The year 1997 has seen a bumper crop of theatrical cast albums: The Lion King, The Life, Titanic, Steel Pier, Side Show, Jekyll & Hyde, "Songs From The Capeman," the Dale-Martin Candide, the re-release of the long-awaited Golden Apple . . . and lots more.
For many who live beyond the NY and London metro areas, the cast album IS their experience of a show. In that light, please share your greatest experience listening to a cast album that was released or re-released in 1997. Please make sure to explain your choice.
E-mail your responses to Managing Editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owing to the large number of responses, we have created this second file of "Top 10's." Playbill thanks those who took the time to write:
From Mike Garcia:
I always buy the Tony winner for best musical. Sometimes it gets played over and over, sometimes, like this year's TITANIC, it gets played once and shelved.
On the other hand, some times I buy a CD based on a performer or composer, as I did for STEEL PIER. I am a huge fan of Kander and Ebb's style. I also love Karen Ziemba and Debra Monk. I was impressed, but not surprised by the Tony show excerpt. The CD of the show only proves that STEEL PIER is Kander and Ebb's strongest score since CHICAGO. I still find the story far too contrived, but the score and performances fill it out.
My votes: 1) STEEL PIER
2) THE LIFE
3) PLAY ON!
My roommate's picks:
1) THE LIFE
2) STEEL PIER
Does SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD count? it's my overall favorite CD this year.
From Tina Sheing:
My vote goes to "The LIFE" - with performances by Sam Harris & Lillias White, I'm sorry- who could ask for more!?!?!?!?! Plus the ENTIRE ensemble of about twenty singing some amazing harmony!!!! WOW ! The energy matches the performances in one of the most entertaining shows I've seen (haven't seen Lion King yet...)! In my opinion, it's much better than a cast of , say 30-40 singing "There she is, standing high, ship of dreams....." in UNISON it leaves me feeling quite empty - sorry - I know this seems to be everyone else's favorite, but not mine! I also enjoy "Lion King" and I haven't heard "Chicago" yet - to be fair.
From Paul Castro
My choice for the best Original Cast Album of 1997 is JEKYLL and HYDE.. This album runs the gamut from good to great. The songs are inspiring and moving. The voice of Robert Cuccioli is strong and verbose. Christiane Noll's voice is that of an angel. And lets not forget LINDA EDER!!!! she is awesome. I can listen to this album over and over and never grow tired. And as Robert would say....This is the moment.....for the show and the album to shine and shine.....Peace out....
Right before the Tony Awards I rush up to New York to see TITANIC figuring that she won't survive the awards were announced... wrong. So you can see my batting average at picking winners. I went to see CHICAGO, at the National in Washington with the outstanding road show cast, Charlotte d'Amboise, Jasmine Guy, Obba Babatunde and Ron Orbach and bought the Broadway cast CD when I was leaving the theatre. The roadshow cast was much better then the Broadway cast CD. Others who went to see the show in Washington and bought the CD were also disappointed. The CD is very good but the cast mentioned above is much better. The following is my list:
1) TITANIC - the cast album is excellent - the music flows.
2) THE LION KING - an excellent album - It made me want to see the show.
3) BY JEEVES - excellent show and CD - its difficult to follow the story based on the CD alone. Not what you would expect from Andrew Lloyd Webber ( BY JEEVES played at the Kennedy Center)
4) CHICAGO - great sound very well done CD
5) STEEL PIER - I liked the CD, it has some very good songs - I'm sorry I missed the play in New York.
6) SIDE SHOW - a good CD.
From Aaron Knudsvig:
I've heard several of the cast albums that are out, and every day there is a different favorite. For now I would say that my favorite is CHICAGO. I think it is just amazing. Close behind are THE LION KING and STEEL PIER. Also towards the top is J&H although it doesn't thrill me as much as the live production did.
Living in Lisbon, Portugal, the cast albums are the only way for me to have contact with the shows. Now and then I visit London or New York (for the first time this year) where I had the pleasure of seeing a few musicals.
It's very difficult to find cast albums here in Lisbon, so I have to order them from London or New York. That's the reason I haven't the recording of "Side Show" yet. I saw it on Broadway and I loved it, but I can't judge the album without hearing it.
