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A strange and wonderful recording
Gene DeSantis | Philadelphia, PA United States | 01/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An unaccountably deleted rendition of this celebrated play with music is far less a cast album than the sort of audio drama for children so common on record-store racks in the forties and fifties, and that's why it works. Robert Lewis Shayon, producer and director of the radio docudrama series "You Are There", applies the same gusto he brought to having CBS newsmen report Lincoln's assassination; he overcomes the occasional technical glitch through the sheer imagination of his storytelling. And he has a superb cast at his call: Jean Arthur is perfect as Peter Pan, with quite the sass of her screwball comedies; J. M. Barrie was no goody-goody. She is so good as to almost overwhelm Boris Karloff who's a pretty neat Hook. Everything is, shall we say, picture-perfect in its audio atmospherics. Leonard Bernstein's much-vaunted songs could disappear and few would notice (they're primarily in his drab "Trouble in Tahiti" mode); Alec Wilder provides some suitably poignant incidental music that's far more engaging. All told, a surprisingly effective album that humanizes the tale and makes one almost forget Mary Martin -- and Walt Disney.
One final odd discographic note: This is actually one of two concurrent Columbia cast recordings of this 1950 production; the label's kiddie-record unit had most of the same cast record a four-sided 78 set with illustrations (on catalog no. MJV-92) that proves conclusively "Peter Pan" cannot be told in thirteen minutes. If Sony Music ever reissues this (highly doubtful despite its rep) it should make space for both albums, at least for the heck of it."