Firstly, I must say how disappointed I am with the Amazon reviewer writing "The Gypsy soundtrack includes bonus tracks.Curtain Up!"
This is NOT a soundtrack. If the Amazon reviewer does not know the difference between a (film) soundtrack and a (stage) cast recording they are not qualified to write reviews of these products.
That said, this is a smashing recording.
True, the role was written for Ethel Merman and her performance is a Broadway legend. The 1959 original Broadway cast recording is indispensable.
Other actresses have approached the role from a variety of angles. Rosalind Russell (dubbed, in part at least, by Lisa Kirk) gave us Rose as played by Auntie Mame. The film is watchable but the CD is barely listenable.
Next came Angela Lansbury's thoughtful performance. Lansbury doesn't quite have the vocal range the score demands but she acts the songs better.
Tyne Daly was dramatically intense on stage but poor health at the time of the recording shone a spotlight on her vocal inadequacies.
Bette Midler tried admirably to make the part her own but there is a bit too much Bette and not enough Rose in her performance.
With Bernadette Peters we come to the first real attempt to reexamine the role and make Rose over into something new and different. If it doesn't fully succeed it is mainly because the show was written for Merman's mighty belt. Had it been written for Peters it would have been a vastly different show, but Peters stepped into the existing script. She tries hard and succeeds at some points, but she is obviously wearing a gown fitted to another actress.
With Patti LuPone we have an actress who has both the vocal and dramatic muscle for this role. It's no wonder she won the Tony Award. As did her co-stars, Boyd Gains and Laura Benanti. Their performances on this CD perfectly capture the excitement a good production of GYPSY can generate.
Album producer Robert Sher wanted to make this recording stand out from the others and with the permission of Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and the estate of Jule Styne, six songs that were written for the show but cut before the original production opened are presented here as bonus tracks.
Since the rest of the GYPSY score is well known and everyone probably already has at least one of their favourite Roses on disc, it is the bonus material that will drive the decision to add this one to your collection.
If the songs were obvious clunkers this would only be of interest to cast album mavens who must have every performance recorded. But they are not. These are outstanding songs, perhaps not perfectly suited to the final book of GYPSY but certainly on the same level as everything else in the score.
For years the story regarding the dropping of "Mamma's Talking Soft" - the counterpoint to "Small World" - have been passed around. In short one of the child actresses was afraid of heights and the only way the number worked was to show them peering down on Rose as she seduces Herbie. The simple solution was to cut their part of the number. In truth the scene probably works better in its simpler form, but bow is your chance to hear the full version. You may even program your player to includ3e this in place of the standard version.
Similarly, you can program the delightfully funny "Smile Girls" in place of "Toreadorables." True it would not really work in the show, but on CD, it's great!
"Three Wishes For Christmas" is going to get a lot of airplay on my radio show this holiday season, and the "Mothers's Day" numbers will be useful next May.
"Who Needs Him" is a dramatic soliloquy for Rose and on CD nicely fills teh gap left by the missing reprise of "Small World." The reprise is really just a few phrases sung by Rose after Herbie walks out. Dramatically effective in the theatre, it would not work as a stand-alone track on a CD. This brings up an interesting point: Cast albums can and should reflect the score as heard in the theatre, but they must also provide the home listener with a coherent musical program. Sometimes segments (dance music and reprises) that are effective in the theatre, do not translate well to recordings. Of course with CD's allowing almost 80 minutes of playing time, they can be included and a discerning listener can always program the tracks out, but Robert Sher knows the value of creating a recording where one track leads quite naturally into another and he wisely left this bit off.
The packaging is the icing on the cake here. A glossy booklet with plenty of pictures, a detailed synopsis and some fascinating essays will provide all the context you need.
In short, this is one of the most satisfying cast albums to come along in quite some time.