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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Favorite Things: Top 25 Musical Recordings

PhotobucketI still own The Book of Lists, which was published way back in 1977. It's a fun book to read, full of fascinating stuff: The 5 Most Beautiful Women of Modern Times (Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch in a 1976 poll) and 3 People Who Died During Sex (Attila The Hun, French president Felix Faure, Pope Leo VIII). So I thought it might be fun to occasionally offer up my own list. And for my first one, I'm selecting--in alphabetical order--my 25 favorite musical recordings (stage or film). Not an easy task (I was only going to choose 20, but that was impossible). Let me make it perfectly clear that these are NOT my choices for the BEST musicals of all time, but rather they are the recordings that I enjoy listening to whenever I'm in the mood for a musical. So without further ado, here's my list--and feel free to agree, disagree and share your own list:

1. Applause (1970 Original Broadway Cast) by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams: Listening to the legendary Lauren Bacall singing "But Alive" makes me smile. She's terrific--and the supporting cast includes the excellent Penny Fuller and Bonnie Franklin (from TV's One Day at a Time). This musical adaptation of the film, All About Eve, is nowhere near as good as the movie, but I do enjoy the score.

2. Chicago (1996 Broadway Revival Cast) by Kander & Ebb: I adore Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon on the 1975 Original Broadway Cast recording, but I like the revival slightly better--seems a bit jazzier to me. And Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking and James Naughton are all outstanding. Great score, great show.

3. City of Angels (1990 Original Broadway Cast) by Cy Coleman and David Zippel: This is such an enjoyable score to listen to. Randy Graff's "You Can Always Count On Me" is one of my favorite show tunes, and the rest of the cast--including Gregg Edelman, James Naughton and Dee Hoty--are all terrific.

Photobucket4. Company (1970 Original Broadway Cast) by Stephen Sondheim: This is my favorite Sondheim show and score. Dean Jones, Elaine Stritch, Donna McKechnie, Beth Howland, Barbara Barrie--what a cast. As much as I loved the recent revival starring the fabulous Raul Esparza, it doesn't top the original cast recording.

5. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005 Original Broadway Cast) by David Yazbek: This is my idea of a musical comedy--I saw it with Jonathan Pryce, Norbert Leo Butz and Rachel York (original stars John Lithgow and Sherie Renee Scott are on the recording) and loved every moment of it. The delightful score features some very catchy tunes, including "Give Them What They Want" and "Here I Am".

6. Flora the Red Menace (1965 Original Broadway Cast) by Kander & Ebb: It's Liza in her Broadway debut singing such gorgeous tunes as "Sing Happy" and "A Quiet Thing". The wonderful Mary Louise Wilson and Cathryn Damon (Mary on TV's Soap) are also in the show.

7. Follies in Concert (1985 Live Performance) by Stephen Sondheim: This is my favorite recording of Sondheim's brilliant score to the 1971 musical. Elaine Stritch's "Broadway Baby", Carol Burnett's "I'm Still Here", Barbara Cook's "Losing My Mind" and Lee Remick's "Could I Leave You?" are all excellent.

8. Funny Girl (1968 Original Soundtrack) by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill: It's Barbra singing "Don't Rain On My Parade". What more can you ask for in a musical? And I prefer this recording to the Broadway version because of the addition of Streisand's "My Man".

9. Golden Boy (1964 Original Broadway Cast) by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams: I've never seen a production of this musical, but I love the score and Sammy Davis, Jr. "Stick Around", "Don't Forget 127th Street", "This Is The Life" and "Night Song" are all great tunes.

10. Hair (1979 Original Soundtrack) by Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni: I love the film adaptation of this musical with Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo, John Savage and Nell Carter. "Easy to Be Hard", "Aquarius" and "Good Morning Starshine" are a few of my favorites from the wonderful score. And I didn't know until today that Betty Buckley's voice was used for the Vietnamese girl singing "Walking In Space".

Photobucket11. High Spirits (1964 Original Broadway Cast) by Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray: Tammy Grimes, Beatrice Lillie and Edward Woodward are all divine. Listening to Ms. Grimes sing "Home Sweet Heaven" is musical heaven to my ears.

12. I Love My Wife (1977 Original Broadway Cast) by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart: A very dated show about suburban wife-swapping (sounds like TV's Swingtown), but the score is a lot of fun--and it features one of my all-time favorite show tunes, "Someone Wonderful I Missed", sung by the lovely Joanna Gleason.

