In his tenure at the Varese Sarabande label, Bruce Kimmel produced 106 theatre-related CDs, including shows such as the 1994 revival of Merrily We Roll Along and the 1996 revival of I Do! I Do!, and the L.A. cast recording of Ruthless!. The label also offered such solo artists as Sally Mayes, Twiggy, Rebecca Luker and the late Laurie Beechman, and special compilations like “Unsung Musicals” and “Lost in Boston.”
But Varese found their show catalogue less profitable and manageable than their film and classical endeavors, so they halted that line "and got out of the Broadway business," as Kimmel puts it. Kimmel bought out the vast majority of the theatre-related disks he created there. He’s now started a new label, Fynsworth Alley, to put out show-related CDs.
On Sept. 1, Kimmel will launch the company’s official website, www.fynsworthalley.com, where all new releases will be available three months exclusively before reaching retail stores and other websites. As reported previously, the first new release on Fynsworth Alley will be a compilation of Stephen Sondheim songs (similar to a Varese release devoted to Stephen Schwartz). Among the singers expected to take part in the July recordings are Liz Callaway, Brian d'Arcy James, Brent Barrett, Kristin Chenoweth, Ruthie Henshall, Norm Lewis, Dorothy Loudon, Christane Noll, Michele Pawk, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner (the Side Show twins) and Lea DeLaria. Callaway is also likely to record a solo album for the record.
Sondheim fans should find the release of special interest, since "The Stephen Sondheim Album" will include a song the composer wrote when he was 19. "I Must Be Dreaming" was penned for the musical All That Glitters and, according to Kimmel, has never before been recorded.
Andrew E. Freedman Public Relations spokesperson Lex Leifheit told Playbill On-Line (May 5) the new website was necessary as a way of counteracting the difficulty of marketing theatre-related disks in the usual way. “You put out some of these records,” said Leifheit, “and it’s available at the Lincoln Center Tower Records and nowhere else in the country. A website changes that picture.” In a statement, Kimmel said his plan was to create, “a full-service internet presence...to offer our CDs to the most people in the easiest way possible.” Patty Freedman noted that the site would also offer live chats with its recording artists, as well as a discount club membership for releases. Recordings produced by Kimmel at Varese Sarabande will also be available for purchase.
Asked about the status of the Varese recordings, Kimmel told Playbill On- Line, "Out of the 106 albums, I produced there, I'd say 92 or 93 are theatre related. Of those, I'll probably end up with 70. We would re-press them when they needed to be re-pressed, and we'd do the booklets jointly with Varese, which will likely remain the distributor for store copies. Varese will also be the store distributor for Fynsworth CDs, too."
But why the internet venture? "The reason Varese rarely made a huge amount of money," Kimmel said, "is that stores can return 100 percent of what they don't sell. Whereas with the `net, we press what we need and we sell it. The point of the venture is to reach the 3000 or so people who bought every album I ever produced at Varese; now they'll come to website and buy it. Three months later, they can come to retail stores, too, but those disks won't have the extra bonus tracks. We do want to entice the hardcore collector mentality."
Before coming to Varese Sarabande, Kimmel wrote and directed “The First Nudie Musical” (a film starring Cindy Williams...remember?) and appeared on several sitcoms and variety shows.
-- By David Lefkowitz