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It sounds great on disc

December 4, 2013

Third squeeze of the “Love Story” lemon – an apt phrase, as to some, that is what the show may be classified as. It didn’t run long in the West End (my guess is that the snow early on in the run prevented a lot of the audience seeing it and spreading the word) and thus lives on only in the minds of the few. Plus those like me who own the original cast recording.

And that’s the interesting thing. Many musicals fortunately live on in CD form, eventually the lucky few getting either a “revisal” (revised revival, like Pippin on Broadway) or at least remaining unforgotten by those who care (or just need something to impress a musical theatre school audition panel).

It’s how fans like me get to know shows from bygone eras, and catch up with composers’ early works or forgotten pieces that are either too expensive or simply unstagable to see daylight again.

And it is the “unstagable” category that interests me here. There’s a few musical recordings I own that are actually almost unlistenable to. “Kelly,” “Out of the Blue,” “The Man In The Iron Mask” and “Too Close To The Sun” (or “Ernie Get Your Gun” as it was brilliantly re-titled by its victims, er, audiences). Still, at least I have a record of the shows.

On the other hand, there’s many more which work dazzlingly well on disc, but have deep issues with the storyline (book) which mean they are commercial death to anyone investing in full productions.

The most obvious is “Mack and Mabel.” “I Won’t Send Roses” an evergreen show standard, and a whole string more… yet you’ll lose every penny if it hits the boards. Likewise, as “Forbidden Broadway” parody reminds us, “Follies.”

Then there’s much older works like “Minnie’s Boys.” Forgotten by most – partly because a CD copy is ridiculously expensive if you can find one, but packed with beautiful tunes. “Bar Mitzvah Boy” I’d love to have seen, but can only know from its songs, “Dear Anyone” another one.

Occasionally, as with “Love Story” or the “Forgotten Musicals” seasons each year in London, somebody finds one of these and has a go. But I’d love to see a way to get more of these wonders released again, even as recordings or staged readings that can be filmed and then broadcast like “Digital Theatre.” A studio, a small band of musicians and actors, permission to bring wonderful tunes even with dodgy stories to life… what a way to build a collection, eh?!

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