Our Theater Lovers’ Gift Guide To CDs, DVDs and Books

Theater Shelf, a recurring feature by our reviewer Brad Hathaway, reviews recently-released books, CDs and DVDs of interest to theater lovers. Some are popular titles like a new Original Cast Recording, others are works you’ll be intrigued by but didn’t even know about.

Editor’s Note: It may seem obvious, but giving theater tickets is a terrific last-minute gift for anyone reading Florida Theater On Stage. Most theaters offer flexible scheduling packages and half-season subscriptions.  And while we’re at it, as the year closes, remember theaters as a recipient of your tax-deductible contributions before Dec. 31.

By Brad Hathaway

Over the past 52 weeks, the Theater Shelf column has evaluated a host of CDs, DVDs and books you might consider as gifts for your theater friends this season – or for yourself, for that matter. You can look over the archive using the hyperlinked index at BradHathaway.Com. As the holiday season approached, however, many more titles became available. Here is a sampling of titles that might please one or more of the people on your holiday gift list.


Holiday Discs:

Elf – Original Broadway Cast
(Ghostlight Records #8–4453 $15.70)

We included this disc in last year’s Holiday Gift Guide, but the show has returned to Broadway for this season so it seems a good idea to list it again. This is the recording from the 2010 mounting. The 2012 version opened Nov. 9 with a mostly new cast. The show is a family-friendly, high energy musical version of the movie that starred Will Ferrell. Book writers Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers) added some schmaltz and a number of slots for nifty songs and song writers Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer, The Rhythm Club) took full advantage of the opportunities.

A Christmas Story – World Premiere Recording
(Masterworks Broadway #88725 45981 2)
ASIN: B009904NK0

Another holiday show appearing on Broadway for the season this year is the new musical adaptation of the ever-popular movie about a boy’s wish for a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun and his father’s thrill at winning “a major award.” The adaptation even manages to musicalize the famous scene of the kid licking a frozen pole on the playground where his tongue freezes to the metal. The show premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2010. Now, with a different cast than on this recording, it is on Broadway.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – California Cast Recording
(Ghostlight Records #7915581225–2)

Before Elf or A Christmas Story played short seasonal engagements on Broadway, the stage adaptation of the film White Christmas played the Marquis for the holiday seasons 2008 and 2009. It had a long gestation period as a stage musical. It was first mounted in 2000 as a summer show at St. Louis’ Municipal Opera. It was re-worked and re-opened in San Francisco in 2004 and then was mounted in San Francisco, Los Angles and Boston in 2005. The cast recording features Brian d’Arcy James and Jeffry Denman in the roles that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye played in the movie. The female leads are Anastasia Barzee and Karen Morrow and the recording captures Larry Blank’s big-band-sound orchestrations.

CDs of scores coming to Broadway:

Matilda – Original Cast Recording
(Royal Shakespeare Company #RSCE 002)

The musical based on Roald Dahl’s story of a young girl who gives new meaning to the term “gifted child” will be opening at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre in April. The score is by the British musical comedian Tim Minchin with a book by Dennis Kelly. The show first opened in Stratford-upon-Avon and then transferred to London. In Stratford, three young actresses alternated in the title role. In London they have four. The recording lists three “Matildas” – Adreanna Bertola, Josie Griffiths and Kerry Ingram. These were the three in Stratford. Unfortunately, the packaging doesn’t specify which of the three are singing on the different songs that feature a “Matilda.”

Cinderella – Original Television Cast
(Columbia #CK 2005)
ASIN: B00000J28K

The stage version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s charmer which was written for television is slated for the Broadway Theatre in February with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane. Laura Osnes will star. The original was televised in 1957 with Julie Andrews as Cinderella and a recording of the score was issued at the time which is available again. It remains a delight.