Of all the cast albums I bought this year my favorites are, in order of preference: "Steel Pier", the revival of "Chicago" and the City Center's Encores "The Boys from Syracuse". I think that the last one is Rodgers and Hart best score. All the songs are great and true classics and in this new recording a perfect cast make them sound better than ever. The orchestrations are wonderful and musical director Rob Fisher deserve our applause for his work.
The original Broadway cast of "Chicago" is my all time favorite theatre score. I approached the revival with caution, fearing the worst, and I was surprised with its quality. Being a most complete recording than the original, the new CD give us the real essence of this new production. Closing our eyes we can almost feel every move of the dancers. The cast couldn't be better.
Last but not least, the cast album of "Steel Pier". As a big fan of Kander and Ebb, I was expecting something fabulous and that's what I got. I don't know why this show closed so soon, but hearing the CD I believe this new musical deserves a Second Chance. The orchestrations are excellent, the cast a joy to hear and thanks (I believe) to Jay David Saks we can see the whole show in our mind. The score is one of the best of this decade and I just wish that one day I will be able to see it live on stage.
From D. Ahlers:
Can I pick two?
Number one has to be Titanic. Not since Les Mis have I heard such a wonderful ensemble cast singing together. The score matched the show perfectly, and the principal characters were great. I particularly enjoyed "We'll Meet Tomorrow" in act 2. I also liked Victoria Clark's "The First Class Roster" Why wasn't she nominated for a Tony- she was GREAT!!!!!
Following in a very close second is J&H. I've seen the show once, but that was for half price and Christiane Knoll wasn't there. I have tickets for the Jan. 28 evening show and I've been informed that all three leads will be there. The ensemble songs are great on the album, but not as good as Titanic's. Robert Cucciolli and Christiane Knoll sound great, and need I mention Linda Eder. "This is the Moment" is one of my favorite solos ever sung. "A New Life" is my number one fave. though. I also particularly loved "In His Eyes". Christiane Knoll and Linda Eder sound GREAT!!! together
From Lisa from Sedalia, Missouri:
The only possible choice is "Jekyll and Hyde"!! The MUSIC!! The LYRICS!! And most of all those magnificent VOICES!! Cuccioli-Eder-Noll WOW!! FANTASTIC!!! Who cares about the critics? We all know they have no soul and are jaded prima donnas. "J & H" is the perfect album. Go buy it!
I'd have to say Jekyll & Hyde was the best recording for the year. Each time I listen to it, something new becomes clear to me and I'm just blown away. Even the though the Complete Works has some advantages over it, the cast on the OBC album, particularly Christiane Noll, is incredible. I don't know how Titanic can get such respect- the music is incredibly dull, and how can anyone top Robert Cuccioli's unbelievable duel performance that he performs with such artistry night after night? Frank Wildhorn is a truly talented composer who deserves considerably more respect for his works, especially J&H and Scarlet Pimpernel.
Jekyll and Hyde is the best musical. The show was so powerful in performance. Numbers like "Alive", "This is the Moment", and "The Confrontation" sent chills down my spine. The whole cast was amazing to watch bring to the stage a timeless thriller. Titanic is a very nice show. The ensemble cast is vocally very strong, but the score was not strong enough to match the cast.
Hands down, it's "Titanic". I first saw the show in September and, I must admit, was not overly impressed with it. Don't get me wrong - I liked it, but not in the same way as "Phantom of the Opera" and other wildly popular shows. But, to all the people out there who saw the show, especially in previews: the CD is so moving and enjoyable that it automatically shifts your views of the whole show. The next time I went to see "Titanic", about a month ago (mid-November), I enjoyed it a whole lot more - especially since I had the whole score memorized! "Titanic" is definitely one of those shows that have to "grow" on you. I bet if all those nasty critics actually went back and sat through the whole thing, they would change their opinions. The other show's music came no where near "Titanic"'s. Then again, it's all a matter of tastes. And I must say that "Titanic" is very sweet while all the others (with the exception of J&H maybe - sweet and sour) were bitter.
My best choice would have to be TITANIC followed closely by THE LION KING followed closely by CHICAGO.
The music to TITANIC is wonderfully moving especially "lady's Maid", "The Proposal/The Night Was Alive", "No Moon" & "The Blame". I can't hear "We'll Meet Tomorrow" without getting teary.
