This musical originally opened on Broadway on October 1963 and got enough good reviews, but the opening of two new musicals, HELLO, DOLLY! and FUNNY GIRL almost eclipsed it. But thanks to its melodic score the show lived on.
This recording is the third of this show that I have on my CD collection and it’s almost as good as my favorite rendition of the score, the two disc recording inspired by the New York City Opera production. In one thing this new cast is definitely better, the winning performance by the excellent Audra McDonald (the reliable Karen Ziemba played the part on the other one).
With new luxurious orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, this new recording is a wonderful way to discover or rediscovered this beautiful score by Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones. There’s a western-epic quality that takes us right into the action and makes us feel the heat and emotions of the story. From the great overture, “Gonna Be Another Hot Day”, to the highly emotional and rainy ending, “Wonderful Music” and a reprise of “The Rain Song”, this is a score that quickly grows on you and soon you’ll be humming some of the songs.
There are several beautiful ballads like the duet “A Man and a Woman”, “Love, Don’t Turn Away” and “Evenin’ Star” (that wasn’t part of the original score); perfect plot songs like “You’re Not Fooling Me”; a delightful comedy number “Little Red Hat” and an almost enchanted company number “Everything Beautiful”.
As the leading man, Steve Kazee gives his best with the powerful “The Rain Song” and takes us into the dreamland of “Melisande” (somehow, this song always reminded me of MAN OF LA MANCHA), one of my favorite tracks. As for Audra, this is a perfect showcase of all her talents, she can be surprisingly funny with “Raunchy”, completely caring with the sweet “Simple Little Things” and pure magic with the terrific “Is It Really Me?”.
It’s very rare to find so many songs written and sang with heart and soul like the ones of this score. And, although this might not be for everyone’s taste, it deserves to be part of all musical lovers music library.