Producer Tommy Krasker has done a great service to show music lovers by organizing the first legitimate recording of Stephen Sondheim's The Frogs, a musical based on the Aristophanes comedy about Dionysos' journey to Hades to bring a famous playwright back to earth, which was produced originally in a swimming pool at Yale University in 1974. It's hard to imagine how the recording could be bettered, featuring, as it does, Sondheim's favored musical director, Paul Gemignani, his favored orchestrator, Jonathan Tunick, and three of the leading lights of Broadway, Nathan Lane, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Davis Gaines. As usual, Lane is a comic wonder, playing a part that recalls his Pseudolus in the 1996 Broadway revival of Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Forum, a show with a libretto that was co-written by this one's book writer, Burt Shevelove. The Frogs is a slight, if pleasant Sondheim work, this edited version running less than 33 minutes, but it is full of delightfully witty, sophisticated lyrics (some of them revised) and musical touches that contain echoes of other Sondheim shows. Its best song, "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience," has been recorded before, but the choral parts that take up most of it (it's based on a Greek play, after all) will be new to most listeners. The album's running time is expanded by the inclusion of the four songs from the Sondheim television musical Evening Primrose, broadcast in 1966. These songs have been recorded many times, but Neil Patrick Harris and Theresa McCarthy bring fresh interpretations to them. Given the size of the Sondheim cult, it's amazing that no one has thought to put The Frogs on record before, but at least now that it's finally been done, it's been done right.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Frogs, musical play|
feat: The Orchestra
feat: Davis Gaines
|Evening Primrose, musical play|