasting two and a half years... funny how life steers your life in directions you weren't planning on. I'll start off with occasional posts, but I fully plan to resume this blog to full speed by the new year.

I hope you'll come back for frequent visits, to see new reviews, to share opinions, to take a survey (or two), and to celebrate the shows and show people that have made the TheatreScene!

Jeff

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CD REVIEW: Promises, Promises (Original London Cast Recording)

At this point, I feel like I might be rubbing your noses in it when I tell you that the Original London Cast Recording of Promises, Promises is a must-have for fans of the show, the score or its stars, Tony (Anthony) Roberts and Betty Buckley.  Why is it like rubbing your noses in it?  Well, Kritzerland Records only releases 1,000 limited edition copies of each CD that it remasters, and in visiting their site today for background information, I found out it was sold out!  Of course, it wasn't due to be released until the first week of September, so there must have been a lot of pre-orders (like mine).

For once, I didn't wait too long to get something I really wanted for my collection.  Promises, Promises with Betty Buckley has long been on my list, and I'm so glad I ordered it the day it was announced.  If you have it, too, please write and share your thoughts on it!  If you missed out, be sure to add Kritzerland's website to your "favorites".  They have an excellent catalogue with new titles coming out frequently.

Who knows?  Maybe they'll release more copies?  Go to http://www.kritzerland.com/ for more information on this and dozens of other collectible CDs they have.  And in case you find a copy someplace, here's my 10 cents worth on the recording:


Title: Promises, Promises
Artist: The Original London Cast Recording
Label: Kritzerland
Number: KR 20016-3
Format: Single CD
Case: Single Jewel Case
Booklet: Black and white production photos; liner notes by Bruce Kimmel, so up to date that it includes the fact that the current revival opened and includes extra Bacharach/David tunes.

Anthony Roberts and Kelly Britt:
"A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing"

Noteworthy About This CD:
  • It restores the score in its original order as seen on stage, which the OBCR did not, but the NBCR does.
  • It is re-mastered from the original two-track album masters.
  • The orchestrations and background vocals are, in some songs, significantly different from any other version.
  • There is only 1 verse of "Upstairs" on the recording, with Roberts ending after the "Kirkeby" verse.
  • It contains a bonus track: the complete - including the entire dance break - "A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing".  In Italian!  No joke...

"The Falling Girl" Logo
(Here on the Broadway Windowcard)

The Artwork/Booklet:
  • The cover features the London logo, which is the Broadway logo - the girls lounging on the apartment key, but with a blue background.
  • The CD itself (and the background page behind the CD) features the "falling girl" (I'm being polite here) logo that was later used in both the Broadway and London advertisements, as well as the London Playbill.

The London Playbill

  • The booklet includes the same billing as the London Playbill, as well as a complete cast list.  However, it does not include Donna McKechnie, who is billed on the cover, and did, in fact, recreate her dance solo in "Turkey Lurkey Time."  There is a picture of her doing just that, but there is no explanation to be found as to why.

Donna McKechnie and the London Cast in
"Turkey Lurkey Time"

  • It is especially fun to see stills of the stars, Anthony Roberts and Betty Buckley, both of who were at the start of two long and illustrious stage and film careers.  Mr. Roberts went on to decades of Broadway success, with different generations knowing him for different things: a host of Neil Simon plays, Arsenic and Old Lace, Victor/Victoria  and most recently, Xanadu and The Royal Family.  His film success has largely been found in several films by Woody Allen.  Ms. Buckley has enjoyed a similarly long, successful career on Broadway from 1776, Cats, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Song and Dance, Carrie, to Triumph of Love.  She is also a staple on the cabaret scene and the charity concert circuit.  Movie audiences may  know her from Carrie, Frantic, Tender Mercies, TV audiences may know her work in Eight is Enough, OZ, and in the upcoming HBO miniseries The Pacific.

The Pros and Cons to the London Cast Recording
Based, of course, on only what I can hear:

Pros:

+ Having the recording to begin with!

+ Betty and Tony at the start of their careers!

+ Jonthan Tunick's orchestrations are similar but mostly pretty different here than in either of the other versions, which he also orchestrated.  Like Buckley and Roberts, Promises, Promises is at the start of his long career.

+ Jack Kruschen plays Dr. Dreyfuss, the same role he played in the film The Apartment.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for that performance.

+ The arrangement (both orchestral and vocal) of "Christmas Day" are the best here than either of the versions.

+ The Italian "A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing" proves that quality works in any language!

+ Tony Roberts:
  • Sounds genuinely thrilled and in love in "She Likes Basketball!"  His enthusiasm really comes through.
  • He belts the hell out of the end of both "Half as Big as Life" and "Promises, Promises".
  • As on the revival recording, "A Young Pretty Girl Like You" (aka "Happy"), here sung by Roberts and Kruschen stands out for its joy and character.
  • He sounds great with Betty Buckley on "I'll Never Fall In Love Again".

+ Betty Buckley:
  • Her amazing belt, in its infancy here, shines through magnificently on "Knowing When to Leave," which is, I think, the best of the three cast recorded versions.
  • Her quirky enunciation (and extremely hard "ing", for example) and prolonged, sometimes odd vowel sounds may put some off, but they really work here when you consider the quirky, odd character she's playing.
  • She displays character the best and most consistently of any of the others on the recording.  Her "Whoever You Are" is heart-breaking, and her plain, no frills "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" is just as thrilling for its naturalness.
  • I found myself wishing she had had the same opportunity as Ms. Chenoweth to sing "A House is Not a Home" and "Say a Little Prayer," regardless of whether they add to the show or not.  (I think they do...)


The London Principals:
Anthony Roberts, Betty Buckley
James Congdon, Jack Kruschen

Cons:

- The lack of full use of the "orchestra voices" which add so much to the "Bacharach/David sound".

- James Congdon is the worst of the three recorded Sheldrakes.

- "Upstairs" is incomplete.  Only one verse?  Really?  It's not like it doesn't set up a major plot point or anything...

- "Where Can You Take a Girl?" sounds especially smarmy and ready for a sexual harassment video.  I know that's the point, but eewww...



Of the three, this is probably my third favorite, but considering I love them all and all for different reasons, it's still a winner in my book!


Grade: A-


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Jeff

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