Sondheim Sings! Sony BMG Plans Cast Album Re-Releases With Bonus Material; PS Classics Inc. Mines Sondheim Archival Gold

News   Sondheim Sings! Sony BMG Plans Cast Album Re-Releases With Bonus Material; PS Classics Inc. Mines Sondheim Archival Gold Surrounding the 75th birthday of Stephen Sondheim, two record labels will boast archival material of songs by the composer-lyricist, sung by the master himself, Playbill.com has learned.

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim Photo by Aubrey Reuben

A new Sony BMG Broadway Masterworks series will be launched May 17, offering fans of Sondheim refreshed re-releases of original cast albums of Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park With George.

The discs will include special added material of Sondheim himself singing his work at performances of industry readings and presentations.

"As a result of the Sony BMG merger, 90 percent of Sondheim's recordings are now under one roof," according to a March 1 announcement from the company. "The bonus material on these four expanded editions include songs written for, but not necessarily used in the final versions of the shows, performed here by Sondheim."

All titles are released by Sony BMG Masterworks/Legacy.

Reissue producer is Didier Deutsch. Track listings have not yet been announced. Meanwhile, Playbill.com has learned that in honor of Sondheim's 75th birthday (March 22 this year), PS Classics Inc., the nonprofit organization dedicated to the heritage of American musical theatre, will release a series of CDs entitled "Sondheim Sings."

Utilizing the demos held in Sondheim's private collection, the series will consist of the composer-lyricist singing and playing songs he's written from 1946 to the present. The first volume, due for release May 10, will cover the years 1962 to 1972 and include material from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies and A Little Night Music, all digitally remastered.

The series is being launched with Sondheim's full cooperation, with apportioned proceeds to go to the Young Playwrights Festival, which Sondheim helped found and continues to champion.

Sondheim archivist Peter E. Jones, who serves on board of PS Classics Inc., will be producing the series. Jones told Playbill.com, "Steve performs with charm and exuberance. Volume One showcases some of his best known songs as we're used to hearing them, but also there are several early versions of songs that were revised after the demos were recorded. There are cut songs as well, some of which were replaced by other songs that were replaced yet again! Some of these demos have circulated around for years in bootleg versions — a copy of a copy of a copy; I think people who've heard those will be impressed by the fidelity of these first generation recordings. And those who are hearing these for the first time can look forward to the intimate experience of 'sitting on the piano bench' next to one of Broadway's most legendary figures."

Jones added that subsequent volumes will reach as far back as 1946 and include material that Sondheim wrote in college as well as private songs he wrote for friends and colleagues in the 1950s. Subsequent discs will also explore Sondheim's later material, such as work from the 1980s, but Jones stressed PS Classics is exploring private demos rather than recorded material from readings or presentations, so there is unlikely to be overlap of pieces being heard on the Sony BMG discs.

The first volume will include material as familiar as "Send in the Clowns," but also include novelties like several songs from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with different lyrics and melodies than were heard on Broadway. Fans can expect to hear a version of "Love Is in the Air," for example, which was the original opening number of Forum before "Comedy Tonight" marched to the fore.

Projects of PS Classics Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, are supported by corporate, government and private money. Visit www.psclassics.org.