Other CDs of note:

Carrie – Premiere Cast Recording
(Ghostlight Records #8-6660)

The first production of the musical based on Stephen King’s bloody horror story of teenage angst was such a flop that Ken Mandelbaum had to title his book about Broadway flops Not Since Carrie. That five-performance failure didn’t get a recording and disappeared into legend. This year, however, the off-Broadway MCC Theater took up the challenge, and with some significant re-working, opened a production with Marin Mazzie and Molly Ranson in a limited run which was greeted with high praise. Ghostlight Records took that cast into the studio to give us our first recording of the score. Notably, for a musical on a demonic theme, they assigned a recording number that included “the number of the beast.”

Queen of the Mist – Original Cast Recording
(Ghostlight Records # 8-4460)
ASIN: B00805D1KS

Mary Testa’s performance in Michael John LaChiusa’s unorthodox musical is captivating but also annoying. After all, she’s playing a terribly annoying character – and doing it wonderfully! She’s the woman who became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and live. Her story makes a fascinating musical as LaChiusa turns history into a metaphysical metaphor. Here it is captured by Ghostlight Records in an entertaining and thoroughly satisfying package.

Les Miserablés – 2010 Cast
(First Night Records #ENCORECD12)

First Night Records captured the re-worked Boublil/Schöenberg classic that uses new orchestrations by Chris Jahnke (with additional ones by Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker) in a live performance in Manchester, England. The orchestra of fourteen is a bit thin to the ears of those who know earlier recordings, but there is an excitement to the production that works in this complete two-disc release.

Lysistrata Jones – Original Broadway Cast
(Broadway Records #BR-CD00312)

Douglas Carter Bean, who made such a delight out of Xanadu, tried to do the same for Aristophenes’ anti-war Greek comedy. The light-hearted and often funny lift didn’t find an audience on Broadway and folded its tent after only 30 performances, but Broadway Records captured Lewis Finn’s rock/rap/pop score in a spirited performance.

35MM – A Musical Exhibition – Original Cast Recording
(Ghostlight Records #8-4462)

An intriguing concept for a musical play reaching into the avant-guard – or at least something other than traditional musical theater – is this multimedia musical that links songs to photographs and vice versa. Very little in the way of explanation is offered in the packaging in keeping with the theme of one of the songs, “Why Must We Tell Them Why?” But pay close attention to the text of the 16 songs and five transitions while you study the photographs in the booklet and messages emerge. Most of the songs are fairly heavy rock for musical theater. Each is “about” one or more photo – or is it each photo is “about” a song? Never mind. Ghostlight Records provides the sumptuous packaging to match an intimate, close-miked sound that makes it easy to think you are in the cast of five and the band of six.

Fugitive Songs – A Song Cycle
(Yellow Sound Label #YSL 567443)

In 2008 Joe Calarco directed the premiere of this small revue featuring nineteen songs which its creators called half-musical/half-hootenanny. Now, with the help of funds raised through Kickstarter, Yellow Sound gives us a recording of the score with a different cast. This time there are names like Karen Olivo, a Tony-winner for the recent West Side Story revival; Gavin Creel, twice-Tony nominee (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hair) and Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys, Porgy & Bess). The packaging doesn’t tell you much about the project so the recipient of your gift of this disc may want to do some independent research. Calarco was the author of Mosaic Theatre’s A Measure of Cruelty this season.

A Little Princess – A New Musical
(Ghostlight Records #8-4451)

This tuneful charmer from Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family, The Wild Party) with a book and lyrics by Brian Crawley (Violet) was first produced 8 years ago at TheatreWorks in Mountain View, California. It is “loosely adapted” from a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, whose other novel, The Secret Garden, has been adapted at least twice for the musical stage. It tells the story of a young girl sent to a boarding school in Victorian London where she’s mistreated, but teaches everyone the value of love. Here it gets a full-sounding recording from Ghostlight Records with a cast that includes Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid) Will Chase (Lennon, High Fidelity, Hair) Titus Burgess (The Little Mermaid) and Laura Bennanti (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Gypsy). The twenty-something Boggess sounds a bit mature for an early teen but she does bring a youthful charm to the part.

