Choice of songs is selling point, and biggest drawback
Adam A. Fine | Las Vegas | 09/05/1998
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The idea of a "BWAY Hits" album is not new, but this one wants to be the best. The song selection is based on those songs that went on to achieve billboard popularity. But that doesn't mean the songs are particularly well-chosen, and anyone with more than a passing interest will question the selections. Is it right to choose "Oklahoma" over "People Will Say We're In Love," "Everything's Coming Up Roses" over "Some People," "People" over "Don't Rain on My Parade," "If I Were a Rich Man" over "Sunrise, Sunset?" You decide. It's terribly subjective. What I can't understand is why some alternate recordings were chosen over their cast recording equivalents. Why is "The Party's Over" taken from the movie soundtrack? Same for Liza's recording of "Cabaret." And the "No Business Like Show Business" recording is taken from the inferior 1966 Lincoln Center revival, even though the CD tries to maintain chronologic sequence--and again, Merman's great songs were overlooked. What about "I Got Lost In His Arms," or the magnificent "Anything You Can Do" duet? (And if you're going to include revivals, where are the "Anything Goes" revivals, or even the wonderful 1992 "Guys and Dolls" revival?) Even more inexplicable are the Judy Collins version of "Send in the Clowns" instead of Glynis John's sublime cast recording, and--most baffling of all--Aretha Frankling doing a live concert recording of "I Dreamed a Dream." Randy Graff and Patti LuPone aren't good enough? I wonder if Glenn Close was slighted intentionally, since Elaine Paige appears for Sunset Boulevard. And why were certain shows slighted completely? There's not a trace of "Sweet Charity," "The Pajama Game," "Guys and Dolls," "Kiss Me, Kate" or "How to Succeed...," much less the "second-tier" shows that didn't have "big hit songs." I think the intent with this album is two-fold. One, expose the kids who think theater started in 1987 to a history of musical comedy, starting in 1943 (it should have started in 1931, but that would mean 3 cds). Second, use the popular songs to sell cds--which is why you'll find "Some Enchanted Evening" instead of "A Wonderful Guy" or "Cockeyed Optimist," "Camelot" instead of "I Loved You Once in Silence," and "Mame" instead of "Bosom Buddies." Again, subjective... but theater fans will see my point. This is not a bad collection, for the most part. But a collection has to be judged by its choice of entries, not the quality of its songs. These are all classics, of course, and mostly above criticism. And it may indeed be a good start for beginners--Lord knows they need the help. But collectors and enthusiasts looking for great compilations already have a wealth to choose from--the best of all of them being the 18-cd Lincoln Center "Original Cast" collection, with the 4-cd Smithsonian collection and 10-cd "Celebrate Broadway" collection following close behind."
A WINNER FROM BEGINNING TO END
Sean M. Orlosky | Indiana, USA | 01/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Over 50 years of Broadway magic comes blazing forth in this amazing comprehensive CD set. "Ultimate Broadway" lives up to its title, treating listeners to 40 of the most heart-stopping, thrilling, and sensational show-stoppers of the greatest shows the stage has ever seen.Beginning with Alfred Drake's lusty "Oklahoma!," the show credited with revolutionizing the Broadway musical, we are taken along for a dazzling two-hour ride through Broadway history. There are the unforgettable classics: Ezio Pinza's magnificent baritone wrapping around "South Pacific"'s treasured "Some Enchanted Evening," and Gertrude Lawrence exuding charm with Yul Brynner over the musical question "Shall We Dance?" from "The King and I." There is Julie Andrews' soaring coloratura flying with "My Fair Lady"'s "I Could Have Danced All Night." The ethereal beauty of "West Side Story"'s "Maria" and "Tonight." Robert Preston crashing his way through "Seventy-Six Trombones" from his star-making performance in "The Music Man." The queen of the Broadway musical, Ethel Merman, turning into a paramount with "Gypsy"'s "Everything's Coming Up Roses." Mary Martin's plaintive paean to the most beautiful sound in all the world, "The Sound of Music." Robert Goulet shows why he will always be the penultimate performer of the love ballad "If Ever I Would Leave You" from "Camelot." And Carol Channing's unforgettable swagger into the Harmonia Gardens to the tune of "Hello, Dolly." The irrepresible Zero Mostel winking his way through "Fiddler On the Roof"'s "If I Were a Rich Man."And that's just the first side.Barbra Streisand becoming Barbra Streisand with "People," her showstopper from "Funny Girl." John Cullum's glorious "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." Richard Kiley's faithful knight Don Quixote, vowing his eternal conquest for "The Impossible Dream" as the "Man of La Mancha." "Mame," the irrestibly catchy title tune of the 1966 smash. Liza Minnelli, who was not in the original Broadway production, but who thrills with