The LION KING is wonderful! I wasn't a fan of the movie at all , but I greatly enjoy the stage version. I like all the songs Elton John didn't write the best & am really grateful that `they improved the old songs for the show.I greatly enjoy "They Live In you", "Endless Night", "Shadowland" & anything by Tsidii Le Loka.
I liked CHICAGO but I think it was helped a lot by the image of Bebe Neuwirth slithering about the stage.
From Michael Shayne:
Titanic because the more I listen to it the more I like the score especially the opening sequence which I can listen again and again.
No Way To Treat a Lady. What a fun score an it was delightfully performed by the cast. I have listened to it many times since I bought it.
Hey Love is a enjoyable recording of Mary Rodgers work and it proves that she should have had a career on Broadway. Which leads to:
Floyd Collins written by her son. An ambitious and promising new score. It is a keeper for my collection.
Drat the Cat a score that proves that it is more than one song (He/She Touched Me) Jason Graae deserves Broadway stardom. He is soooo goood.
and honorable mention to Bruce Kimmel and Varese Sarabande for all his compilation and solo singer albums.
To JAY records and John Yap for his 2CD releases of shows with all the music. They need to be release quicker instead of being held back. Specialemention to South Pacific. This should be side by side with the original cast recording. No other recordings necessary.
From CHRIS BOWEN:
My vote would go to Titanic. This soundtrack is by far the most superior vocally and instrumentally. You get a great grasp for the storyline, and I was moved completely by the entire recording. There are not any voices that are irritating to listen to over and over again. Bravo to the Titanic Cast recording.
My #2 vote would go to the Chicago cast recording. Wonderful orchestrations and choral arrangements. Way to Go Ann R. and Bebe N. !
From David A. Greenman:
TITANIC has to be the best all around album. There are no real major short comings on it. The choral arrangements are fab and Brian D'Arcy James is pretty great too. I hadn't listened to the album in a while, but the other day I found myself singing "What a Remarkable Age This Is." Humph, and to think I am the same guy who left the theatre saying, "I really liked it, but nothing is really hummable." As for some other albums: JEKYLL AND HYDE was a pure travesty! Not quite as mind numbing as the show itself (probably because you can do other things while listening and tune the music out), this album was not worth making. The concept album is really only the masterpiece it is because of Anthony Warlow, so to hear anyone else--feh! LION KING is a fun album. The African stuff is great, as are some of the other new songs (Endless Night and He Lives In You to be specific). Unfortunately, the repeat songs don't live up to the movie (especially Hakuna Matata and Be Prepared) and some of the new songs are just wretched (Chow Down, of which I must ask "WHY?", and Madness of King Scar to be specific again). Those are just a few opinions. Still gotta get SIDESHOW, but I hear it is great. TTFN!
#1) - TITANIC - a great album of a great show #2) - SIDE SHOW - a great cast album of an awful show #3) - PASSION (London Cast) - a great cast album of the best show
Jekyll and Hyde has by far the best cast recording of any new musical. I feel that this is true because of numbers such as "This is the Moment", "Murder, Murder", and "Facade".
From: Stu Grossman:
DEFINITELY and without any reservations whatsoever, my vote goes to "Side Show" I am an avid collector of theatre recordings, reissues are most exciting as is "Golden Apple", but as far as new scores are concerned, and I love the score for "Titanic", "Side Show" is simply wonderful, brilliant, thrilling and downright mesmerizing. Hopefully Mr. Kreiger will now get the recognition he so rightly deserves. He has written a score so rich in melody and so thrilling, that I get goosebumps each time I listen to it, and I have done that many many times already, I just cant seem to get enough. The two leads are truly amazing, their voices are so gorgeous together its unbelievable, their rendition of "I will never leave you" sends chills up my spine as well as "Who will love me as I am". Norm Lewis singing of "You should be loved" is simply the best i have heard on a broadway stage in years. Why this show is not selling out is just unclear,. it is simply marvelous. Cmon you people, support this show, you will come out of the theatre feeling truly moved. Fabulous score. RUSH TO THE RICHARD RODGERS THEATRE AND FEEL SOMETHING NOT FELT OFTEN ENOUGH ON BROADWAY A SMASH HIT
For a large-scale show, it's hands-down to THE LION KING. Simply put- it can stand on its own. Whilst the talent in TITANIC, JEKYLL & HYDE, THE LIFE, STEEL PIER and SIDE SHOW are quite obvious, it's hit-and-miss with the scores...some soar and some snore...I could listen to THE LION KING anytime, anywhere...
