The year 1997 saw a bumper crop of theatrical cast albums: The Lion King, The Life, Titanic, Steel Pier, Side Show, Jekyll & Hyde, "Songs From The Capeman," the Dale-Martin Candide, the re-release of the long-awaited Golden Apple . . . and lots more.
For many who live beyond the NY and London metro areas, the cast album IS their experience of a show. In that light, Playbill On-Line asked users of the service to name their favorite cast album of 1997. Owing to the large number of responses, we have created this fourth and final file of "Top 10's." Playbill thanks those who took the time to write:
From Bettina Pagalilauan, Bensalem, PA (email@example.com):
I am one of those people who prefers to hear a cast album before seeing a show, so the cast albums are very important to me. This year, I have come up with 4 favorites which I play over and over again, listed in alphabetical order:
1) - Floyd Collins by Adam Guettel and Tina Landau. I first heard about this recording at the stage door after Les Miserables's 10th anniversary perfomance on Broadway. I wasn't familiar with it, but I decided to purchase a copy since I enjoyed Christopher Innvar's performance as Javert, and he played the lead in Floyd Collins. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The music is refreshingly different from other shows, and it's a shame that its brief run at Playwrights Horizons seemed to have been overlooked. Christopher Innvar's vocals as Floyd were amazing, and Jason Danieley was excellent as Floyd's brother, Homer. The rest of the cast was also superb, and special kudos to Ted Sperling (currently in Titanic, along with many more Floyd cast members) as music director/conductor. I only wish I got the chance to see the show, and I hope it finds its way back to the stage again, because the music and the story (which is based on real events) are captivating.
2) Jane Eyre by Paul Gordon and John Caird. A friend who saw the show in Toronto picked up a copy of the original cast recording for me, and from the moment I heard the opening notes, I knew that this was a show I would enjoy. Anthony Crivello and Marla Schaffel are amazing, and "Secret Soul" and "Second Self" are two of my favorite songs. I'm currently trying to help Mr.Gordon get this wide released on Angel Records (Jane Eyre is awaiting a Broadway theater) because even in limited release, it has developed a fan base, and if it were to be wide released, I think many more people would become fans of Jane Eyre before it even arrives on Broadway.
3) - Side Show by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger. I was eagerly awaiting the release of this cast recording (to decide whether or not to see the show), and I was not disappointed. The music is simply wonderful, with Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner, Jeff McCarthy, and Hugh Panaro excellent in the lead roles. It's difficult to pick out favorite songs, but one certainly has to be "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" On the cast recording, you can tell this cast really enjoys doing this show and playing their roles, and I just hope that their campaign succeeds to keep this show running on Broadway. Each song just draws you further in, and you really feel like a participant in the story.
4) Titanic by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone. The cast recording is simply superb! I thought the score was wonderful, and this is a true ensemble work. Certain characters may have a chance to shine a bit more than others, but it's the ensemble aspect that really makes the cast recording effective. The whole opening section does an excellent job of setting up the remainder of the show, establishing the hopes and dreams of the characters, making them come alive. All of the awards this show has gathered are well-deserved.
From Sandy Lu:
No doubt about it, the best cast album I have heard this year is Jekyll and Hyde. Frank Wildhorn's wonderful music, Leslie Bricusse's touching lyrics, Robert Cuccioli's powerful interpretations of the two roles, Christiane Noll and Linda Eder's amazing voices, and the beautiful arrangements/orchestration just move my heart so deeply every time I listen to it. My only problem with it is it's kind of addictive and I can't stop listening !
After listening to TITANIC, I was excited to be going to see the show over Thanksgiving. The score is fabulous, and the cast features many talented voices. Chorally it is beautiful. However, I was deeply dissapointed in the show, so unfortuately I cannot vote it as being my favorite. The new recording of Jeckyll & Hyde is good, but I much prefer the recording with Anthony Warlow. Therefore my choice must be CHICAGO. I really do not think you can compare the new recording to the original, for the sound is just different. The whole cast is strong and wonderfully animated in their songs. (And it is that much better on Broadway.)
1997 was a big cast albumn-buying year for me, with final results being the cast recordings of "J&H", "Titanic, " "Jane Eyre, " and "Once Upon A Mattress."