Next Thing You Know
(Yellow Sound Label #YSL 566633)
ASIN: B008I7U8X6

A contemporary folk/pop small cast musical with a fresh sound, this musical tells a good deal of its story through its songs so the listening experience is akin to a radio play – especially if you read through the helpful synopsis in the package. The performances are solid and the band (guitar, bass, violin, cello and percussion) plays the charts of the composer, Joshua Salzman, with enthusiasm.

John Tartaglia’s ImaginOcean – Off Broadway Cast Album
(Yellow Sound Label YSL 566553)

Touring the country at the moment is a show for youngsters dreamed up by John Tartaglia, who grown-ups may remember as the winning young man behind the puppets “Rod” and “Princeton” in Avenue Q. William Wade came up with half a dozen bright and chipper songs for Tartaglia’s book about three fish on a treasure hunt. The production is a puppet show using black light to make the characters glow in florescent oranges, greens and purples amid a sea of bubbles, plants and an occasional star. The short (20-minute) disc with its colorful packaging might just be a perfect “first cast album” for anyone on your gift list whose age is counted in a single digit. Tartaglia is the son of local actress Angie Radosh.

Box Sets:

Broadway in a Box – 25 CDs
(Broadway Masterworks)
ASIN: B008E16LS2

The most lavish package you could put under the tree of someone you hope will become a theater fan would be this 25 CD set containing 17 original Broadway cast recordings dating from 1949 through 1987 plus revival cast recordings of eight more. It includes some absolute “must have” discs – but therein lies the difficulty. Most people on your gift list who would want some or all of these probably already have a fair number of them.

Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Complete Broadway Musicals – 12 CDs
(Broadway Masterworks)

Another big-budget option for anyone who hasn’t already got a fairly well-stocked theater shelf would be this set from Masterworks Broadway featuring the full scores of all 12 musicals that graced Broadway from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II – from Oklahoma! (in the 1979 revival recording) through The Sound of Music (in the Original Broadway Cast recording). The set includes the other famous mega-hits Carousel, South Pacific and The King and I, the solid success Flower Drum Song, the disappointments Allegro, Me & Juliet and Pipe Dream and the works not written for Broadway but which were later adapted for the New York stage, State Fair and Cinderella.

The Collected Songs of Victor Herbert – 4 CDs
(New World Records #80726-2)

There have been many giants in the history of the American musical, but perhaps the first one – the one on whose shoulders the subsequent glories rested – was Victor Herbert, who wrote an unfathomable 46 musicals, not to mention a couple of operas and a number of classical concert works. This Dublin-born, German-trained composer came to America in 1886 when the English-speaking (and singing) theater was dominated by the British Gilbert and Sullivan. While he was a world-class cellist, it was the human voice for which he composed his most successful and memorable music, moving from classic art songs (lieder for voice accompanied by piano) to musical theater songs and, in the process, creating a tradition of strong musical foundations for musical theater productions. For its new series “The Foundations of the American Musical Theater” New World Records has issued a four-disc set containing over 100 of Herbert’s songs newly recorded with William Hicks at the piano and a host of accomplished vocalists including George Dvorsky, Rebecca Luker and Ron Raines. Arranged chronologically, the set takes you through Herbert’s career from the German lieder to parlor songs, songs for vaudeville and revues like the Ziegfeld Follies and operettas like Babes in Toyland and The Century Girl. To add to the munificence of your gift, you might wrap it up with the succeeding release of New World Records series, a two-disc recording of Herbert’s romantic comic opera Eileen, with the Orchestra of Ireland. (It is catalog 80733-2 – ASIN: B008SEWXT6)

Create Your Own Box Sets:

Broadway Cast Albums of last season’s Tony nominees.

