Although Show Boat opened in 1927, before original Broadway cast albums became commonplace, Columbia Records had in its vaults both a 1932 studio cast album of the show featuring members of the Broadway revival of that year and the 1946 Broadway revival cast album. Therefore, while Columbia president Goddard Lieberson devoted much time in the early days of the LP era to creating studio cast albums of classic Broadway musicals, Show Boat was not among the first titles he considered. By the early '60s, however, he decided to ...
Although Show Boat opened in 1927, before original Broadway cast albums became commonplace, Columbia Records had in its vaults both a 1932 studio cast album of the show featuring members of the Broadway revival of that year and the 1946 Broadway revival cast album. Therefore, while Columbia president Goddard Lieberson devoted much time in the early days of the LP era to creating studio cast albums of classic Broadway musicals, Show Boat was not among the first titles he considered. By the early '60s, however, he decided to do a new recording, perhaps prompted by the limited-run New York City Center revival in the spring of 1961. Anita Darian, who had played Julie LaVerne in that production, was brought in; Broadway stars John Raitt and Barbara Cook were hired to record the parts of the romantic leads, Gaylord Ravenal and Magnolia Hawks; and William Warfield, who had played Joe in the 1951 film version, repeated his role. Franz Allers conducted the orchestra, and the Merrill Staton Choir provided background vocals. The two leads provide a key to the sound of the recording. Raitt (of Carousel and The Pajama Game) and Cook (of Candide and The Music Man) were Broadway veterans of the 1940s and 1950s, and they tended to emphasize Show Boat's ties to the theater music of their era, rather than to its early 20th century operetta antecedents, especially because the arrangements were shaped to their vocal abilities. The result, oddly enough, was that this Show Boat sounded more like a musical of the 1950s instead of the 1920s, as if Richard Rodgers had been a big influence on Jerome Kern, instead of the other way around. Raitt particularly, with his Broadway tenor, was a more conversational Ravenal than the ones who had preceded him, but Cook, despite being a lyric soprano, retained the warm timbre that always made her theater performances so winning. Though not faithful to the sound of the original, this Show Boat turned out to be an especially popular one. In 1966, the Music Theater of Lincoln Center repertory company mounted a summer revival of Show Boat using Cook, Warfield, and Allers that resulted in a national tour and another recording (released by RCA Victor), while this 1962 studio recording remained in print from the day of its release. In 1988, Columbia reissued it on CD. On May 30, 2000, a second, upgraded CD reissue was undertaken. This time, in addition to sonic refurbishing, the label added four bonus tracks, all of which had historical interest, even though they did not derive from the recording sessions for the 1962 release. They were: a 1928 studio recording of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" by Tess Gardella, who had played Queenie in the original 1927 production, a track that had not been available since its initial appearance on 78; original Broadway cast member Helen Morgan's recording of "Bill" from the 1932 studio cast album; "I Still Suits Me," a song written for the 1936 film version, sung in a 1947 recording by Paul Robeson, who played Joe in the original London production, the 1932 Broadway revival, and the 1936 film; and "Nobody Else but Me," a song written for the 1946 Broadway revival, taken from the revival cast album and sung by Jan Clayton. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
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