But let's not forget the smaller review-type shows...for me, it'd have to be FORBIDDEN BROADWAY STRIKES BACK. I literally haunt the record stores when I know another one in the series is coming- I'm awed by the incredible talent, and Gerard Allesandrini's humor keeps me in stitches- no matter how foul the day has been, listening to any of the Forbidden Broadway CD's puts a smile on my face. This particular edition isn't as hysterical as Volume II, but the cast (Bryan Batt, Donna English, Christine Pedi and Tom Plotkin) sell the music AND the humor...
and I thank them for the hours of enjoyment they've brought me!
From John Frey:
My vote goes to Jekyll & Hyde! The music is wonderfully beautiful and the voices are incredible! I saw the saw the week it opened. It is a powerful thriller with performances that made my hair stand on end. Bob Cuccioli was robbed of the Tony last year. He nails the blood and guts role 5 or 6 days a week. The man gives a tour de force performances. Linda Eder is the best voice on B'way and Christiane Noll is close behind her. This recording is a must have if you like exciting theatre!
From Ellen Lipschitz:
STEEL PIER - the best and most enjoyable album of the year, and yes I did see the show and enjoyed it tremendously. But I'm a Romantic at heart and STEEL PIER was a show for the Romantics, the lovers of fantasy! Not too many of us around in the 90's. But the music is wonderful and catchy, I find myself singing it all the time. Of course I'm also singing TITANIC all the time as well. STEEL PIER was a wonderful experience for me all around. We ran in to see it just 3 nights before it closed. Loved Susan Stroman's choreography, but I am a dance lover and I guess for the general public, some of those numbers might have been a bit long, but I loved every minute. And I was so impressed with Daniel McDonald, who we knew from ALL MY CHILDREN!
To those who haven't heard STEEL PIER, I urge you to do so!! You will definitely be pleasantly surprised. I'm sure this show will turn up again and again!
From Dennis Clancy:
I have three favorites.
"Titanic" is Maury Yeston at his best. Listening to the CD is a very exciting experience. The score is very exciting and extremely emotional. I was so impressed with the score that when I saw the show I was a bit let down by the whole experience. Far more aural than visual. "Steel Pier" deserved a better fate. It wasn't given a chance. Thank God it was preserved on CD. I felt it had a very rich and melodious score and a cast to die for.
"Chicago" was an LP that deserved many playings when it opened in 1975. Just to hear Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera was enough. Kander and Ebb's glorious score made it even better. The CD for the revival is even more glorious. Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking may not be Verdon and Rivera, but they certainly make this an experience you won't forget. With a supporting cast that is unparalleled, I really can't get enough.
From J.Michael DeAngelis:
While I did not get a chance to see the production, I've really enjoyed the New Broadway Cast Recording of "Candide." A huge fan of Bernstein, I do own all six recordings of the operetta, and while I don't particularly care for the Hugh Wheeler version of the story, this recording is one of the liveliest of the six available.
"Candide" is a fun score. It is, after all, a comedy, and even with the good number of beautiful ballads, Bernstein's music is energetic and witty. The problem with previous recordings of the work is that is handled in a far too operatic manor. While the music is complicated, it can be sung like one is having a good time. Jim Dale and his fellow actor's do just that. While their voices may not give full justice to the piece, neither did the cast of the hugely successful 1974 production, so I didn't even give that much consideration.
Dale is a lot of fun, especially in his constant narration as "Dr. Voltaire," which gives the album a nice continuity. Brent Barrett is superb as the vain Maximillian, and Andrea Martin is a strong Old Lady, and her two new numbers (by Sondheim) are clever. She is especially enjoyable in "I Am Easily Assimilated" and "Quiet." The album deletes some numbers, and I would have liked to seen them on the record, but I can understand their desire to keep the recording on one disk, with five other cast recordings already out.
