search & destroy: musical cast recordings vs motion picture soundtrack

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S: the Quincy Jones version of The Wiz
D: OK, well maybe don't destroy the OCR, but I hold it as the lesser listen

Bait Kush (Eric H.), Monday, 26 September 2022 16:50 (two months ago) link

For West Side Story there is a great reissue of the original movie soundtrack which includes the full overture, the intermission music, the final credit music and a couple of other bits. It's excellent.

everything, Monday, 26 September 2022 23:02 (two months ago) link

I too prefer the '61 soundtrack of WSS to the original cast. My vinyl version growing up was the one where the song order was rejiggered to make it end on Somewhere rather than A Boy Like That -> Finale, but even with a corrected order and the expanded segueway material I definitely prefer the sound of this version.

My rule of thumb is, go for the original broadway/london/off broadway record if you can first. Compare Ethel Merman's classic Annie Get Your Gun (46) with Betty Hutton's almost offensively broad version on the big screen a few years later. But in the 60s and 70s, about half the time, you should listen to both, because you may find the movie soundtrack suits you better for various reasons. Sometimes because the Hollywood style singing is less wannabe lite opera and more crooner-pop-jazz (Sweet Charity for example, and Camelot - Richard Harris vs. Richard Burton, a fascinating comparison). Sometimes because the bigger budget recording in stereo has a better orchestra and you can hear things better or maybe even the arrangements are bit beefed up (Sound of Music, Hello Dolly). Sometimes the later version there are newer songs as well that help make it more definitive (Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret). Sometimes it's just a more famous recording and it would be kind of pretentious to prefer the original (Rocky Horror, Grease, Paint your Wagon - worth it just for Lee Marvin's bizarre and awesome Wandrin' Star) although they both have their merits.

I'm no expert here, my theatre phase in high school was short and I just dabble as a listener and don't go out to see musicals live, I think an avid musical goer will have a higher tolerance for the old enunciate-with-lotto-vibrato school and less tolerance for the sometimes shaky performances in a typical 60s Hollywood adaptation. American musical theatre before 1950 was an outgrowth of the continental lite opera tradition and the singing was just a really different New York Broadway thing, compared to what crooners were doing with those songs on the radio once they got their hands on them. This opera-lite style rubs me the wrong way after about 1960, and it reminds me of what annoys me about middle class prettified 1960s folk music like Joan Baez. For me, the platonic ideal of how to sing songs from a musical is maybe Lotte Lenya sings Berlin Theatre Songs, which obviously isn't even a musical, it's just a review. So please take this all with heaps of salt!

Some exceptions to the exception, where the movie version is definitely worse, include: Fiddler on the Roof (Zero Mostel's original is of course canonical), Man of La Mancha, Mame, A Star is Born (the totally sappy Streisand version, by this point I don't really have use for her, her wit and sharp turns are long gone), Guys and Dolls (although you should listen to Brando try to sell Luck be a Lady... at least it doesn't sound like Sinatra's...) and the majority of movie adaptations after 1980 except for the really famous ones like Chicago, but again, you'd be well served to at least listen to the 70s broadway version, it's quite interesting.

mig (guess that dreams always end), Wednesday, 28 September 2022 18:26 (two months ago) link

Thanks - great post!

peace, man, Thursday, 29 September 2022 11:28 (two months ago) link

mig is otm

Just speaking personally, though I would never argue it's superior to the 1972 film soundtrack I like listening to the 1966 original Broadway cast recording of Cabaret. One reason is you have Jill Haworth in the Sally Bowles role, so an English performer playing what was originally supposed to be an English character. And you have songs that aren't in the film - even characters that aren't in the film - just as the film has songs that aren't in it.

Josefa, Thursday, 29 September 2022 13:36 (two months ago) link

I am not a fan of musicals but when I encounter them in my research I find the cast recordings more often have the kind of embarrassing hammy stuff that puts me off, for example here is Celeste Holm's in "Oklahoma!", her aw-shucks singing style is one of the most irritating sounds I have ever encountered, I know it's supposed to be out of tune, but compare w/ Gloria Grahame in the film, who is perfectly bearable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZLad-t6GBc

link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Thursday, 29 September 2022 14:03 (two months ago) link

Broadly agree with mig's post. I don't really think there is a single rule to indicate whether the movie soundtrack is better or worse than a cast album. If you are a fan of the musical, you generally need both (or more). I'm thinking of shows like Rocky Horror and Little Shop of Horrors, where the soundtrack production is incredibly dynamic on some songs but misses out on some fantastic singing/acting and of course many complete songs as well as cues, overtures etc.

Mention of Annie Get Your Gun reminds me that the Kim Criswell stage version from the 90s is superb. There's a really hokey Doris Day version from the 60s which was a TV production. Haven't seen it but the album is common.

An interesting one is the Joseph Papp version of Pirates of Penzance. The film of the Central Park live production has Patricia Routledge as Ruth while the movie has Angela Landsbury. The rest of the cast are the same. However, there is no soundtrack album for either of those versions, only the intermediate Broadway transfer which has Estelle Parsons. That album has the entire live show - not just the songs but all the dialogue and every musical cue. It's weird that this is how they did it but the benefit is that the movie makes tons of edits to songs and dialogue so the movie soundtrack would have been inferior anyway.

everything, Thursday, 29 September 2022 18:44 (two months ago) link

Good thread. Don't know what I can really add, although I have been meaning to mention the deluxe version of the Hair Original Broadway Cast Recording which also has nice Off Broadway versions of the songs. Some of which feature Jill O'Hara, who also appeared in the original production of Promises, Promises, which cast album does not appear to be streaming.

Ride On Proserpina (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 29 September 2022 20:15 (two months ago) link


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