The studio cast of Strike Up the Band — a musical satire of war that concerns chocolate as the reason for a battle with Switzerland — features Brent Barrett and Rebecca Luker. This is the first time a full recording of the 1930 version of this Gershwin classic has been released. Some of the tracks on this disc were previously released as appendix material on a 1990 recording of the 1927 version of the show. (In the 1927 script, Swiss cheese was the war-inciting food.)
As previously reported in a Playbill.com exclusive, this studio album is being released more than 20 years after recording began. It's the 100th release by PS Classics, the Grammy Award-nominated label devoted to American theatre music and popular song.
Work on the piecing-together of the 1990 tapes of the 1930 studio recording recommenced this past winter under the supervision of original producer Tommy Krasker, co-founder (with Philip Chaffin) of PS Classics.
The track listing is as follows:
2. Fletcher's American Chocolate Choral Society
3. I Mean to Say
4. "Not apologize exactly…"
5. Typical Self-Made American
6. "Have a nice talk?…"
8. Dream Music
9. The Unofficial Spokesman
10. Patriotic Rally
11. "Has the war started yet?…"
12. If I Became the President
13. Hangin' Around with You
14. Finaletto Act I
15. Strike Up the Band
16. Opening Act II
17. Mademoiselle in New Rochelle
18. I've Got a Crush on You
19. How About a Boy?
20. Soldiers' March
21. Dream Music II
22. Official Resume
23. Ring-a-Ding-a-Ding-Dong Dell
24. Finale Ultimo Krasker, co-founder of PS Classics and album producer, told Playbill.com on May 2, "A mere listing of the tracks doesn't begin to suggest the many ways in which the Gershwins overhauled the score between its failed out-of-town tryout in 1927 and its triumphant Broadway premiere in 1930. In fact, in some cases, the track listings are deceptive. Both shows have Overtures but they're completely different; the same can be said for the Openings and Finales of Act II. 'How About a Boy' in 1930 is a completely different number from 'How About a Man' in 1927 — they both serve the same plot purpose, but the Gershwins chose to write a brand-new song in 1930, and it turned out to be a much bigger crowd-pleaser."
He added, "And even in cases where the exact same song title appears in both versions, the songs themselves often underwent significant revisions. For example, for 'Typical Self-Made American,' a song that went over well in 1927, the Gershwins expanded it with an additional verse and refrain, which are marvelous. In 'Patriotic Rally,' on the other hand, a song whose Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inspired patter kind of laid an egg in 1927, the Gershwins substituted a dance refrain. And there are incredibly subtle changes throughout, sometimes as seemingly insignificant as changing the word 'the' to 'a' — but the Gershwins were perfectionists, and even where songs worked in 1927, they never stopped trying to refine and improve them. What I find most impressive about the overhauling of Strike Up the Band is that the Gershwins were able to simultaneously see the big picture while never losing sight of the smallest details."
The Trumpet of the Swan: A Novel Symphony for Actors and Orchestra is a music-and-narration piece for actors and musicians (including one fierce trumpet player). It gets its recording premiere from PS Classics. The studio recording is conducted by Brown, who is also the record's producer. Sam Davis wrote the orchestrations.
The recording's all-star cast includes John Lithgow (The Sweet Smell of Success, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, TV's "3rd Rock From the Sun") as Sam, Kathy Bates (Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, "Misery" and TV's "Harry's Law") as Sam's Mother/Mother Swan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, TV's "Modern Family") as Louis' Thoughts, hit-recording artist Mandy Moore as Serena, James Naughton (City of Angels, Chicago) as Sam's Father/Father Swan and Martin Short (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me) as Man.
The role of Louis is performed, musically, by trumpeter Christopher Venditti, of the recent Kennedy Center production. Separately, Lithgow and Bates have previously appeared in Kennedy Center productions of the piece.
Commissioned by the Kennedy Center, where it premiered in November 2008 (and played a return engagement in March 2011), the show — based on the children's book by E.B. White — has music and lyrics by Tony Award winner Brown (13, The Last Five Years, Parade, Songs for a New World) and text by Pulitzer Prize-winning, Tony-winning playwright Norman (The Secret Garden, The Color Purple, 'night, Mother).
The Trumpet of the Swan, according PS Classics, "tells the story of Louis, the young trumpeter swan who was born without a voice, but who, with the help of his courageous father, and a loyal boy named Sam, overcomes his adversities, learns to write and play the trumpet, and finds fame, fortune and true love in the big world."
Brown told Playbill.com, "The Trumpet of the Swan has been the most joyful and continually inspiring experience of my musical life. Being able to tell E. B. White's story with music was a challenge I looked forward to meeting every day, and having Marsha Norman as my collaborator was nothing but pleasure. Getting to conduct this orchestra of the best session players in Los Angeles was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, and then having this unbelievable cast is more than I ever could have wished. I know it sounds like a list of clichéd superlatives, but I mean every word: I have never had more fun or been more musically fulfilled than working on this recording."
Norman added, "I have loved E. B. White's work for my whole life as a writer, from his 'Elements of Style' through 'Charlotte's Web' and on to 'The Trumpet of the Swan.' He is a national treasure. My hope is that in finding an orchestral voice for Louis the Swan, Jason and I can introduce this beautiful story to an audience of students and families, giving them the joy of seeing a big orchestra and fabulous actors."
The track listing is:
2. The Pond
3. The Eggs & The Fox
5. Father & Son
6. The Ranch
7. Spelling & Serena
8. A Mission to Billings
9. Louis Learns to Play
12. A Night at the Ritz
13. Western Union
14. Philadelphia Swing
15. High Fashion & Low Prices
16. Sunday Concerts & Storm
18. The Head Man in Charge of Birds
19. Sam to the Rescue
Founded in 2000 by Tommy Krasker & Philip Chaffin, and a six-time Grammy nominee (for its cast albums of Assassins, Nine: The Musical, Grey Gardens, Company, A Little Night Music and Sondheim on Sondheim), PS Classics celebrates the heritage of Broadway and American popular song through its award-winning cast recordings, solo albums and recordings drawn from rare sound archives, including "Sondheim Sings." Coming soon from the label is a new studio recording of the long-lost Vernon Duke/Ogden Nash musical Sweet Bye and Bye.