You can be as generous as you want when it comes to assembling a box set of your own. Three of the Best Musical nominees are available on disc: Nice Work If You Can Get It which is on the Shout Factory label (ASIN: B009904NCS); Newsies on Ghostlight Records (ASIN: B007OA0XCO); and the winner, Once on Masterworks Broadway (ASIN: B0067ZKAG3U). The fourth nominee’s score, Leap of Faith, is slated for a December 18 release on the Ghostlight label.

Want a bigger box set? Add the recordings of the “Best Score” nominees: Bonnie & Clyde on Broadway Records (ASIN: B007FSK7I) and One Man, Two Guvnors on DRG Records (ASIN: B007HM338K).

If you want an even bigger collection, add the three nominees for the “Best Revival” Tony which received two-disc recordings:  Follies on PS Classicsl (ASIN: B005IYGA); Evita on Masterworks Broadway (ASIN: B007Y6OZAO); and the Tony winner, George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on PS Classics (ASIN: B007FEHA34). Jesus Christ Superstar was also nominated but that short-lived production didn’t get a recording.

Live Recordings from 54 Below

Broadway Records has announced an agreement with the New York nightclub 54 Below, a cabaret-like facility in the basement below the Broadway theater Studio 54, which will result in live recordings of the stars performing in the club. The first two albums are due out December 11. They are Patti LuPone’s act Far Away Places (ASIN: B009OYOVLW) and Andrea McArdle’s 70s and Sunny (ASIN:B009OYOVKS). The next release will come on January 15th – it will feature Norbert Leo Butz and can be pre-ordered using ASIN B009OZ7EG0.

A Virtual Box Set of Previously Rare Cast Recordings

Masterworks Broadway – the Sony label that has taken on the catalog of both of the most active Original Broadway Cast album labels, Columbia Masterworks and RCA, among others – has been reaching into their gem-filled files to make some rare and wonderful albums from the past available through digital download or through orders for print-on-demand copies. Assemble your own box set either by downloading from the iTunes store or Amazon, or order copies made for your gift giving from Amazon or ArkiveMusic.Com. Here are some titles that might titilate:

Cabaret – The Original London Cast Album ASIN: B00A14VYQE
Seventeen – The 1951 Original Broadway Cast recording ASIN: B009VN7938
The Adventures of Marco Polo – The 1956 TV musical – ASIN: B0088J4XIK
The Desert Song – Lehman Engel’s Studio Recording – ASIN: B0099ALZ1A
Liza Minelli Live at the Winter Garden – ASIN: B007LYAYNQ
Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett Live TV Specials –ASIN: B007LYB2ZK


Bloomer Girl / The Yeomen of the Guard

The mid to late 1950s saw television networks experimenting with many different genres in the search for programming that would draw large audiences. Musical theater seemed a logical choice and many fine performances were aired. Before the advent of video tape, the standard method of capturing these for future viewing was the kinescope – essentially a movie camera pointed at a black and white television screen during a live broadcast. Video Artists International has been releasing DVDs of some marvelously entertaining musicals from the period and the latest two would make a fine addition to a theater lover’s video collection. Bloomer Girl, telling of the replacement of hoop skirts with a more comfortable garment championed by Dolly Bloomer during the Civil War was a Broadway hit as World War II came to an end. It was adapted for television with Barbara Cook in the lead in 1956. One year later, Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1888 operetta, The Yeomen of the Guard, was the basis of an edited version with Alfred Drake and Celeste Holm. In releasing these two new DVDs, VAI has adopted the welcome practice of including the original television commercials on the disc for those who want to see what they were like as well.

Bloomer Girl – 77 minutes – ASIN: B009IDGMUW – List Price $29.95
The Yeomen of the Guard – 79 minutes – ASIN: B008YRL6IQ – List Price $29.95

That’s Entertainment – The BBC Proms Concert recorded live in London’s Royal Albert Hall.