All of them fall into the category of *good.* Jekyll and Hyde, however, I seriously recommend people stay away from, as the chorus song arrangements are *very* odd and Robert Cuccioli is literally *painful* to hear. Most of the music is very beautiful and intense, but if you want to hear Jekyll and Hyde at its most mesmerizing, by all means buy the 2CD Complete Work, sit back, and enjoy.
"Once Upon A Mattress" is very charming. It's a cute musical, and Sarah Jessica Parker is a wonderful entertainer. Lawrence Clayton as the Minstrel also stands out in my mind as having a beautiful voice and bringing vitality to his role. The tunes are whimsical, colorful, and light, as are the voices and story on this recording.
"Titanic" is EPIC!! DO NOT PASS IT BY!!!!! Every song on the recording is golden. With songs like "What A Remarkable Age This Is, " "The Proposal/The Night Was Alive, " "No Moon, " and the flooring "We'll Meet Tomorrow, " and stellar performers like Victoria Clark and Brian D'Arcy James, everything about the "Titanic" recording is pure magic. It's also a super blast to sing with.
I've saved the best for last, and truly, there aren't enough superlatives to describe the original cast recording of "Jane Eyre." You know the book is very good. This CD is even *better!* It's complete, fantastic entertainment from the ominous opening strains to the full throated, blow-away finale. "Jane Eyre" is as close as one gets to perfection in a show recording. Marla Schlaffel is exquisite. Her renditions of "Let Me Be Brave" and "Painting Her Portrait" are exceptionally emotional and brilliantly done. Anthony Crivello uses his customary warm, husky voice to entrance, especially in the tragic "As Good As You" and the intense "Farewell, Good Angel." The chorus is not to be forgotton; they blend beautifully and everyone is given his/her chance to shine, through abundant solos in the narrative.
The libretto booklet offers great inside pictures of the recording process, and several shots of scenes from the show. "Jane Eyre" has beautiful, adventurous, well-ordered music. The lyrics are eloquent and paint gorgeous, dramatic pictures of an epic love story that will bring the listener to tears. The original novel is followed closely, but the plot still moves along smoothly and swiftly. The cast shines and the songs sparkle. Once "Jane Eyre" arrives on Broadway, it will surely be one of, if not *the* strongest contendor for Tonys of every category. By all means, buy it.
I'd like to vote for the Titanic CD. Becuase I really really love the music and it's just a great arrangment.
For anyone to say that Side Show, as great as it may be, is better than Titanic or Jekyll and Hyde. It is very mediocre music with good singers. Some songs are just idiotic. Titanic and Jekyll and Hyde, even though they both have their down parts are great albums. Steel Pier is great. I love The Lion King, that's even better than Side Show. For anyone who only listens to Side Show, like many of you have said, should listen to something else, get Titanic or something from a past year, there are a lot of much better shows. MSchroder1@aol.com, e mail me.
I think that Side Show's recording is the best around. Every single song is electrifying, and brilliantly wrote. Emily Skinner, and Alice Ripley are absolutely amazing! I really liked though, Lauren Kennedy, when I saw her perform [in a workshop version], and wish they could have recorded one with her too.
From Frank DeLella:
I think the best broadway albums of 1997 are The Life, Titanic, The Lion King and Rent even though that is not recent. I feel all of these albums have something special about them and they are all different in various ways. The Life is a CD full of fun, you can have a great time listing to The Life while on the computer or when a friend is over. Titanic is a bit more serious but is great to listen to those elaborate voices while lounging on the sofa. The Lion King is also a fun CD full of songs to listin to as well as sing along too. And Rent is just awesome to listen and ing along too.
The show I feel most passionate about is The Scarlet Pimpernel. After loving the story in all it's various incarnations, I went to SP with many reservations. I wondered whether Wildhorn and Knighton would do justice to the show. I was unsure about the casting of newcomer Douglas Sills in the lead role, especially since I was so fond of Chuck Wagner's concept recording Percy. By the time I made it to the last preview, I had heard many conflicting stories about Pimpernel's quality. The overwhelming opinion seemed to be that it was a highly entertaining show.
