By Steven Suskin
17 Jul 2012
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Given the opportunity by City Center, Tunick has totally reorchestrated the show that he by this point knows so well. While the original Broadway cast album sounds great — it did in 1981, and does today — this new recording sounds better. And not just in the orchestration, but in the playing. The whole thing, under the direction of Rob Berman, practically leaps off the disc. Listen to the overture, and listen to those trumpet players; the clarity, the distinct colors blending into a three-part choir. And listen to that featured tuba. The music sounds good, and the musicians sound good.
(Those of us you who know the original recording note-for-note might be startled by the final fanfare at the end of the overture. That clam — the high note that the trumpet player muffs — is gone. Imagine, we actually hear it now without the error and it sounds like something is missing!)
The glory of Merrily We Roll Along, though, is in Sondheim's score. While I've always found the existing cast albums endlessly interesting, this new one adds another element. The songs are not just good/enjoyable/intriguing/you-name-it; they are impressive. One after another. The big group numbers, like "That Frank," "Now You Know," "It's a Hit," "Opening Doors," "Our Time." And the smaller numbers, "Like It Was," "Franklin Shepard, Inc.," "Old Friends, "Growing Up," "Good Thing Going."
We can thank PS Classics for recording this production, and for spreading it over two discs. This allows 89 minutes-worth, instead of the 67 on the Broadway album. All the music plus enough dialogue to give us a better sense of the motivations for the songs.
But we could go on and on. Let's just say Merrily We Roll Along now takes its rightful place on the Sondheim shelf.
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(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)