John Wilson leads his orchestra in performances of classic MGM musical numbers using recreations of the original orchestrations. Soloists include Kim Criswell, Seth MacFarlane, Curt Stigers, Sarah Fox and Sir Thomas Allen. The excitement of live performances comes through on this two-hour video and the sound recording is marvelous, which is very important given the glorious playing of Mr. Wilson’s orchestra. Unfortunately, the commentators tend to talk over the first few moments of some of the songs and rarely do they have much to say that is worth the interruption.

– DVD from EMI
– List price $24.98


The Gershwins and Me by Michael Feinstein

The perpetually young man who is still reeling from the luck of being Ira Gershwin’s assistant for the last six years of his mentor’s life, setting off a career that has taken him around the world performing the great standards from the American pop songbook, has written a new volume that is half fascinating reading and half handsome book for the smaller coffee table in a theater lover’s living room. Feinstein covered much of the Gershwin material in his own earlier book, 1995s Nice Work If You Can Get It, is revisited here but with a slightly matured voice. He has more space for more Gershwin stories because that earlier volume covered Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Harry Warren among other immortal pop songwriters. Here, in 12 chapters each tied to one of the Gershwin brothers’ classic songs, Feinstein gives us much more about the subject he knows so well – George and Ira.

– 350 pages with no index
– Includes a CD of Feinstein singing the twelve songs
– Simon & Schuster
– Hardback ISBN 1451645309 – List price $45.00

The Richard Rodgers Reader by Geoffrey Block

In May, I told the readers of Theater Shelf about the exciting discovery of a “Reader” – a compilation of writings, contemporary and retrospective, by and about a specific great composer from the golden age of the American musical theater. In that case, it was Irving Berlin. In July I extolled the virtues of another one – The George Gershwin Reader. Now let me add a third fabulous volume in the series. With 58 short-to-medium length items that cover Richard Rodgers’ life and his career as the melody maker of the team Rodgers and Hart and then as the composer in the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein and finally as a force on his own (think No Strings, for which he wrote both music and lyrics). One comes away from this volume with a solid feel for his work and for the man himself.

– 356 pages including a general index and an index to compositions
– Oxford University Press
– Paperback ISBN 0195313437 – List price $45.00
– Hardback ISBN 0195139542 – List price $99.00

A Purple Summer – Notes on the Lyrics of Spring Awakening by Steven Sater

This tiny, 90 small-pages-with-big-type compilation offers the commentary from the lyricist of one of the most innovative shows to hit big on Broadway in the last half-dozen years. It gives us a chance to listen in on the things he tells translators who are trying to help his creation reach ears only schooled in German and the actors who attempt to interpret his words in regional productions now that the show has closed. That show is the Tony winning Best Musical of 2006-2007, Spring Awakening, which closed after over two years on Broadway. Sater took home the Tony for the book for this musical and shared the Best Original Score award with his composer, Duncan Sheik. (Sheik got his own solo award when he won the Best Orchestrations Tony.) The lyrics of some songs don’t need any explication. What’s not to understand about being “Totally F**ked”? But others have layer upon layer of meaning. If you ever wanted to know just what a “Purple Summer” is, here is your chance.

– 87 pages plus a color insert of six production photos
– Applause Theatre & Cinema Books
– Paperback ISBN 1557838240 – List Price $9.99

Irving Berlin’s American Musical Theater
  by Jeffry Magee

The astonishingly productive life of Irving Berlin was distinctly theater-centered. Yes, he churned out Tin Pan Alley pop songs unconnected to any plot, character, skit or scene. Sure, he wrote amazingly successful scores for Hollywood musicals. But the bulk of his work was tied to the Broadway stage. Jeffrey Magee views his life and his career through that specifically theatrical lens in a dense, scholarly addition to the Broadway Legacy series. For serious study or for quick checks of the facts involved with a specific song or show, the volume is a fine addition to an already burgeoning section of a theater lover’s bookshelf.

