Thank goodness for Masterworks Broadway. They continue to make sure everything’s coming up roses for die-hard theater devotees. They are raising the curtain on 2011 with the release of three rare cast recordings previously unavailable on CD era: Originals–Musicals Comedy 1909-1935, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Inner City. All will be available as downloads through major digital service providers and as disc-on-demand with the original cover art and liner notes. The trimuveriate will be followed with digital releases of two recently out-of-print recordings: the 1946 Broadway revival of Show Boat (commemorating the masterpiece’s 65th anniversary) and Tony-winner Tommy Tune’s Slow Dancin’.
The reissue of Originals–Musical Comedy 1909-1935 is the perfect introduction to a lost world: the Broadway musical just as it was changing from a vaudeville-style entertainment to an art form. This unique collection includes legendary names and recordings: Blanche Ring’s “Rings on My Fingers,” Cole Porter singing “You’re the Top” and Fanny Brice’s “Second Hand Rose,” along with Helen Morgan, Libby Holman, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Beatrice Lillie and the comedy team of Gallagher and Shean in the number that stopped the Ziegfeld Follies, “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean.”
Think of this as a piece of collectible, fascinating cultural archeology and you won’t go wrong.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a charming jewel from the vanishing world of the off-Broadway musical. James Thurber’s most famous short story inspired this original, remarkably clever and skillful 1964 flop . . . it ran for only 96 performances, but was (luckily!) recorded recorded by Columbia. The score is by Leon Carr, a composer best known for writing TV jingles (“Sometimes you feel like a nut …”), with lyrics by Earl Shuman. Marc London (an actor who also wrote for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) plays Mitty; co-stars include Emmy-winner Cathryn Damon (Soap), Lorraine Serabian and the late Rue McClanahan.
Mid-March brings the reissue of Inner City, the 1971 musical that rocked Broadway with its distinctly untraditional take on modern urban life. The raucous show was conceived and staged by Hair director Tom O’Horgan the same season he directed the Broadway premiere of Jesus Christ Superstar. Based on Eve Merriam’s best-selling book The Inner City Mother Goose, it recounts children’s tales with a contemporary urban vibe and has a lively, R&B-influenced score by Merriam and lyricist Helen Miller. Inner City introduced some amazing African-American performers including Linda Hopkins (who took home a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical), along with Delores Hall, Larry Marshall and Allan Nichols. Curiously, one of the production’s associate producers was Harvey Milk, before he left New York for San Francisco.