Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Symphony Hall to 42nd Street

Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees
  1955. Billy Rose Theatre Collection,
New York Public Library
Yesterday's date in 1948 marked the debut of the LP record. In contrast to the measly 4 minutes a side afforded by thick and bulky 78s, Columbia Records proudly displayed to the press their new product line of "long-playing" records that spun at 33 & 1/3 revolutions per minute and held 17 minutes per side.

Before long, Columbia's Masterworks series was treating listeners to Stravinsky and Copland conducting their own works. But the bonanza for them and for lovers of American Popular Song was their series of original cast recordings. The cavalcade began with 1949's smash hit South Pacific (with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza) and continues to the present day with reissues of lulus like Damn Yankees (with the delightful Gwen Verdon) and Anything Goes (with Merman successor Patti LuPone).

Anybody want to weigh in on their favorite musicals? Or are there too many to mention?


  1. Though it feels like a cliche (I'm sort of a musicals amateur!), I'd have to go with "Phantom of the Opera" and "Hairspray." It'd be wrong, after all, to ignore our hometown fave John Waters!!

  2. My picks are "Movin' Out", "Hairspray", and "Wicked" oh and my all time favorite musical is "The Sound of Music" (patiently waiting for that one to come to NYC)

  3. I've got to add "South Pacific," "Cabaret," and "Hair" (as well as re-mention "Hairspray") to the ones above. I've long thought that The Great Church of the American Musical Theater has been a moral compass for the U.S. as well as a guide for joyous living--just "call me a cockeyed optimist."