Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this music junkie as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. Compact Discs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no files.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On The Town - Studio Cast Recording (1961)


Music: Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics: Betty Comden & Adolph Green

Why a "Studio Cast Recording"? When this musical about 3 sailors on 24-hour shore leave in NYC premiered in 1944, the 33 1/3 LP record hadn't been invented yet (Columbia would introduce the LP in 1948). So in 1961, this recording was released with most of the members of the original cast and an orchestra conducted by Bernstein. This particular 1998 reissue includes a recording of the musical's overture and the New York Philharmonic playing Bernstein's Three Dance Episodes from On the Town. It's no West Side Story (what is?), but it certainly isn't as bad as A Quiet Place.

The musical itself came about in an interesting way: the 1944 Jerome Robbins ballet Fancy Free, with music by Bernstein, was a hit so, naturally, producers thought the ballet could be turned into a Broadway musical. They convinced Robbins and Bernstein, who in turn wanted their friends Comden and Green to write the book and lyrics. When the director George Abbott was added to the project, funding was secured, including funding from the movie studio MGM in return for the film rights. Back then as today, it was all about the movie rights and even serious artists couldn't turn their backs on Hollywood cash. The original Broadway production ran for 462 performances. The movie version - ugh. The 1949 film starred Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, but the producers decided to drop all but 3 of Bernstein's songs and introduce new music by Roger Edens. I'm a big fan of liner notes and the ones included in this 16 page CD booklet do not disappoint.

Tracks: Bernstein was just entering his prime here, but my favs are New York New York, Come Up To My Place (Taxi Number), I Can Cook Too, and the instrumental Dance: Times Square. My least favorite tunes are Carried Away and I Understand. The bonus track recording of the overture is slow and bland, but the Three Dance Episodes are enjoyable despite a bad mix.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I saw a revival of this show in January 1999 followed by dinner at Café Un Deux Trois on 44th St. The below-average revival only ran for 69 performances, but the dinner was exquisite.

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