jaala: (theatre)
[personal profile] jaala
Probably as a result of being involved in QMT while at the same time looking forward to the movie of 'Sweeney Todd', I'm on quite the musical theatre kick right now. Upon taking an inventory of my CD (and tape) collection, I counted forty-one recordings of musicals and operettas. Not too bad, I suppose, considering that 'West Side Story' was the only musical theatre recording I owned going into high school, but I want more! (And I'm putting together my Christmas wish list.) I'm having difficulty deciding among the many recordings that interest me so I come to you, musical theatre freaks on my friend list, to recommend where I should go next. What essentials am I missing?

Here are the shows I've heard/seen/done and liked but don't currently own a recording of. One or two of these may be a possibility:
-An American in Paris (Gershwins)
-Annie Get Your Gun (Berlin)
-Avenue Q (Lopez & Marx)
-Bye Bye Birdie (Adams & Strouse)
-Cabaret (Kander & Ebb)
-Chicago (Kander & Ebb)
-The Gondoliers (Gilbert & Sullivan)
-Guys and Dolls (Loesser)
-Gypsy (Styne & Sondheim)
-Iolanthe (Gilbert & Sullivan)
-Jerry Springer -The Opera (Thomas & Lee)
-The Music Man (Willson)
-Oliver! (Bart)
-Paint Your Wagon (Lerner & Loewe)
-The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert & Sullivan)
-Porgy and Bess (Gershwins & Heyward)
-Showboat (Kern & Hammerstein)

Here are the shows with which I have some limited familiarity that might be candidates:
-Anyone Can Whistle (Sondheim)
-The Baker's Wife (Schwartz)
-Carousel (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
-Chess (Andersson, Ulvaeus, Rice)
-Curtains (Kander & Ebb)
-Falsettos (Finn)
-Floyd Collins (Guettel)
-Follies (Sondheim)
-Merrily We Roll Along (Sondheim)
-Me and My Girl (Gay, Furber, Rose)
-Pippin (Schwartz)
-Wicked (Schwartz)

Here are some shows I haven't heard (or perhaps I've heard just a tiny bit) but I'm curious about:
-Allegro (Rodgers & Hammerstein) - Sondheim says he's spent his whole life "trying to fix Allegro", a flop by his mentor Oscar Hammerstein
-Children of Eden (Schwartz) - Schwartz says this is his favourite of his shows
-A Chorus Line (Hamlisch & Kleban)
-Damn Yankees (Adler & Ross)
-Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Yabek & Lane)
-Evil Dead: the Musical (Bond, Cipolla, Morris, Reinblatt) - some QMT alumni were involved and hey, it's a successful Canadian musical
-The Fantasticks (Jones & Schmidt)
-Faust (Newman)
-Fiorello! (Bock & Harnick)
-Funny Girl (Styne & Merrill) - I keep hearing it's a classic
-Kiss Me, Kate (Porter) - I ought to know more Cole Porter stuff
-The Light in the Piazza (Guettel)
-Little Me (Coleman & Leigh)
-Mame (Herman)
-On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Lerner & Lane)
-Pal Joey (Rodgers & Hart)
-Reefer Madness (Studney & Murphy)
-The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd (Bricusse & Newley)
-Salad Days (Slade & Reynolds)
-Songs For a New World (J.R. Brown) - I love 'The Last Five Years' but don't like what I've heard of 'Parade'... hmmm
-Steel Pier (Kander & Ebb)
-Sweet Charity (Coleman & Fields)
-Sweet Smell of Success (Hamlisch, Carnelia, Guare)
-Thoroughly Modern Millie (Tesori & Scanlan)
-tick, tick... BOOM! (Larson)
-Wonderful Town (Bernstein, Comden, Green) - because I love 'On the Town', so if it's more than a pale imitation of that...
-anything by Weill aside from the 'Threepenny Opera' (which I already own)
-anything by LaChiusa

