Andy Propst introduces his new column, Show Music Direct, celebrating the cast recordings that bring Broadway home.
“There’s just no tune as exciting as a show tune,” it’s a kind of familiar saying, and in 1960, Jerry Herman, the songwriter for such classic musicals as Hello, Dolly! and Mame, even musicalized it. It was a number heard in the off-Broadway revue, Parade, which paved the way for Herman’s first success on the Great White Way: Milk and Honey.
I happen to agree with this sentiment and have had a deep love of musical theater ever since I was a kid growing up in the Midwest. Out there, in the mid-1970s, it was cast recordings that allowed me to vicariously experience the thrill of sitting in a Broadway theater. In fact, I still have all of my vinyl LPs from those days. Some of the albums are recordings of shows that are now part of theater history – A Chorus Line, Grease, and Sweeney Todd. Others are ones that don’t have the same name recognition, but have become personal favorites, such as Grand Tour (also by Jerry Herman), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and On the Twentieth Century. Of course, alongside these albums were (and are) the classics, everything from Show Boat to Oklahoma! to My Fair Lady.
Alongside these albums are other musical theater-related ones that range from jazz interpretations of musicals to recordings by some of Broadway’s most-loved talents: folks like Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Liza Minnelli, et al. Often it’s these recordings that can help me understand even the most familiar songs in a new light.
Given my passion for show music in all of its incarnations, I’m absolutely thrilled that I’m going to be able to help you navigate through the world of contemporary musical theater recordings here on Broadway Direct in the weeks and months to come through Show Music Direct. It’s one of the many new sections you’ll find on the site and will be dedicated to what’s new and what’s hot on disc and available for digital download.
The monthly Show Music Direct columns, along with special reports, will not just be reviews, but will also be filled with little insights about shows (kind of like the trivia that peppered the start of this story), their songs, and their creators. Some columns will be roundups of broad range of recordings while others will be thematically grouped. For instance, one month I might look specifically at a group of new off-Broadway cast albums while in another a column might focus simply on new releases from Broadway performers.
Along the way I’ll also look to Broadway’s past with periodic reflections on older shows, focusing on important re-issues or just some long-standing favorites that deserve a little bit of extra attention. There will also be times that I might go a little further afield, looking at some independently available recordings of shows that have yet to be seen in New York.
Ultimately, I want Show Music Direct to be your trusted guide to the world of recorded musical theater, so please comment below, let me know the sorts of things you’d like to see as part of this exciting new section on Broadway Direct.