– 300 pages plus another 100 of notes, bibliography, discography, credits and index
– Oxford University Press
– Hardback ISBN 0195398262 – List price $35.00

Lady in the Dark – Biography of a Musical  by bruce d. mcclung

The show that Gerald Bordman called “the most imaginative, intelligent and cohesive work of” 1940-41, a psychoanalysis-inspired dream with a book by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, is given a “biography” by a University of Cincinnati professor of music who insists on giving his name in all lower case letters. Flashing back from opening night, he relates the genesis of the show’s concept, its development, the structure of its score and the work done during the pre-Broadway tryouts. He then covers the post-Broadway tour and revivals, taking a break for a chapter to discuss the “changing cultural context” affecting a script with a plot that turns on the interpretation of dreams as a treatment for mental conditions. He even discusses the details of the various recordings of the score that can be purchased today.

– 200 pages of text plus notes, bibliography, discography and index
– 25 black and white production photos
– Oxford University Press
– Paperback ISBN 019538508X – List price $24.95
– Hardback ISBN 0195120124 – List price 45.00

The Songs of Hollywood by Philip Furia and Laurie Patterson

The biographer of Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer, Philip Furia, joins with a new colleague from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Laurie Patterson, to survey the history of songs written for or popularized by the movies. It covers its subject  from the moment in 1927 Al Jolson uttered the ad lib “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet” in the film that started the phenomenon of the “talkies,” which of course, were often the “singees.” Richly illustrated with screenshots from the films being discussed, Furia and Patterson briskly walk the reader through the subsequent 80 years of Hollywood history.

– 242 pages of text plus notes, references, song index and general index
– Oxford University Press
– Paperback ISBN 0199931755 – List price $24.95
– Hardback ISBN 0195337085 – List price $35.00

The Collected Drama of H. L. Mencken Edited by S. T. Joshi

Many descriptions come to mind at the mention of H. L. Mencken before that of either “playwright” or “theater critic.” He is remembered primarily as a journalist, an essayist, a satirist and a commenter on American life. He was a scholar as well, as his grammar/dictionary The American Language attests. Joshi unearths a separate dimension of the man’s output as a theater journalist and a playwright. This volume includes five short one act plays, ranging from five to fourteen pages in length, a short humor piece in the form of detailed stage directions and a full length play titled Heliogabalus: A Buffoonery in Three Acts which he wrote with famous theater critic George Jean Nathan. There is also a generous sampling of Mencken’s writing on the subject of drama covering topics from Shakespeare to Shaw.

– 267 pages including notes and index
– Scarecrow Press
– Hardback ISBN 9780810883697 – List Price $55.00

A Million Miles from Broadway: Musical Theatre Beyond New York and London
 by Mel Atkey

My 2006 Holiday Gift Guide highlighted a then-new book on musical theater in Canada in which author Mel Atkey introduced me to a heretofore unknown-to-me thriving theatrical community. His book was Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre. Now Mr. Atkey lifts the veil on a wider world of musical theater creativity. From Amsterdam (En Nu Naar Bed) to Sweden (Kristina) to Dublin (Improbable Frequency) Atkey tempts us with a sketchy overview of the developments in Europe, moves on to Canada and then crosses the equator to discuss Australian efforts. Other chapters deal with the musical in South Africa, Latin America and Asia. In this book Atkey spends a great deal of space on the common background of all musical theater (dealing with Mozart, Offenbach, Gilbert and Sullivan) and dwells on a frustratingly slender selection of examples. But where else can you get a first introduction into his subject?

– 295 large print pages including bibliography, discography 30 black and white photos and an index
– Friendlysong Books, Vancouver and London
– Paperback ISBN 0991695704 – List price $27.67

Marc Blitzstein – His Life, His Work, His World by Howard Pollack

Professor Pollack writes a thorough biography of the man who composed not only The Cradle Will Rock, to which he will always be linked, but Juno (based on Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock) and Regina (based on Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes). There was so much more to his career, however. Blitzstein supplied the translation of Brecht’s text for Threepenny Opera, the incidental music for Orson Welles’ Julius Caesar and King Lear, the book for the 1930s review Pins and Needles and even some songs for the Garrick Gaieties! An activist in a time of tension and turmoil, he stirred the pot in many ways.