The show I saw was absolutely breathtaking. Mr. Sills is brilliant in the role of Percy. He makes the first fictional super-hero come alive and actually improves upon every Percy I have encountered since I became interested in SP. The book is incredibly funny; the audience was practically rolling in the aisles.
Many have commented that the music in SP could be put into almost any show - this is simply not true. "Into the Fire", "Prayer", "Where's the Girl?", "The Creation of Man", "Falcon in the Dive" and others are quite unique to this piece and fit perfectly. Other more interchangeable tunes are at least appropriate and enjoyable where they are.
Every aspect of The Scarlet Pimpernel is done with style and enthusiasm. The show is amusing, light, wonderful family entertainment. This show is the kind which could make a child learn to love theatre for life; it has the power to make the most jaded theatre veteran leave the Minskoff happy. I am sure audiences will prove the Wildhorn-bashing critics wrong by supporting Pimpernel at the box office.
I am truly sorry that Triumph of Love has posted a closing notice. I saw ToL at the same time I saw Pimpernel. Although ToL did not have as great an affect on me as SP, I enjoyed the show very much. All the actors put in great performances; I'll never forget the night I got to see Betty Buckley and F. Murray Abraham on the same stage! I am keeping my fingers crossed that *somebody* will have the good sense to record this show.
1. TITANIC - Simply the most stirring, increadibly remarkable Broadway cast album of the year. I'm back aboard the ship of dreams everytime I hear it. There's such a variety in this wonderful score, song after song is a joy to the ear. I was absolutely rolled back in my seat when I heard that cast belt out Godspeed Titanic. I re-live that moment everytime I hear that song on the CD. A great offering.
2. JEKYLL & HYDE - How could such a terrific cast album come out of such a bland show? "Jekyll & Hyde" more or less--fell apart on stage. And because of its awkward staging and direction--I missed most of the music. Frank Wildhorn's score is much more appreciated on the CD than on stage.
3. THE LIFE - As with the show--each song keeps you intent and your foot tapping. The great vocal talents of Pamela Isaacs, Sam Harris, Lillias White, and Chuck Cooper make this one a real pleasure to listen to. Among Cy Coleman's best scores.
4. THE LION KING - Great orchestrations and vocals here. The songs are adapted very well for the stage, and the new songs added are also well executed. The score is unique in its mixutre of African and Pop music.
5. CHICAGO - Fun music, and vocalists James Naughton, Marcia Lewis, Joel Grey, and Bebe Neuwirth produce their songs with slickness and wit. As with the overall show, great fun to listen to.
1) THE LIFE. I have to say The Life is my number one. The voices are great and the songs are comical, sad, but always enjoyable. Lillias White is amazing!!! Pam Issacs voice is superb. "I'm Leaving You" is one of the best songs in the show, next to "'Somday' is for Suckers." Cy Coleman is awesome. The lyrics are amazing. Basically, The Life, all around, I wonderful. Definatly number one!!
2) THE FIX. One of the best shows ever!!!! spectacular music. It's was only on is London, I saw it, and it was amazing. Great melodies, superb lyrics. Definatley a wonderful score!!! Another rock musical, and what a success!!!
3) STEEL PIER. A wonderful show. The music is great. Some of the best orchestrations I've ever heard!!! Karen Ziemba has a spectacular voice. "Running in Place" is the best song in the show!!! It's really just a great show!! I would have loved to see the show, the music is great
. 4) SIDE SHOW. Amazing. Brilliant. some songs I don't especially like, but Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner's voices together sound phenominal. The closing to both acts are superb. Some of the best female duets ever!!! ORchestrations, again, are great. some cheesy lyrics, but overall, a very good score.
5) ONCE UPON A MATTRESS. I loved the show. It's a great score!!! some of the funniest songs ever and "Happily Ever After" is a great female solo!!! The voices were great and the lyrics, wonderful as well!!!
6) TITANIC. Great show, just not the Best Musical. A lot (maybe four or five) are not good, but the ending and opening make up for it. The second act was better than the first, but the score was pretty good. The most theatrical ending I've ever seen, next to Sunset and Show Boat, with a good score!!! (lyrics are great)
7) CHICAGO. I love the show, but there are some songs that have to be seen not heard, and when heard, sound dumb. That's why it's not one or two. I loved the show. the songs are great!!! Voices are amazing, and let me just say JAsmine Guy should have been on broadway with the show!!!!!!!!
