Various Artists

Broadway Today [From the Original Cast Recordings]

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Sony Classical's 2003 compilation Broadway Today is in effect the show music equivalent of one of the Now collections of current pop music in that half of it is licensed from other record labels for a thorough survey of the music to be heard on the Great White Way at the time of its release. Every one of the tracks was from a show running on Broadway when the album was released, including material from the previous three winners of the Tony Award for best musical, The Producers (2001), Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002), and Hairspray (2003). The tracks are culled from original Broadway cast albums, with the exception of the "bonus track," "Overture/All That Jazz," from the original soundtrack to Chicago, the 1996 revival of which has become a Broadway long-runner. As such, the collection gives a good sense of what Broadway music was like in 2003, and, as the unsigned liner notes put it, "the energy of contemporary pop music has changed everything." Or rather, not contemporary pop music -- there's no hip-hop or teen pop here -- but pop music of recent vintage. This is the Broadway of ABBA, Billy Joel, and Elton John, at least in part, so "'70s pop music" would be more like it. But it is also a nostalgic Broadway in which shows look back to an earlier time in their musical styles. Hairspray is rooted in the early '60s, and leadoff track "Good Morning Baltimore" sounds like a Phil Spector production. "Overture/All That Jazz" is a pastiche of '20s pop music. The two selections from The Producers are pastiches of show music from the '50s or earlier. And "O Soave Fanciulla" from La bohème is, simply, an opera aria. So, there is much greater variety than you might get by sampling the Broadway scores of years gone by. But there is no denying that the pace-setting work is from the likes of Joel and John.

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