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The Bernstein Centenary


Late in August we paid tribute to playwright-lyricist Alan Jay Lerner's centenary. We're now saluting another gentleman who would have turned 100 this year: Leonard Bernstein. In fact the composer would have reached his milestone just a few days before Lerner. Ken and Erik have both written terrific tributes to the man who wrote such shows as On the Town and West Side Story, and I'm betting you'll find some kernels of little-known lore in them both as you read.

To complement Ken's and Erik's columns, I'd like to offer up the following two albums for your consideration: 

  • West Side Story Reimagined - Bobby Sanabria's impressive Latin Jazz reworking of this Bernstein score pulses with intensity from start to finish. Beyond being a swell listen, it's also raising money for the citizens of Puerto Rico as they continue to rebound from last year's horrific hurricanes.
  • Wonderful Town - This Bernstein show has had some powerhouse leading ladies, from Rosalind Russell in the original 1953 production to Donna Murphy in a 2003 revival. Thanks to this new concert recording, there's now another name on the list of actors who have shone brightly as Ruth Sherwood: Alysha Umphress. She's pretty darn wonderful as she delivers such songs as "100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man" and "Conga!" and makes them her own. 

Remember, if you need to add any of the recordings mentioned here and in the guys' blogs to your collection, you can find links to them in the carousels on the BwayTunes.com homepage. 

You'll find music from original cast recordings of Leonard Bernstein's shows as well as a plethora of cover versions and numbers as performed in revivals of his acclaimed musicals in this week's Spotify playlist. It's over an hour of electrifying musicality.

Our new free song download comes from the just-released Broadway cast recording of Gettin' the Band Back Together. It's a terrific intro to the show and the charms of Mark Allen's score.

Take a look at the marvelously diverse array of new music that we've gotten for you, particularly:

  • Pretty Woman - The first hit of the new 2018-2019 season is this musical based on the popular 1990 movie. Andy Karl and Samantha Barks tackle the roles originally played by Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, and the infectious score comes from Brian Adams and Jim Wallace. Definitely worth a listen!
  • Gettin' the Band Back Together - There's a gleeful rock sound at work in this Broadway cast recording. It's an album that's full of some unexpected pleasures.
  • Hundred Days - The Bengsons’ quirky off-Broadway show comes to compact disc with verve on this new cast recording!
  • Who’s Your Baghdaddy? - It's taken a while but this deliriously silly show has gotten a cast recording. It’s a giddy look back on the United States’ Middle Eastern policy of a time gone by that’s looking darn good these days.

This latter release is just one that’s just arrived courtesy of Broadway Records. Among the label’s other titles you should check out are: Session Girls, Wicked Clone, Tonya and Nancy, and The Boy Who Danced on Air.

In addition to these albums, you’ll want to check out these new releases, which can be found in the main carousel at the top of the home page and in the “New and Recommended” one at the bottom of the page.

  • Beast in the Jungle - John Kander has written a marvelously lush score for this work based on the Henry James short story. It's a richly satisfying listen that you'll probably be savoring for some time to come!
  • Unexpected Joy - Composer Janet Hood and lyricist Bill Russell provided some genuinely infectious pop-theater songs for this tuner about a singer-songwriter who's attempting to move on after the death of her longtime performing--and life--partner.
  • Sunset Boulevard and Evita - This two-fer album from Jay Records finds. Ria Jones and Matt Bogart headliners in the former while Madalena Alberto and Max von Essen are featured for the second. All are sounding quite, quite good, and the album is certainly worth a listen.
  • Sunset Boulevard - Kim Criswell provides the vocals for Norma Desmond on this new release. Her beautiful voice brings a new dimension to songs such as “With One Look,” and the backing from the National Symphony Orchestra is particularly sumptuous.
  • Summer: The Donna Summer Musical - One of Broadway's newest hits, this show takes a whirlwind tour through the fascinating life and electrifying music of pop diva Donna Summer.
  • Desperate Measures - Shakespeare's Measure for Measure gets a contemporary, country-western spin in this musical that's enjoying a highly acclaimed and popular off-Broadway run.

Erik and Ken will be writing about a unique sort of song in their next columns.

I've asked them to think about numbers where characters are engaged in soliloquizing or working through an internal monologue.

I know the guys will come up with a fascinating array of songs on the topic. Will either of them take the one that immediately comes to mind? That, of course, would be "Soliloquy," from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's Carousel.


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