Sarah and I have been season-ticket holders to a small theater troupe in Northern Virginia, whose stabs at staging “forgotten” musicals have resulted in more misses than hits. However, two in the past few years have led me to buy the cast recordings on CD: Alfred Uhry’s “The Robber Bridegroom”, which is, having heard it now a few times, doesn’t hold up so well, and Jerry Herman’s delightful “Dear World”.
On our recent cruise, Sarah and I participated in a “Broadway Sing-Along” at the Piano Bar one night, and it whetted my appetite for some musical soundtracks.
I was so moved by the Piano Bar rendition of “Send in the Clowns” that I decided I MUST first explore Stephen Sondheim, whose work is mostly unfamiliar to me. (It wasn’t until a week later that a co-worker reminded me that “Clowns” had been a big hit for Judy Collins. When I realized I’d heard that version before, and that it epitomized everything I hate about folk music from that era, I nearly renounced my expressed admiration for the song!).
So I picked up a Sondheim sampler CD, featuring tunes from several of his musicals, and two full Sondheim soundtracks: “A Little Night Music,” and “Into the Woods.”
Knowing a little bit about Sondheim’s importance to late 20th century theater, I’m reluctant to say that I found the music, overall, to be just … OK. It struck me that some theater composers might be best known for their music, while others might best be known for their lyrics. An obvious distinction, I know, but I mention it to say that I’m not sure HOW Sondheim is perceived. It seemed clear to me that Sondheim is about the WORDS more than he is about the MUSIC. In any case, that’s fine, because Broadway show tunes usually advance a plot, and words are essential to building the storyline, right? But I suspect that Sondheim might be a revered composer, not JUST a revered lyricist. Heck, for all I know he didn’t even write the lyrics to his songs. I really do need to read up on some basics, don’t I? Or, I can just toss out these observations and let the theater fans come to my aid.
Done with Sondheim for the moment, I popped in the soundtrack for “Wicked” this morning, not expecting much. But that first song is fabulous! I haven’t gotten beyond it yet, but I’m hoping it sustains that level of energy throughout.
Yesterday, the Post wrote a rave review about the supposedly final D.C. stop of “Les Miserables,” and of course I feel like I now MUST see it before it leaves. All without having heard a single song from that musical. I like the Hugo novel, of course, and I trust that all those people who’ve seen and loved the musical over the past 20-something years aren’t wrong. But I’ve reserved a copy of the soundtrack CD at the library, just in case.
Any other recommendations? What’s your favorite Broadway cast recording?
Edited by Christian, 14 December 2005 - 05:20 PM.