13. The Life (1997 Original Broadway Cast) by Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman: This is a B-movie musical with an A+ score--Sam Harris' "Use What You Got", Lillias White's "The Oldest Profession" and the ensemble tune "My Body" are all great. I saw the show twice in one trip to New York, and at the end of a matinee, Carol Channing was the first person to stand up and yell "Bravo!" My partner wanted to say hi to her after the show, but I think he scared her.

Photobucket14. Mack & Mabel (1974 Original Broadway Cast) by Jerry Herman: Oh sure, there are problems with this show--especially the ending--but the score is first-rate. And Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston are both fantastic.

15. Mame (1966 Original Broadway Cast) by Jerry Herman: It's Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur singing wonderful songs like "It's Today" and "Bosom Buddies". If only Angela had been cast in the movie . . . sigh.

16. A New Brain (1998 Original Cast) by William Finn: As much as I like Mr. Finn's three "Marvin Musicals" (In Trousers, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland), I like the score to this show better. "Heart and Music", "Sailing" and "And They're Off" are all great tunes, sung by an amazing cast (Malcolm Gets, Norm Lewis, Penny Fuller, Kristin Chenoweth).

17. On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965 Original Broadway Cast) by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner: I adore Barbara Harris, who sings some great tunes ("Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here" and "What Did I Have That I Don't Have"), and William Daniels (from TV's St. Elsewhere) is wonderful on "Wait Till We're Sixty-Five". It's a delightful score.

18. Prettybelle (1971 Original Cast) by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill: This flop Angela Lansbury musical never made it to Broadway (it closed in Boston), but the show finally received a studio recording in 1982. I think the show has a very catchy score ("The No-Tell Motel" is a hoot), and Angela is, of course, a delight.

19. Promises, Promises (1968 Original Broadway Cast) by Burt Bacharach and Hal David: I LOVE Bacharach and the film, The Apartment, which the musical is based on. One of my fondest New York memories is seeing Martin Short and Christine Baranski in an Encores production of this show--and you gotta love a song like "Turkey Lurkey Time".

20. The Rink (1984 Original Broadway Cast) by Kander & Ebb: It's Chita and Liza together in the same show, singing up a storm with such great tunes as "Colored Lights", "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer" and "The Apple Doesn't Fall".

21. Seesaw (1973 Original Broadway Cast) by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields: It's a very dated show, but I think the score is a lot of fun ("Nobody Does It Like Me", "Welcome to Holiday Inn", "It's Not Where You Start")--and Michele Lee (Knots Landing's Karen) is simply marvelous, darling.

22. She Loves Me (1993 Broadway Revival Cast) by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick: I saw this production twice and loved every moment of it. Even though I adore the legendary Barbara Cook, who was in the original 1963 Broadway production, the revival was just so sweet and charming with Boyd Gaines and the lovely Sally Mayes. And the score is filled with so many delightful songs, including "Tonight at Eight", "Vanilla Ice Cream" and the title tune.

23. Side Show (1997 Original Broadway Cast) by Henry Krieger and Bill Russell: I fell in love with Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley listening to this score. Their soaring duets, "I Will Never Leave You" and "Who Will Love Me As I Am?", are gorgeous.

24. Sweet Charity (1966 Original Broadway Cast) by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields: I love the movie with Shirley MacLaine, but one of my favorite songs, "Baby, Dream Your Dream", isn't in the film. It's a delightful score--and Gwen Verdon is terrific as Charity Hope Valentine.

25. Sweet Smell of Success (2002 Original Broadway Cast) by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia: It's a shame that this show flopped on Broadway. I saw it during its Chicago tryout and liked it a lot. And the score has some lovely songs, including Jack Noseworthy's "I Cannot Hear the City", Brian d'Arcy's "At the Fountain" and especially Mr. Noseworthy and Kelli O'Hara's sultry duet, "Don't Know Where You Leave Off".

Honorable Mentions:

Anyone Can Whistle (1995 Carnegie Hall Cast) with Madeline Kahn and Bernadette Peters
Bye, Bye Birdie (1960 Original Broadway Cast) with Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde
The Grass Harp (1971 Original Broadway Cast) with Barbara Cook and Karen Morrow
Hello, Dolly (1964 Original Broadway Cast) with Carol Channing
Minnie's Boys (1970 Original Broadway Cast) with Shelley Winters
Nick & Nora (1990 Original Broadway Cast) with Faith Prince and Christine Baranski
Ragtime (1998 Original Broadway Cast) with Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell
Sugar (1972 Original Broadway Cast) with Robert Morse and Tony Robert
Taboo (2002 Original London Cast) by Boy George
The Witches of Eastwick (2000 Original London Cast) with Ian McShane and Lucie Arnaz
Xanadu (1980 Original Soundtrack) with Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly

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