A Doll's Life was, at least according to most of the reviews and the balance sheets, one of Broadway's legendary failures. But the piece did win several important awards, despite its rapid closing, and this cast recording does indeed show off some of the appeal of the work, which is considerable. One can't speak for the staging or the overall performances, but Larry Grossman's score is a gorgeous body of music, and this is a work that one will wish to come back to. The work itself, built around the setting of a rehearsal of Ibsen's A Doll's House, was perhaps a bit outré for Broadway of the early '80s -- but Betty Comden and Adolph Green's book and lyrics make a game effort at reaching for accessibility to the masses, and Grossman's music is relentlessly appealing. At the risk of insulting the composer, it does sometimes come off as "Sondheim slightly light," but with more than enough inspiration of its own to make that comparison more a matter of approach than style, for the most part -- although "Letter to the Children" and "New Year's Eve" do seem, at moments, a little too close for comfort to things heard in A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, etc. In some ways, it also manages to anticipate elements of scoring that were to become much better known than this piece, in Sunday in the Park with George. The two composers were obviously in adjoining chapters of the same book, if not quite on the same page. George Hearn and Betsy Joslyn are fine in the leads, and the rest of the participants do well with their singing. And Paul Gemignani's music direction is impeccable. The cast recording was originally issued on vinyl on the Original Cast label, and re-released on CD in the early '90s by Bay Cities.
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