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South Pacific - The Best of Broadway Musicals

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Album Review

The term "jukebox musical" was used in the early years of the 21st century to refer to a type of Broadway show in which the score consisted of long-familiar songs, often from the pop realm, with a jury-rigged story written to accommodate them, the model being Mamma Mia!, which employed the music of ABBA. LoveMusik, which ran on Broadway for a while during 2007, might be called a jukebox musical in this sense, although, unlike that show and some others, the music derived from an actual Broadway composer, not a pop act. LoveMusik was a musical stage biography of composer Kurt Weill and his on-again, off-again wife, actress/singer Lotte Lenya, inspired by the 1997 book of the couple's correspondence, Speak Low (When You Speak Love), edited by Lys Symonette and Kim Kowalke. The book of the musical was written by Alfred Uhry, who also went through Weill's catalog of music to pick songs. While maintaining the broad outlines of the Weill/Lenya story, Uhry did not feel constrained to literal accuracy, and he paid no attention to chronology with respect to the songs, which might come from years before or after the time in which they were performed in the show. (To overcome the stylistic differences between Weill's German and American periods, new orchestrations were written by Jonathan Tunick.) Donna Murphy, as Lenya, did not attempt to sound like the real singer, and neither did Michael Cerveris as Weill, or David Pittu as Weill collaborator Bertolt Brecht (both of whom left a few recordings); they all just adopted German accents and left it at that. All of this actually liberated the book writer and the cast to play with the interpretations of some famous songs. At times, Uhry seemed a bit too clever, as when he took "That's Him," usually sung by a woman explaining how she identified a man to whom she was attracted, and gave it to Cerveris to sing as a bittersweet explanation of how he recognized the kind of man his wife was likely to run off with, or, with some judicious editing and added dialogue, handed "September Song," originally written as an older man's reflection on his attraction to younger women, to Murphy. Beyond such parlor tricks, Weill fans could be happy to hear such rarely performed songs as "I Don't Love You," "Schickelgruber" (about Adolf Hitler), and "Buddy on the Night Shift" (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). They helped make the cast album something more than just another recording of Weill's best songs. (Perhaps for business reasons, the 67-minute disc was missing four songs performed in the show on-stage: "Wooden Wedding," "Come to Paris," "How Can You Tell an American?," and "Youkali.")

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South Pacific - The Best of Broadway Musicals, Original Broadway Cast
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