Albums

Celebrate Broadway Vol. 4: Overtures

Celebrate Broadway Vol. 4: Overtures

Listen

  1. Disc 1
  2. 1. Overture to Carousel (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II – Orchestration: Don Walker; Musical Director: Franz Allers)
  3. 2. Overture to Finian’s Rainbow (Burton Lane & E.Y. Harburg – Orchestration: Robert Russell Bennett and Don Walker; Musical Director: Max Meth)
  4. 3. Overture to Follies (Stephen Sondheim – Orchestration: Jonathan Tunick; Musical Director: Paul Gemignani; The New York Philharmonic)
  5. 4. Overture to The Roar of the Greasepaint (The Smell of the Crowd) (Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse – Orchestration: Philip J. Lang; Musical Direction: Herbert Grossman)
  6. 5. Overture to Hello, Dolly! (Jerry Herman – Orchestration: Philip J. Lang; Musical Direction: Saul Schechtman)
  7. 6. Overture to The Boy Friend (Sandy Wilson – Orchestration: Ted Royal and Charles L Cooke; Musical Direction: Anton Coppola, Paul McGrane and His Bearcats)
  8. 7. Overture to Peter Pan (Mark Charlap, Jule Styne, Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden & Adolph Green – Orchestration: Albert Sendrey; Musical Director: Louis Adrian)
  9. 8. Overture to On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Burton Lane & Alan Jay Lerner – Orchestration: Robert Russell Bennett; Musical Director: Theodore Saidenberg)
  10. 9. Overture to Merrily We Roll Along (Stephen Sondheim – Orchestration: Jonathan Tunick; Musical Director: Paul Gemignani)
  11. 10. Overture to The King and I (Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II – Orchestration: Robert Russell Bennett; Musical Director: Milton Rosenstock)
  12. 11. Overture to Mack & Mabel from Jerry Herman’s Broadway (Jerry Herman – Orchestration: Philip J. Lang; Musical Direction: Donald Pippin)
  13. 12. Overture to Gypsy (Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim – Orchestration: Sid Ramin with Robert Ginzler; Musical Direction: Richard Leonard)

Synopsis

This is a collection of some of Broadway’s most popular and exciting overtures. Each of the selections is a reflection of the creative efforts of three individuals – the composer, the orchestrator, and the conductor – and one group, the orchestra. To look at the tracking page of this recording is to see a list of the most talented and creative musical people in Broadway history.

Carousel’s overture is really not an overture. It’s a prologue that perfectly sets the tone for this extraordinary Rodgers & Hammerstein musical that was first produced on Broadway in 1945. It ran for 890 performances and is even more popular today than it was back then. This recording is from the spirited 1965 revival that starred John Raitt (recreating his original role) at the New York State Theatre. Some of the songs from Carousel’s rich score are “If I Loved You,” “The Carousel Waltz,” and, of course, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

This really is an overture. Burton Lane’s score to Finian’s Rainbow is one of the best ever written for a musical, including such songs as “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?,” “Old Devil Moon,” “Look to the Rainbow,” and “When I’m Not with the Girl I Love.” First produced on Broadway in 1947, the show ran for 725 performances. This recording is from the 1960 City Center revival that starred Jeanne Carson, Biff McGuire, and Howard Morris.

When it was first produced under the direction of Harold Prince in 1971, Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies received huge critical acclaim, ran for 522 performances, and closed at a huge financial loss to its backers. The original cast recording was heavily abridged and it wasn’t until 1985, when an all-star concert performance was given at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, that a full recording was finally made. The event starred Lee Remick, Barbara Cook, Mandy Patinkin, George Hearn, Carol Burnett, and Elaine Stritch, and was truly a night to remember.

Initially produced unsuccessfully in Great Britain, The Roar of the Greasepaint (The Smell of the Crowd) was picked up by producer David Merrick and brought to America in 1965. Thanks in part to Tony Bennett’s chart-topping rendition of “Who Can I Turn To?,” the show had great success on its pre-Broadway tour and proved popular with Broadway audiences as well.

There was no overture on the original cast recording of Hello, Dolly!; however, when RCA Victor recorded a new cast album, starring Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway, an overture was commissioned and the result is a zesty medley with a very contemporary (for the time) rendition of the title song.

Sandy Wilson’s rollicking 1920s spoof, The Boy Friend, was for many years the most successful British musical in Broadway history. It also marked the Broadway debut of a very young Julie Andrews. In 1971 it was made into a rather strange film starring Twiggy and directed by Ken Russell. The score, however, remains charming. Here it is played in true 1920s style. Vo doh dee oh doh!

Mary Martin is Peter Pan. It’s as simple as that. However, we’re always so taken with the flying and the theatrics that we tend to ignore this lovely score, the work of a group of talented authors. The songs (“I’ve Gotta Crow,” “Neverland,” “I’m Flying,” and “Distant Melody” are among them) add up to one of the most melodic scored ever heard on Broadway.

While On a Clear Day You Can See Forever wasn’t a big hit (and is mostly remembered for the film version which starred Barbra Streisand), the score is a bountiful one and the show featured the great Barbara Harris as Daisy Gamble. The songs (“What Did I have?,” “She Wasn’t You,” “Come Back to Me,” and the title song) add up to one of the richest and most underrated scores of recent times.

The overture to Merrily We Roll Along is proof (if anyone felt it was needed) that Stephen Sondheim can write an old-fashioned brassy Broadway score if the project demands it. The musical had a brief 16-performance run on Broadway and the recording was made the day after the show closed. Three of Sondheim’s best songs (“Not a Day Goes By,” “Old Friends,” and “Like It Was”) are from this show, evidence enough that a show doesn’t have to be a commercial hit to have hit songs.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, The King and I, was once thought to be the personal property of the late Yul Brynner. However, time has been good to this show and it now can be seen as the wonderful unified theatrical work that it is. It’s not a one-man star vehicle at all: we should remember that it is in fact called The King and I. This recording was made in 1977 when Mr. Brynner and Constance Towers played the show to great acclaim around the country and on Broadway.

Jerry Herman’s score for Mack & Mabel is one of his best, full of his signature optimism and gusto. The show, which starred Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters, had a scant 66-performance run in 1974 at a time when Mr. Herman’s type of music seemed to be falling into disfavor among theatrical audiences. However, times have changed again and the score (and this overture) are a testament to the sound of “showtunes.”

We’ve saved the best for last. If you asked four out of five aficionados what their favorite Broadway overture was, I’m pretty sure they’d say without hesitation, “Gypsy!” The score is Jule Styne’s best, and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, along with Arthur Laurents’s book and Jerome Robbins’s direction, fused together to create one of the truly great musicals of all time. Listening to this overture while waiting for the curtain to go up, you knew that the evening itself was going to be great.

– Bill Rosenfield