From Ann Ciraldo:
My vote for best 1997 cast album is Jekyll&Hyde. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Frank Wildhorn's wonderful music and the fantastic interpretations of all the roles. Robert Cuccioli, Linda Eder and Christiane Noll all do a wonderful job as do all the other cast members and the ensemble. I listen to the album all the time. It brings back a wonderful night of musical theatre!
From member jt13:
Although I haven't heard all of the new recordings from the season, from the ones that I have heard (which are "Titanic" "Lion King" Jekyll & Hyde" "Songs from the Capeman" "Side Show"), "J&H" takes it BAR NONE. Without a doubt, the recording contains some of the most beautiful voices to grace the stage in quite some time. The orchestra backup is fantastic-I spent the better part of an hour foregoing the words to listen to the background music for many of the major songs. And about the major songs-while Linda Eder truly has a beautiful voice, she overshadows a dynamic newcomer in Christiane Noll. As Emma, Noll takes the passion & soul of the character displayed on stage in the songs, and through her singing, brings it to the listener. Robert Cuccioli does a rather honorable job as well as Jekyll, although "Obsession" and "The Way Back" seem to get lost in the luster of the other songs. On the whole, however, "Jekyll & HYde" gives us one of the most entertaining cast albums of the year.
Far and away the best cast album for this past year has to be the Encores! recording of THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, for several reasons. First of all, it has one of the best scores ever written. Second, the new recording uses original orchestrations from the 1939 production, orchestrations never before recorded. Need further convincing? Listen to the "This Can't Be Love." When was the last time that orchestrations were part of a punch line, ("My heart does not stand still/just hear it beat")? Finally, the cast was first rate, from Rebecca Luker to David Gaines to that new musical comedy star Marian Seldes! What a classy, elegant recording. I can't take it off my CD player! And my candidate for 1998's best cast album -- SWEET ADELINE!
I am not sure if City Center Encores qualifies as a Broadway cast album, but I would vote "The Boys from Syracuse". The cast was able to project its enthusiasm and sense of fun from the stage to the CD. The orchestrations are outstanding and I particularly liked Rebecca Luker's "Falling in Love with Love" and Davis Gaines' "You Have Cast Your Shadow on the Sea" Even the "Sing for Your Supper" number was great even without the smashing choreography it had on the stage.
From Jamie Lojewski:
Jekyll and Hyde is by far the winner in my eyes (original broadway cast recording) I saw the original cast and every time I listen to it's beautiful music I can still remember the tingles down my spine that I felt when I saw it. Christiane Noll has got the most breathtaking voice that I have ever heard. The entire cast provides such an original and genuine sound that it is impossible not to fall in love with the play and the music.
From Mark Rideout:
I can only choose one???!!! In that case, it would have to be CHICAGO. The disc perfectly expresses the dazzling performances on stage and makes it a listening experience all on its own. Running a close second is CANDIDE--kudos to Garth Drabinsky for finally getting a recording of this piece that makes it sound like it actually belongs on stage. And hats off to STEEL PIER for the incredible sound design of a less-than-marvelous show. This lovingly produced recording may give SP the life it deserves beyond Broadway.
THE LION KING: The music from this brilliant musical is beyond explanation! From the new tribal chants by Lebo M to the new songs by Elton John, This CD is very eclectic, Although I do not feel that the song Chow Down is one of the better ones. The haunting "Shadowland" gives me goose bumps every time I listen to it. The joyous "he lives in you reprise" is truly an inspiration. Hakuna Matata is good. I just can't wait to be king seems better as a smaller number, which it is here. I love the intro to Circle of Life. Is there anything I'm missing? Oh yeah, "endless night" is awesome also. i'd highly recommend this CD.
Other picks: Ragtime, Chicago, Titanic, Jekyll and Hyde.
From Ron & Steve:
My vote for best cast album of '97 definitely goes to TITANIC. The album captured the spirit of this great show. My second choice would be THE LION KING. I am thrilled that the music from the RHYTHM OF THE PRIDE LANDS album was incorporated into the stage version.
No question!! - STEEL PIER. The music soars throughout the entire album. It has a way of picking up one's spirits and setting them free. Though it was disappointing to see it close so soon, the album makes up for it. "First You Dream" and "Willing to Ride" are among my favorites from the album. Also, the packaging design is great and it comes with a wonderful book/pictures. Definitely check it out. (by the way, TITANIC is pretty good too!)