ON THE RECORD: Holiday Gift List of 2012, Part One; New Musicals and Studio Recordings

By Steven Suskin
09 Dec 2012

Cover art for Calvin Berger

The final original cast album of our select group comes not from New York but New Brunswick, NJ. Barry Wyner's Calvin Berger [Ghostlight] — about a suburban "Cyrano de Bergerac" in high school — was developed regionally, and never made it into town despite a high-profile production at the George Street Playhouse under the direction of Kathleen Marshall. The score, though, is bright, disarming, and continually surprising. Enough so that you might find it worth tracking down.

Once, of course, was derived from — and featured the score from — a motion picture. (Unlike most such adaptations, it turned out splendidly. Perhaps because they did everything in an unconventional manner.) Queen of the Mist comes from the perennial outsider Mr. LaChiusa, while the other three above-mentioned CDs came from a young and new generation of songwriters. So it looks — this month, at least — like maybe something's coming, something good, other than just a parade of jukebox musicals.


Cover art for Sweet Little Devil

Rooting through the miscellaneous drawer of the George Gershwin filing cabinet, record producer Tommy Krasker — who has already restored and recorded numerous Gershwin musicals — came upon Sweet Little Devil [PS Classics]. This was an item written just before George attained celebrity status in 1924 with "Rhapsody in Blue" and a passel of tunes in the Astaire musical Lady, Be Good. Written not with brother Ira but lyricist B.G. DeSylva, the show opened and closed and moved into instant obscurity.

Obscure, yes; but it was Gershwin at the time of the "Rhapsody" (which premiered just three weeks after Sweet Little Devil opened on Broadway). Krasker's hunch turned out to be canny. While this is certainly not the equal of the finest scores of the '20s, it is pretty enjoyable and makes a nifty confection for our listening pleasure. Especially with the likes of Rebecca Luker, Danny Burstein, Jason Graae and more.

We close with a just-arrived two-disc set from PS Classics, too late for review (we'll address it in the coming weeks) but presumably worthy of mention. "The Land Where the Good Songs Go" features no less than 28 songs by Jerome Kern, the granddaddy of the Broadway musical, compiled into revue form by arranger-music director David Loud. With a six-person cast headed by Rebecca Luker and Kate Baldwin, this should be of interest to Kern enthusiasts.

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)

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