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Surprisingly Old Fashioned
on 27 July 2013
I was really looking forward to hearing this recording and, unlike almost everybody else who has reviewed it, I was very disappointed.
"Cinderella" is a story that is all about magic and, for me, that is a quality seriously lacking on this recording. The music as presented here sounds rather pedestrian. It was of course written in the 1950's but what was a simple short piece written to last about 90 minutes has been inflated to provide a full evening's entertainment. The original production, written for Julie Andrews, was simple and left you wanting more. It's not really top drawer R & H but Oscar's take on the story was original and the Rodgers' music was apt. They wrote a nice solo, "In My Own LIttle Corner", a romantic duet "Ten Minutes Ago" and a comedy duet "Sisters' Lament", two excellent musical scenes "The Price Is Giving a Ball" and "A Lovely Night", whose main theme is a song that should have been performed more frequently over the last 50 years and a sublime love song "Do I Love You Because Your Beautiful?" Rodgers also wrote an enchanting waltz for the ball and other very effective incidental music.
To pad out the piece for a full theatre production, other R & H songs have been patched in. "The Loneliness of Evening", cut from "South Pacific", was first pasted into "Cinderella" with Rodgers' good will for the 1965 TV production. Stuart Damon sang it well but it wasn't right for "South Pacific" and it isn't right for "Cinderella" either. Neither are any of the other tunes which have been dragooned in either from "Allegro", "Pipe Dream" or the R & H trunk. Each of these pieces suddenly spoils the flow of the "Cinderella" music by betraying its origins. I am also not very enamoured of some of the new lyrics, the worst of which is sung by the Prince as he describes himself as "a regular guy". For a fairy tale? It seems very republican. Surely Oscar didn't write this? He always wrote for character and his Prince was romantically royal.
I can't say I am very enthusiastic about the performances either or the quality of the recording. The latter seems to be a typical product of the digital age, close with no space around it. The choral singing sounds dreary and very unenthusiastic. The conducting doesn't let the music take flight. Too many tunes, "Ten Minutes Ago" for one, are reprised way too many times. Worst of all, the best song in the original score, "Do I Love You Because Your Beautiful?" is buried towards the end of the piece in such an unmagical glutinous mass of sound that it almost passes unnoticed. The vocal performances are just about acceptable but nowhere so characterful as in the original TV production.
Fie on Ted Chapin for allowing this to happen. If "Cinderella" had to be turned into a full length Broadway production, as keeper of the keys at the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, he should have demanded something better than this. It would have been better to have have sanctioned a revisiting of "Allegro". If you do this, Mr Chapin, you might restore my previous faith in your guardianship of the R & H treasury. This new piece lacks artistic integrity, which is something R & H always strived for and, for the most part, achieved.
For those wanting a recording of the"Cinderella" score, I would recommend the recording of the original TV production with Julie Andrews. It may have fewer songs than you'd hoped for but these were written especially for the production and fitted the story like a glove. This recording also has more magic than any of the recordings made of subsequent productions. If you want to hear the best recording of "Do I Love You Because Your Beautiful?. this can be found on Mel Torme's splendid "That's All" album.