Fans of show music have reason to celebrate in 2002: DRG Records is re-issuing classic and arcane original cast and studio recordings that first appeared on other labels.
DRG is offering the CDs as part of a "Broadway Collector Series." On Feb. 26, a 1952 studio cast recording of Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince, with Dorothy Kirsten and Robert Rounseville, will go public, as will the 1959 original cast recording of The Nervous Set, starring Larry Hagman, with a bonus track. The latter show ran a couple of weeks and had a book by Jay Landesman and Theodore J. Flicker, a score by Tommy Wolf and lyrics by Fran Landesman.
Expected beyond February in the series are the cast recording of Sigmund Romberg's The Girl in Pink Tights, starring Jeanmarie; the original Broadway cast recording of the 1960 fascinating flop, Christine, starring Maureen O'Hara (as an Irishwoman who goes to India) and boasting a book by Pearl S. Buck and a score by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster; the Mary Martin studio recording of selections from Dietz and Schwartz's The Bandwagon and Cole Porter's Anything Goes, with bonus track; the Broadway cast recording of Ben Franklin in Paris (which retains choice book passages movingly performed by Preston in the title role); the 1952 Broadway revival cast of the Gershwins' Of Thee I Sing, starring Jack Carson; the 1962 Broadway cast recording of Lee Pockriss and Anne Croswell's Tovarich starring Vivien Leigh; and the 1967 original cast recording of Skyscraper starring Julie Harris. Specific release dates have not been announced yet.
DRG Records, overseen by producer Hugh Fordin, is known for its new cast albums, cabaret discs and Broadway cast recording reissues (Seesaw, Greenwillow, and others have been part of the catalog for a while). It celebrated its 25th anniversary Oct. 23, 2001, with the release of two compilation discs, "Great Cabaret Performances" and "Show Stopping Performances."
New discs due from DRG are the live recordings of Elaine Stritch At Liberty (two discs, expected in March) and Bea Arthur on Broadway — Just Between Friends (released Feb. 12). In 1976, DRG (Digital Recording Group) "began as an opportunity to release an anthology of legendary recordings from the vaults of MGM Records," according to the company's history statement. "Eclectic music fans responded greatly to these never-before-released recordings and soon the focus of the young independent label was expanded to include new film soundtracks, cast albums, jazz and cabaret performers. What began as a personal passion quickly found an ever-expanding audience looking for quality music off the beaten path. The business quickly grew on the licensing of several key soundtrack recordings. Among the high-sellers were 'Diva' — a quirky cult film released in 1981, the Merchant Ivory hit 'A Room with a View' in 1986 and, most notably, 'Cinema Paradiso' — the 1989 Oscar-winning foreign film. To this day 'Cinema Paradiso' continues to be an outstanding seller for the label and by far the top seller of our current extensive catalog. More recently we have released film soundtracks for Franco Zeffirelli's 'Tea with Mussolini,' David Mamet's 'The Winslow Boy' and the current art house favorite Francis Veber's 'The Closet' (in theaters now). Special Editions of both 'Diva' and 'Cinema Paradiso' were re-released in 2001 that include extensive photos, notes and bonus tracks."
Among cabaret performers on DRG, Barbara Cook has proved a smash. Her recent two-CD live set from Carnegie Hall sold over 17,000 units, and her total album sales for the label exceed 200,000 units.
The first cast recording on DRG was the 1977 A Party With Betty Comden and Adolph Green, followed by Liza Minnelli in The Act and then the 1980 Tony Award winning A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine. Since then, DRG — still shepherded by president and founder Hugh Fordin, the respected record producer — has recorded nearly 30 Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows, including the 1999 Tony Award-winning revival of Kiss Me, Kate, Rodgers and Hammerstein's State Fair, the Forbidden Broadway and Nunsense anthologies and seven recordings from City Center's Encores! series.
— By Kenneth Jones