CD Reviews - 2009

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2009)

Allegro - Studio Cast Recording

(Sony Masterworks Broadway)

This was the first of very few Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations that failed to enchant the public, and it always retained a special place in the hearts of its creators. There have been various attempts to re-examine Allegro, and this all star studio cast glorifies all that is right with this melodious and sometimes adventurous score -- and cannot hide the fact that Allegro, despite "The Gentleman is a Dope" and some other winning moments, eventually collapses under the weight of its oh-so preachy plot.  A small town doctor sells out to achieve big city fame and fortune, and must chuck it all to rediscover true happiness. (Hammerstein used this theme more than once, a surprise for a man who was born, raised and became a legend in that biggest of cities, NYC). Devout R&H fans like myself will be fascinated by this recording, and will relish hearing Patrick Wilson, Audr McDonald, Marni Nixon and other beloved stars. Odds are Allegro will never sound better; and that it never will be a great musical. But what an intriguing (and fatally flawed) gem.

Carousel - Lincoln Center Cast Recording

(Sony Masterworks Broadway)

In the 1960s, Richard Rodgers produced revivals of classic musicals at Lincoln Center, including several of his biggest hits. Here we get a chance to hear John Raitt return to the role of Billy Bigelow some 20 years after originating it -- and the results are dramatically, musically and of course sonically superior to the original cast recording. This was also the most complete version of the score on record for many years, and it's a grand treat to hear the stellar supporting cast, including Susan Watson as Carrie, Reid Shelton as Mr. Snow, and Jerry Orbach as Jigger. Though less well known, Eileen Christy is delightful as Julie Jordan, and the orchestra under the legendary Franz Allers deserves star billing in its own right.  Four bonus tracks from other Carousel studio recordings featuring Robert Merrill, Patrice Munsel and Doretta Morrow make sweet additions. I don't think any fan can own too many versions of Carousel, and this handsomely remastered CD is a particularly strong choice.

Oklahoma - Studio Cast Recording

(Sony Masterworks Broadway)

Time has not been kind to the reputation of Nelson Eddy, one of the first trained American opera singers who invested substantial time in recording key works from the American musical theatre repertory. While some may balk at the idea of Eddy as Curly, he sings the role with unpretentious all-American charm, and is surrounded by a supporting cast that is never less than capable -- most notably a young Kaye Ballard offering a sweet comic interpretation of Ado Annie. Veteran conductor Lehman Engel does his usual solid job. Not the best Oklahoma around, but a very enjoyable addition to any library.

Rodgers Conducts Rodgers

Richard Rodgers Conducts The New York Philharmonic

(Sony Masterworks Broadway)

When Rodgers conducted the Philharmonic in a benefit concert of his stage and screen tunes, audiences and critics raised such a fuss that a recording resulted. Long prized by collectors on LP, this long-overdue CD edition will delight any Rodgers fan. Every track is a pleasure -- The "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Ballet" from On Your Toes, a medley of Rodgers waltzes, the inevitable March of the Siamese Children from The King & I, and a thrilling suite of themes from Victory at Sea. The CD also includes producer Goddard Lieberson interviewing Rodgers about these selections; a classy addition to a classic performance.

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