8) JEKYLL & HYDE. The show was pretty good, but the songs were just okay. Yes it has some great/superb numbers, but the oithers lagged behind...a lot!!! Facade was the best company number and yes Linda Eder has a great voice...awful actress.
9) THE LION KING. I liked the stage versions of the songs from the movie, but the new songs written for the stage are not all that great!!! The voices are pretty good, but I'm still not to happy with the new songs!!!
I have not tenth place...sorry!!!!!!
From Kathy E.
I have to cast my vote for JEKYLL AND HYDE! I enjoy musicals very much and have an extensive collection to choose from for my listening pleasure, but I find myself choosing JEKYLL AND HYDE again and again! The Original Broadway recording of JEKYLL AND HYDE has everything going for it--beautiful melodies, poignant lyrics and magnificent voices. One has only to hear Christiane Noll hit those haunting chords at the end of "His Work and Nothing More" to know that this is truely the best ensemble album of the year! Robert Cuccioli is amazing in his ability to play both Jekyll and Hyde--a chilling portrayal that was unfortunately overlooked at the Tony's (another subject I know!). Of course, I could not end my praise of this show before mentioning that Linda Eder is what puts this show over the top for me. She is one of the BEST singers ever to be part of a Broadway production! I enjoy listening to the emotion she puts in every song she sings--fun and sexy for "Good -N- Evil"; teaming with desire for a love that cannot be in "Sympathy/Tenderness." The entire album has moments that bring a lump to my throat with every playing. It has been a long time since I have been able to experience a show so fully, strickly from the recording. JEKYLL AND HYDE is the best album of this year!
My favorite theater Cd this year has been Martin Guerre. It is a great show and a great score that I hope will have the opportunity to come to the US.
Two close runner-ups have to be Titanic and Steel Pier. When I recently saw the movie Titanic I couldn't help but hear "Sail on, Sail on..." as the ship pulled away from the dock. Steel Pier once again shows that Kander and Ebb are some of the theaters best writers. My New Year's wish for 1998 is a new Sondheim musical.
From MISS PAMELA M DURBAN:
I would have to say that my top choices for cast recordings would have to be:
1. Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Cast
3. Jekyll and Hyde
Les Miserables, one it is my favorite show, and I love the music! Lea Salonga, Michael Ball, and Judy Kuhn, to me were born to sing together!! They have so much power and feeling in their voices!! RENT because the score is one of the BEST I have ever heard. Jonathan Larson was a musical genius in my eyes! It has the "fun" songs, but then there are the songs that just make you want to cry. It tells the story through many many different characters points of view. The combinations of voices are amazing. Idina Menzel, and Daphne Rubin- Vega were great! Jekyll and Hyde... all I have to say is... wow! Robert C., Linda Eder, and Christiana Noll are spectacular!! They portray so much feeling in their voices. Which I think is VERY important. Not to mention the music is great!!! I think they're ALL great! =) I'm going to add one more in here... the recording of CATS.. . you can never get tired of it!!! The music is great!! The singing is great!! It's just all great!!
Of the ones you listed on the Playbill online page, my favorite recording was definately Jekyll and Hyde. Although I like The Lion King, and that is my mother's favorite show, I do love J&H.
From Doug Beebe:
My passion is for cast albums of the past. I eagerly await each new CD re-issue, and when a release day arrives, I am giddy with anticipation. Then I get home and start reliving my youth when I would blow my whole allowance on a Broadway show album, and lose myself and my world to enter the fantasy world emanating from my old portable record changer.
My most enjoyable musical experience this year was when I listened to GOODTIME CHARLIE for the first time. Over the years, I have built an extensive collection, both on vinyl and CD, but somehow this show had escaped me completely. The melodies, lyrics, and humor of "Goodtime Charlie" captivated me immediately. It's been a fairly good year for re-issues, but this show was a complete delightful surprise.
