Original Casts

Broadway: America's Music 1935-2005

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The six-disc set The Best of Broadway 1935-2005 (aka, Broadway: America's Music) is a sampler of 70 years of the music of Broadway, covering 64 different shows. It groups the music by time periods, finding a common thread for each that seems to characterize what Broadway meant to American culture at the time or what many shows of a particular period had in common. For example, it begins with "A Time of Hope," encompassing the war years when Broadway shows helped provide some diversion from grim reality. Disc Five, "The British Invasion," covers the years 1981 to 1992, when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh hit the "great white way." Decca assembled the collection from original cast recordings when it could or at least used later recordings by original artists to get better-sounding tracks for those early shows. It also includes a good mix of the familiar and less familiar in terms of both shows and songs. The set is similar to 2004's Broadway: The American Musical, the companion CD set for the PBS television miniseries. This set, despite the number of discs, actually has less music than that earlier set, and many fewer liner notes, although they are similarly priced. There is also an overlap of about 20 songs between the two sets, but this one includes more selections from lesser known, but still entertaining shows, such as Big River, Little Shop of Horrors, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. If you're looking for value for your money, go for the other set. But this set is fine for someone just looking for a basic survey of Broadway songs, and not a lot of detailed information about Broadway history.

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