If you need one reason to buy this super cd, let it be for Leonard Bernstein's brilliant music---his only score to win a Tony Award. (That's right: neither "Candide" nor "West Side Story" won a Tony.)
The lyrics of Betty Comden and Adolph Green are some of their best. The witty duo came back to Broadway for this show, their first reunion with Bernstein since the success of "On The Town" almost 10 years before. They had very recently written the wildly successful "Singin' In The Rain" in Hollywood and with "Wonderful Town" they (& the entire creative team) conquered New York City.
This CD, to my mind, is a heck of alot better in almost every way than the original cast recording which starred Rosalind Russell. Russell, of course, could not sing and although her role is heavy on comedy and light on music, Kim Criswell comes off better: she is funny & touching as well as caustic and light-handed as well as tough. Russell sounds angry and almost sullen throughout...also quite mature. Add to this, the fact that Criswell has a sensational singing voice. As her love interest,Thomas Hampson, one of our finest operatic baritones, knows exactly how to lighten his voice to sing musical comedy and does it beautifully. On the Russell CD, George Gaines merely sounds old and terribly fancy, like a serious singer who is slumming. Although Edith Adams is fine as "Eileen," Audra McDonald (a 3-time Tony winner, herself) is even better in the role of the girl that all New York City wants to woo. Brent Barrett brings his gorgeous voice, as well as comic skills to his one song as the football-playing dunce, "Wreck."
The sound on this 1999 recording is superb. The conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, throws himself into Bernstein's score with verve and shows exactly how much he loves American jazz and Broadway.
There are many comic numbers, all of which hit the mark, but I must mention that "A Little Bit In Love" and "A Quiet Girl" and "It's Love" have got to be three of the sweetest, cleverest, most charming "love" songs in any musical. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.