To give you some background, here are recordings I own that I like:
-25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Finn)
-Anything Goes (Porter)
-Assassins (Sondheim)
-La Cage Aux Folles (Herman & Fierstein) - too many repetitions in a couple songs though
-Camelot (Lerner & Loewe)
-Candide (Bernstein, Wilbur, Latouche, Parker, Hellman, Sondheim) - I've got two recordings of it
-Company (Sondheim)
-Crazy For You (Gershwins)
-The Drowsy Chaperone (Morrison & Lambert)
-Fiddler on the Roof (Bock & Harnick)
-A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Sondheim)
-Godspell (Schwartz)
-Hair (MacDermot, Rado, Ragni)
-Hairspray (Shaiman & Wittman)
-Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Trask & Mitchell)
-H.M.S. Pinafore (Gilbert & Sullivan)
-How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Loesser)
-Into the Woods (Sondheim)
-The Last Five Years (J.R. Brown)
-A Little Night Music (Sondheim)
-The Merry Widow (Lehar)
-The Mikado (Gilbert & Sullivan)
-My Fair Lady (Lerner & Loewe)
-A New Brain (Finn)
-Oklahoma (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
-On the Town (Bernstein, Comden & Green)
-Once Upon a Mattress (M. Rodgers & Barer)
-Pacific Overtures (Sondheim)
-Passion (Sondheim)
-The Producers (Brooks)
-Sweeney Todd (Sondheim) - OBC, quite possibly my favourite musical
-Sunday in the Park with George (Sondheim) - though I can't stand Mandy Patinkin
-Threepenny Opera (Weill & Brecht) - like it, but usually find it too depressing
-Urinetown (Hollmann & Kotis)
-West Side Story (Bernstein & Sondheim) - my first favourite musical
-Working (Schwartz, Carnelia, Grant, Taylor, Rodgers, Birkenhead)
-You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Gesner)

And ones I own but don't like:
-Kiss of the Spider Woman (Kander & Ebb) - I've got mixed feelings about it, see below. Brent Carver is marvellous though.
-Les Miserables (Schoenberg & Boublil)
-The Who's Tommy - my complaints may mostly be with the performances and production rather than the music
-Spamalot (Idle & Du Prez) - was quite disappointed by this

Instead of a "shows and recordings I hate" list, here's a bit of a rant about the sorts of things I usually dislike. Your mileage may vary, of course.

I'm not a fan of excessive cuteness or sentimentality. Or shows where the visual spectacle is far better than the music itself. Or really nasal vocal performances even if it's supposed to suit the character (e.g. Audrey in 'Little Shop of Horrors', the original Tracy Turnblad). The favoured Broadway timbre and musical style changes with the times, of course; my favourite sound is probably from the 1970s-80s, somewhere between languorous warbling and hyperactive nasal belting brassiness.

It gets on my nerves when an album has been over-produced to the point where the instruments and voices sound practically synthesized. I want to hear the instruments as well as the voices too, of course. And beware my wrath if I hear actual synthesizers "replacing" instruments in the orchestra. This is why I don't own a recording of 'Rent' though I quite enjoyed the show. Also, quite aside from the so-so quality of the music, I hated the sound of the 'Spamalot' recording. And the synthesizers were one reason I so disliked the OBC recording of 'Les Miz'.

But the primary reason why I didn't like 'Les Miz' was because of what is probably my biggest complaint about a lot of shows: over-reaching ambition and pretentiousness. Strictly speaking, I guess I'm talking about poorly executed efforts to be "epic", since I love the works of Sondheim and he frequently selects ambitious topics and methods. Vocal mannerisms (e.g. vibrato a la Colm Wilkinson, shouting) alone do not make a song profound. If a composer wants a show to be epic, he/she'd better have the technical skills to pull it off. (I criticize some opera composers in the same way.) If it's going to be sung-through, give people something real to sing; if something is repeated, it should be developed in some manner. In my opinion, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Schonberg/Boublil are too simplistic and manipulative. Kander & Ebb overstretch themselves a bit in 'Kiss of the Spider Woman', I think.

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