“The Show Time Series—EP Collection—Volume One” CD
Review by Zander Opper
Stage Door Records has just released a magnificent CD, “The Show Time Series–EP Collection—Volume One.” What this new CD contains are 1953 studio recordings of Broadway shows and operettas that were issued on a new format, a 45 EP, which allowed two songs to be included on either side of the record. This revolutionary format was used by RCA and, all told, sixteen EP records of Broadway musicals were recorded, four songs accorded to each musical.
These extremely rare recordings have largely never been released on CD before, so Stage Door Records deserves a huge amount of thanks and enormous praise for compiling all of this material together. “The Show Time Series—EP Collection—Volume One” contains the first six shows in what promises to be a three volume series, eventually releasing all sixteen EP records. Needless to say, this new CD is a treasure trove of delights for show collectors, as the very best and brightest of Broadway talent of the early 1950s was employed to make these recordings.
The first musical featured on the CD is “Oklahoma!” and these recordings are very special. John Raitt is featured on all four songs and thus preserves him in a role that he played in the first Chicago production of this musical. Raitt is simply splendid in the songs “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” the title number, “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” and the duet “People Will Say We’re in Love.” His partner in the last number is the lovely Patricia Northrop, also a veteran of “Oklahoma!”, as she played the role of Laurey in the 1951 Broadway revival of the show.
Featuring more Rodgers and Hammerstein, “Carousel” comes next on the CD and Raitt is featured again, in a role he created, in the song “If I Loved You.” He sounds great and he is partnered with the glorious Doretta Morrow, who, of course, was the original Tuptim in “The King and I” in 1951. In addition to “If I Loved You,” Morrow delivers a memorable and moving “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’.” The other two songs recorded are given to Brenda Lewis, who scored such a triumph in Marc Blitzstein’s “Regina” and would soon go on to 1954’s “The Girl in Pink Tights.” Lewis is just wonderful leading “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” displaying an extremely rich and powerful voice.
There are also four songs from “Show Boat” on the CD, featuring two cast members from the 1946 Broadway revival of the show. Carol Bruce is extremely touching recreating her performance of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and William C. Smith gets to preserve his formidable rendition of “Ol’ Man River.” As the two young lovers in “Show Boat,” real-life couple Helena Bliss (of “Song of Norway” fame) and John Tyers sing lilting renditions of “Make Believe” and “Why Do I Love You?”
Stepping into the realm of operetta are songs from Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach’s “The Cat and the Fiddle,” displaying the talents of Stephen Douglass in three numbers. Douglass was one of the best leading men in Broadway history, and, at the time of these recordings, had appeared in “Make a Wish” in 1951 and, in 1954, would open in “The Golden Apple.” His singing of the songs “She Didn’t Say ‘Yes’” and “The Night Was Made for Love” is marvelous and he is joined in one song, “Poor Pierrot,” by Patricia Neway. Neway was a sensation in Gian-Carlo Menotti’s opera “The Consul,” and this star brings that same vocal brilliance to this duet, as well as to the solo, “Try to Forget.”
The last two musicals spotlighted on the CD are Rodgers and Hart shows. From “Babes in Arms,” Lisa Kirk lends her creamy voice to “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “My Funny Valentine” (the latter recording being perhaps the most beautiful rendition I have ever heard of this song). The sensational William Tabbert delivers “Where or When” incomparably and the last song, “Johnny One Note,” is given to the excellent Sheila Bond, who is such a honey on the 1952 cast album of “Wish You Were Here.”
Of perhaps chief interest to collectors of this CD are the four songs from “Jumbo,” a Rodgers and Hart musical that has never received a complete recording. Jack Cassidy (also a veteran of “Wish You Were Here”) is terrific singing “My Romance” and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and Lisa Kirk delivers a stirring “Little Girl Blue.” The final song, “Over and Over Again,” is sung by Jordan Bentley, who, in 1953, was appearing as “The Wreck” in “Wonderful Town.” He sounds fantastic.
In addition to all this Broadway vocal talent, “The Show Time Series” was also able to get the very best of musical directors of the period, including Lehman Engel and Jay Blackton, to conduct these albums. Stage Door Records has really gone above and beyond with this CD: “The Show Time Series—EP Collection—Volume One” preserves all of these wonderful recordings for contemporary listeners and reclaims these songs from obscurity. Show collectors will revel in this new release and it must also be stated that the excellent and extremely informative liner notes are by George Dansker. With beautiful packaging and amazing remastering of these recordings, Stage Door Records’ “The Show Time Series—EP Collection—Volume One” ranks as an absolute must. And can’t wait for Volume Two!