In His Centenary Year, Jule Styne Gets an Album of Hollywood Songs — With Broadway Stars to Sing Them

News   In His Centenary Year, Jule Styne Gets an Album of Hollywood Songs — With Broadway Stars to Sing Them
 
PS Classics Inc., the nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of the American songbook, goes into the studio Jan. 24 to start recording "Jule Styne in Hollywood," an album to be released later in 2005 — the centenary year of Broadway and Hollywood composer Styne's birth.

Artists attached to the recording project include such Broadway stars as Audra McDonald, Brent Barrett, Norm Lewis, Rebecca Luker, Kelli O'Hara and Debbie Gravitte. Aaron Gandy will conduct the orchestra.

The album is being produced with the support and cooperation of Styne's widow, Margaret Styne, and Joseph Weiss, general manager of Jule Styne Enterprises.

Tommy Krasker, who serves on the board of PS Classics Inc., told Playbill.com, "The idea of saluting Styne's Hollywood career has been brewing for a couple of years. Several years ago, Philip [Chaffin, also a board member of PS Classics Inc.] was appearing in a Jule Styne tribute at Lyrics & Lyricists. As I recall, there was a medley at the opening of Act Two that consisted of Styne's Hollywood songs. I've been working in this field for a couple of decades, and like a lot of folks who love show music, I like to think I have a good grasp of who wrote what. But I sat there in the audience going, 'He wrote that song? And that one, too?' I really had no idea that so many great songs that I knew from the World War II era had been written by Styne."

Years later, at a meeting of the PS Classics Inc. board to discuss doing something for the Jule Styne Centenary (while addressing the company's mission to "bring forgotten repertoire back to light"), "we kept coming back to the fact that one of the most glorious aspects of Styne's work was the writing he did in Hollywood from around 1939 to 1949," Krasker said. "I mean, the hits were amazing —- 'It's Been a Long Long Time,' 'Time After Time,' 'I Don't Want to Walk Without You,' 'I'll Walk Alone' — many of them written with lyricist Sammy Cahn. He ultimately received 10 Academy Award nominations for Best Song. We knew those songs, but we wondered about the songs we didn't know, so we got in touch with Margaret and Joseph, who allowed us to look at the lesser-known songs. And they proved equally winning. We'll be doing a real grab-bag of Jule Styne Hollywood songs — written with a variety of lyricists, mixing the known and the unknown — using not only original film charts, but also some other period arrangements, including some amazing dance band charts."

Krasker said between 15 and 18 vocalists will be included on the recording, and perhaps as many as two dozen tracks on the final CD. In addition to penning songs for movies, Jule Styne is the Tony Award-winning stage composer who worked with many lyricists — Bob Merrill, Sammy Cahn, Yip Harburg, Leo Robin, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Stephen Sondheim — over a long career. Friends said he was filled with ideas and plans for shows up to his death in 1994. He won the Tony Award in the category of Composer and Lyricist for the 1968 score to Hallelujah, Baby! (with Comden and Green), but his better-known work includes Funny Girl, Gypsy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Peter Pan (for which he, Comden and Green wrote several numbers) and Bells Are Ringing. Many consider Gypsy to be his masterpiece.

The prolific London-born Styne (whose family moved to Chicago when he was a kid) also penned scores for Darling of the Day, Hazel Flagg, Do Re Mi, Fade Out — Fade In, High Button Shoes, Sugar, Subways Are for Sleeping, Two on the Aisle, Prettybelle, The Red Shoes (his last show, in 1993) and more.

Projects of PS Classics, a 501(c)(3) organization, are supported by corporate, government and private money, including tax-deductible donations from passionate musical theatre fans. Its website is www.psclassics.org.

Also on the PS Classics Inc. label is the world premiere studio recording of Kay Swift's 1930 Broadway musical, Fine and Dandy.

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In other PS Classics Inc. news, Krasker announced that he expects recording on the company's restoration of Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn's Whoopee to begin in the next six weeks.

Already committed to appear on the recording are Karen Ziemba (in the role originated by Ethel Shutta), Marin Mazzie (in the Ruth Etting role) and Erin Dilly. Krasker said PS Classics Inc. has a particular actor in mind for the Eddie Cantor role, but that "we haven't yet been able to work out the schedule."

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