At Christmas a few years ago, Jeff gave me a copy of Broadway in a Box: The Essential Broadway Musicals Collection. He has now given me the opportunity to use his blog to share my impressions of each of the 25 cast recordings contained in the set, in alphabetical order.
This week’s entry is about the 1987 Original Broadway Cast Recording of Into the Woods.
I’ve been familiar with Into the Woods, and this CD in particular, for the majority of my life, so this is another one of those recordings that’s hard for me to evaluate from a fresh perspective. Rather than a review, I’ll just offer a few observations that came to mind while I listened to this OBCR once again.
Last year I read the pared-down version of Mark Eden Horowitz’s fascinating book Sondheim on Music, based on interviews between the author and composer. In the section on Into the Woods, Sondheim discusses what he calls the “bean theme,” noting that “the story is in a sense about the bean theme,” and encouraging the listener to “look below the surface and see how this theme is twined into the show throughout, and how it’s reflected in so many ways” (pp. 84-85).
The CD in this collection has three short bonus tracks, all from a demo recording for a proposed children’s version of the show. (I don’t know Into the Woods JR. well enough to tell whether these versions made it into the final product.) John Cameron Mitchell sings a slightly edited version of “Giants in the Sky” at breakneck speed, and it’s nice to hear this song performed by an accomplished singer not trying to sound like a kid. Kim Crosby (also Cinderella in the actual cast recording) sings a song called “Back to the Palace,” which is apparently an early version of “On the Steps of the Palace.” Maureen Moore sings the well-known cut song “Boom Crunch,” replaced by “Last Midnight,” but doesn’t quite have the expressive range to fully sell it.
Next up is the Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast Recording of The King and I.