– 618 pages including an extremely comprehensive index
– Oxford University Press
– Hardback ISBN 0199791597 – List price $39.95

Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City by Elizabeth l. Wollman

The 1970s were famous for – among other things – the conversion of “The Great White Way” of Broadway into Sleaze Boulevard with 42nd Street sporting more porn shops than legitimate theaters. But it wasn’t only on the street that things had turned raunchy. On stages from Broadway to Off-Broadway to Not-Even-Close-To-Broadway, skin and sex reigned. On Broadway you had the disrobing champ, Hair, to kick off the decade – it opened at the Biltmore in 1968 and kept on rocking through 1750 performances ending in 1972. The effort to sell tickets through more prurient material continued on Broadway as Oh! Calcutta! found audiences at the beginning of the decade at the Belasco and then again at the Edison. The decade came to something of a climax with Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart’s wife-swapping (but finally marriage-affirming) I Love My Wife. Elizabeth Wollman has surveyed the field and put it all in perspective in Hard Times. Like some of the recent releases from Oxford University Press, Wollman’s book boasts its own “companion website” and the text of the book is replete with icons directing the reader to photos and audio clips giving her narrative additional color – visual and aural.

– 271 pages including a comprehensive index
– Oxford University Press
– Hardback ISBN 0199747482 – List price $27.95

360 Sound – The Columbia Records Story by Sean Wilentz

On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the formation of the company that became Columbia Records, this hefty, thick paper, thoroughly illustrated coffee table biography of a company covers what the author finds is “the oldest label in the history of the recording industry.” That label, of course, is of interest to theater mavens principally for its role in the development of the original Broadway cast album. Columbia president and record producer extraordinaire, Goddard Lieberson, oversaw the near-perfection of the craft of converting Broadway musical scores from material that works in combination with other aspects of a live theatrical performance into a rewarding audio-only experience. The results included the original Broadway cast recordings of South Pacific which Wilentz calls “one of the best-selling LPs of its time.” A sidebar by Dave Marsh reports further that “My Fair Lady spent 480 weeks on the charts (it was number one for fifteen)” and he tabulates the number of weeks on the best seller charts for some others: The Sound of Music – 276, Camelot – 265, West Side Story – 191, Flower Drum Song – 151 and Gypsy – 116. It is a volume that of necessity speeds through its story, only briefly pausing for highlights. But it is a fascinating one to pick up and skim from time to time.

– 336 pages with over 300 photos
– Chronicle Books
– Hardback – ISBN 9781452107561 – List price $45.00

Gift Certificate

Euros for the Sound of Music Store –  Finally, if all else fails, you can opt for a gift certificate so the recipient can select items for him or herself.  You can still make it a memorably unique gift. Select a gift certificate from the Sound of Music store in Germany – an outlet that features selections most theater fans simply don’t find in local stores. The recipient of your generosity need not travel to Essen, Germany to redeem the certificates. It can all be handled on line. Among the CDs available there? The new recording of Sylvester Levay and Michael Kunze’s Rebecca in a live performance in Stuttgart, a musical based on Mark Twain’s novel of Adam and Eve which in German is Tagebücher von Adam & Eva, Die, and a new musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, Rocky. (Yes Rocky: Das Musical – Fight From the Heart making its premiere in Hamburg. Its book is by Sylvester Stallone and Thomas Meehan.)  They offer certificates in amounts ranging from as low as € 10 to as high as  € 250 -– that’s over $300 in recent exchange rates! To order, go to their website at http://www.soundofmusic-shop.de/shop_musical_Gift_Coupons.html.

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