her sensational rendition of the title song from the 1972 film soundtrack of "Cabaret." Judy Collins, another performer not in the original cast of "A Little Night Music," but who is intensely moving with her rendition of Stephen Sondheim's popular hit "Send in the Clowns." Before Catherine Zeta-Jones electrified movie audiences with "All That Jazz," Chita Rivera smirked and cackled it to fantastic effect in "Chicago." "One," the unforgettable production number from "A Chorus Line." Andrea McArdle with "Tomorrow" from "Annie." "Memory" from "Cats"...Michael Crawford's haunting "The Music of the Night" from "Phantom of the Opera." Elaine Page stepping in for Glenn Close with a rhapsodic "As If We Never Said Good-bye" from "Sunset Boulevard." And the undying "Seasons of Love" from "Rent."The classics are well represented, but there are also many delightful sides to this musical feast. Ray Bolger's inimitable "Once In Love With Amy," from "Where's Charley?" is an old-time treat, along with Carol Channing gnashing her way through "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." There is also a pre-"Law and Order" Jerry Orbach, waltzing through the lilting "Try to Remember" from "The Fantasticks." There is the spinning "Aquarius," as originated in "Hair," the divine Patti LuPone in the performance of her career as "Evita," pleading "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." Jennifer Holliday's jaw-dropping "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from 1982's "Dreamgirls." And there is Aretha Franklin shining with "I Dreamed a Dream" from the epic "Les Miserables."This is not only the perfect collection of Broadway memories, but it is a wonderful introduction to the genre for newcomers. And they will be as intoxicated and enchanted by these glorious performances, all beautifully preserved on these sharp, clear soundtracks. There is something for everyone here: from the sentimental theatergoers of years past to the new generations finding a whole new world through the musical theater. Trust me: for theater buffs, this is the only Broadway CD you'll ever need. And for the rest of you: welcome to a wonderful, wonderful ride."
Outstanding collection of 50 years of Broadway hits
orbit13 | 03/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A 2-disc set worthy of its "ultimate" title, this compilation pleases casual and serious musical fans alike. It's a great introduction to over 50 years of Broadway hits, and it captures the spirit and change of American musical theater through the twentieth century - from Rodgers and Hammerstein's pioneering "Oklahoma!" to Jonathan Larsen's ground-breaking "Rent," and every hit in between. This collection not only allows you to sample the great shows and songs but also the premiere recordings. Featured artists include Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Chita Rivera, and Elaine Paige among many other brilliant stars. Most tracks come from the original Broadway cast recordings, with some surprises. Aretha Franklin has a smoky, and stunning, rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables."There are too many notable performances to list them all, but among the standouts are: "Oklahoma" - Alfred Drake, "There's No Business Like Show Business" - Ethel Merman, "Some Enchanted Evening" - Ezio Pinza, "Shall We Dance," - Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" - Rex Harrison, "Tonight" - original cast of "West Side Story," "Seventy Six Trombones" - Robert Preston, "Camelot" - Richard Burton, "If I Were a Rich Man" - Zero Mostel, "The Impossible Dream" - Richard Kiley, "All That Jazz" - Chita Rivera, "Tomorrow" - Andrea McArdle, "Memory" - Elaine Paige, "Music of the Night" - Michael Crawford, and "Rent" - original cast.This is a solid compilation album that won't disappoint with its breadth of talent, variety, and style. Nor is it top heavy with any one artist, composer, or lyricist. You'll also find a fair set of liner notes that attempts to place the musical and songs in context; includes some original production photos."
There's no business like show business, indeed.
Natalie | Miami, FL | 08/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At 16 years old, I am officially a Broadway aficcionada. I've been involved with musicals and shows all my life, so purchasing this CD (even at $$$) was a real treat.
An interesting tidbit about this album is that the 2-disk set goes chronologically (i.e. in the order of that particular show's debut on Broadway). The first songs on the album, even if included in wonderful shows like "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!", do not strike my interest, maybe because the quality of the recording isn't that great. My favorite songs are around the middle of each album, particularly those from "The King and I" and "West Side Story" because the audio is so clear and crisp. Disc 2 is a bit more risky with its selection of songs, including non-traditional Broadway singers like Aretha Franklin and more offbeat, less mainstream showtunes.
Overall, a great CD set with an awesome selection of tunes. A perfect gift for any theatre snob. :)"