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 1959 Original Broadway Cast Recording of The Sound of Music.
Although this show is not my favorite, and suffers (I think) from over-familiarity, this original recording holds up extremely well as a document of the classic score, with great production values and excellent singers.
Probably very few shows are as dominated by one central character as The Sound of Music, and Mary Martin, of course, is more than up to the challenge of bringing Maria to life. She has a deeper and more mature-sounding voice than Julie Andrews does in the film version; she more than makes up for this less youthful presence with a greater passion and dynamic range. Her performance of the title song is full of life and fervor, bordering on the sensual, and she has great rapport with the children in the cast.
Theodore Bikel (Captain Von Trapp), with much more limited (and much less juicy) musical material than Maria, understandably struggles to make his mark next to this force of nature. His “Edelweiss,” however, is sung with a great deal of warmth and nobility.
In the supporting roles, two women stand out. Patricia Neway (Mother Abbess) instills “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and its reprise, with a rapturous energy, but is also very down-to-earth in her earlier, more playful songs with Maria and her fellow nuns. More unexpectedly, Marion Marlowe (Elsa Schraeder) really impresses with her two songs, “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It.” Her darker voice betrays a sadness that vividly contrasts with Maria’s optimism. With Elsa’s songs cut from the movie to give even more material to Maria, she barely registers in that version, but here she makes a strong impression.
Although this recording is well over six decades old, the sound is terrific, with orchestra, chorus, and soloists all coming through with perfect clarity. The CD is nicely filled out with three bonus tracks. The first, “From Switzerland: The Pratt Family,” is from a Carnegie Hall concert with Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett; it’s an amusing parody of two songs from the show, poking fun of Maria’s most sweetly didactic moments. The other two tracks are lush recordings of “Edelweiss” in German (sung by Michael Kraus and Sandra Pires) and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in Swedish (sung by Tommy Körberg, the original Anatoly in Chess).
Next week we stick with Mary Martin in the Original Broadway Cast Recording of South Pacific.