For new shows, nothing comes close to STEEL PIER. Again, I judge a show album by how well it pulls me into the show. "Titanic" left me pretty cold, although I like some of the tracks. "Jekyll and Hyde" is overblown pap (this from someone who likes "Phantom" AND "Les Mis").
Honorable mention goes to DRAT THE CAT. What a fun romp!
I think it was a last year but. . . I could only get it this year and had to fly 3000kms to get it. It is the Dutch cast recording of "The Phantom of the Opera". Henk Poort and Joke de Kruijf are absolutely electrifying together. I just wish it was a complete recording.
I live in New Zealand, and we very rarely even get a 2nd cast recording so anything I hear will be behind those with ready access to theatrical recordings. A nation of 3 million people that has a great but malnourished theatre industry.
From Cheryl Mazzarini:
I have to vote for two-- Jekyll and Hyde and Ragtime. Although I am not a huge fan of Jekyll and Hyde, I find it a bit depressing, I love it because of Christiane Noll. I adore her voice and her songs, though few, make the whole soundtrack worthwhile. With Ragtime, the voices are way to amazing to put into words. This is most certain to be a blockbuster hit when it arrives at Broadway.
From Bryan Schimmel:
When I saw SIDE SHOW, I was concerned about the contradictory styles of music. There are many typical Henry Krieger numbers that seemed stylistically out of place with the period of the show. However, despite this misgiving, I have to say that the cast album has held my attention in a way that I never expected. It truly has not left my CD player since I bought it. It is vocally thrilling and sumptuously orchestrated. For the year, it is also extremely difficult to ignore TITANIC which is sweeping and gorgeous, the concept album of RAGTIME, and STEEL PIER whose score was thankfully not buried in the rubble of the show. The surprise discovery of the year was Jason Robert Brown's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. The Broadway cast album of JEKYLL AND HYDE pales next to the double CD concept album featuring the as-yet-too-unknown Anthony Warlow.
Without a doubt, Toronto's JANE EYRE is the CD that I play the most and never tire of hearing. All involved made the story of Jane Eyre come to life in the most powerful expression of all the emotions that the story possesses. I love all the music, but especially the duets of Marla Schaffel and Anthony Crivello. What passion they bring to the words! I "believe" what they are singing. Jane Eyre is not only classic literature but a classic musical, sung by the best. I hope it makes it to Broadway soon; I cannot wait to see, not only hear, all the performers bring Jane Eyre to life!
From Ann Ciraldo:
My favorite cast album is Jekyll&Hyde. Listening to the album brings back my enjoyment of a wonderful musical theatre experience. Robert Cuccioli's performance is mesmerizing as are those of Linda Eder and Christiane Noll. Wonderful performances include George Merritt and Barrie Ingham. The ensemble also does a terrific job! I still cannot understand how Robert Cuccioli did not win the Tony Award which he so richly deserved!
I think Jekyll and Hyde is one of the best cast albums of 1997. It is so powerful and so amazing that it tends to make me cry often. It has wonderful music and songs along with wonderful singers.
After reading the favorites of Playbill Online users, I felt I had to cast my vote for "Steel Pier, " the most underrated show of the season. I still think most people never forgave it for not being "Chicago, " and it's too bad "Steel Pier" opened in the shadow of the year's best revival. But "Steel Pier" is a beautiful show -- romantic, nostalgic, poignant. It also has one of Kander & Ebb's best scores. Even a brief number like "Second Chance" has more to offer than the whole scores of "Jekyll & Hyde" or "The Life". The score stays in its period, while advancing the plot and illuminating character. That's what theater scores are supposed to do. The score has exquisite ballads ("Somebody Older, " "Dance With Me" and the "Final Dance"), great production numbers ("Everybody Dance") and even novelty songs ("Two Little Words"). The album captures the show well, and the cast is very effective on CD. Hands down, the best.
"Jekyll & Hyde" is OK pop music, but it has little or nothing to do with a theater score (some of the songs actually fight with the action on stage, rather than enhance it. And what will the show be without Linda Eder?
Then there's "The Life" -- the worst musical in memory. What a travesty that it's still running while far better shows have closed. The score is a chaotic mishmash of styles that lack cohesion and often focus too much attention on marginal characters. True, the album is better than the show -- but that's not saying much.