The British Invasion: Broadway 1981-1992 is the fifth of six budget-priced compilations of cast recordings issued by Universal Music's Decca Broadway imprint, covering the six decades since the founding of the American Decca Records label. Long since enveloped by MCA Records, the Decca name had been retired by 1981, but MCA itself was later merged with PolyGram to form Universal, creating a vast catalog of recordings by previously independent companies. The tracks included here were first issued on LPs by Polydor, Geffen, MCA, and Mercury Records, among others. The "British invasion" of musicals cited in the title was well underway by the start of the 1980s, already including Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita from the '70s, but it reached its apex during the decade, to the point that some shows weren't even getting separate recordings for their Broadway casts, which featured the same principals who had appeared in the shows in London. This was true of The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, although Cats and Les Misérables did have original Broadway cast albums with songs included here. Also originating in Britain were Chess and the revival of Me and My Girl. That's six out of ten tracks on this brief album, leaving room for only four homegrown efforts, and of these, only "Muddy Water" from Big River and "Dr. Jazz" from Jelly's Last Jam are Broadway cast recordings. Little Shop of Horrors, which provides "Suddenly Seymour," was an off-Broadway show, and opera singers Renée Fleming and Bryn Terfel contribute a song from The Secret Garden, although they never appeared in it on-stage. These ten songs provide some sense of the Broadway of the 1980s, although record company restrictions deny the inclusion of anything from Nine, La Cage aux Folles, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, City of Angels, The Will Rogers Follies, or Falsettos. (Having been released by Geffen, Dreamgirls presumably was available, so the omission of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is puzzling.) A more balanced examination of the '80s on Broadway could have been made, but this album undeniably contains some of the best-known songs of the era.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann