Artist: Original Broadway Cast Recording
Label: PS Classics
Format: Double CD
Case: Jewel Box, 2nd CD Insert, Cardboard Slip Cover
Booklet: Full color production photos; Complete lyrics; Liner notes
The Show Itself: One of several revues of the works of Stephen Sondheim, this one differentiates itself in one key, and most satisfactory way. Guiding us through selections from his very own oeuvre, Stephen Sondheim himself appears via video screen and narrates the evening. Self-deprecating, funny and honest, you get to see more than a glimpse of what makes this genius tick. His discussions on the evolution of songs (how we got "Being Alive" in Company; how we got "Comedy Tonight" in Forum) will please students of his work. Segments from two of his biggest flops, Passion and Merrily We Roll Along will introduce audiences to two of his finest scores. And a brand new song that really tells you the tenor of the evening, "God" opens Act Two.
Still, what worked in the theatre definitely works here, too. In fact, I appreciate Barbara Cook's efforts much more here than live. And not because they can fix the sound on a recording (which I doubt they did much in her case, anyway), but because I'm not seeing her read monitors or be courted off stage like she's a frail old woman (which, for the record, she is not). But on a CD, you can really concentrate on her voice, and you can still see why her voice defined a generation. I find her readings of the songs from Passion to be superb (her Fosca to Norm Lewis' Giorgio is simply wonderful), and her timing excellent in an otherwise iffy "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." The problem there isn't either singer (Tom Wopat duets with her), but the too cool, over jazzy arrangement.
Everyone in the cast gets to shine, and I find Vanessa Williams' performance on CD to be the best sung and acted. She simply exudes finesse, class and talent. Her duet with Ms. Cook is a superb mix of "Not a Day Goes By" and "Losing My Mind." Euan Morton, Matthew Scott and Ms. Williams do a terrific complete scene from Merrily - "Franklin Shepard, Inc.", and the ladies, Williams, Cook, Leslie Kritzer and Erin Mackey do an excellent "Now You Know." And Krizter, Morton and Scott do more excellent scene work with "Opening Doors". This CD makes a great case for another stab at Merrily We Roll Along. Assassins also comes off very well, with the company doing masterful versions of both "Something Just Broke" and "The Gun Song."
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