Encores! Merrily We Roll Along Concert Cast Recording Hits No. 1 on Billboard Cast Album Chart
By Michael Gioia
The 2012 Encores! concert cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, released July 10 on PS Classics, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top Cast Album chart in its first week of release, with just over 2,000 units sold, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
"We're shocked and delighted," PS Classics co-founder Philip Chaffin told Playbill.com. "We've never had any album do this kind of first-week sales that wasn't a full-fledged Broadway cast recording. It seems to be a combination of some great early reviews and strong word-of-mouth. We've had amazing emails from customers, who felt — as we did — that this production represented the culmination of 30 years of work by Sondheim, [George] Furth, [Jonathan] Tunick and [James] Lapine, and was so deserving of a recording. It's wonderful to see that borne out in first-week sales."
The two-disc album, which was recorded April 9-10, also finished at No. 10 in Top Internet Albums. Read the recent Playbill.com On the Record column, which discusses the recently released album.
The recording, like the Feb. 8-19 concert run, features completely new orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. This new recording is the only album to include all the changes that Sondheim and librettist George Furth made in the decades following Merrily's initial 1981 Broadway run. It's also the first time that the post-1981 material is fully orchestrated for a large Broadway-style orchestra (Tunick did the original orchestrations, too).
For the Encores! production, PS Classics noted, Tunick not only scored the new material (which includes "That Frank," "Growing Up," "Musical Husbands" and "The Blob"), but "newly scored the entire work, including all of the original, surviving songs" and overture.
The City Center Encores! production of Merrily We Roll Along was headed by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) as lyricist Charley Kringas, Colin Donnell (Anything Goes) as songwriter Franklin Shepard, Celia Keenan-Bolger (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as magazine writer Mary Flynn, Betsy Wolfe (Tales of the City, Everyday Rapture) as Franklin's wife Beth, Elizabeth Stanley (Million Dollar Quartet) as Gussie Carnegie (the star of Franklin and Charley's first Broadway hit), Adam Grupper as producer Joe Josephson and Zachary Unger as Frank Jr.
The album is produced by PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker, with label co-founder Philip Chaffin and Sean Patrick Flahaven serving as executive producers.
Krasker previously told Playbill.com, "I confess I had not seen a production of Merrily since the original, and I was unprepared for how it had been so completely and brilliantly transformed. And then you hear these stunning orchestrations by Jonathan. It felt to us like the culmination of more than 30 years of work by Sondheim and Furth and Lapine and Tunick; how do you not preserve something like that on disc?"
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