Various Artists

The 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Broadway

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In 2005, Decca Broadway, the show music arm of Universal Music, celebrated the 60 years of cast albums in the company vaults dating back to 1943's Oklahoma! with six discount-priced CDs, one for each decade, later gathered together in a box set called Broadway: America's Music. Here, only a year later, the Broadway archives have been plundered again for an entry in Universal's discount best-of series, the awkwardly titled 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection. (Sounds like there was a tie vote on the committee that chose the name.) And this 55-minute, 16-track disc that is charged with the impossible task of summarizing all 60 years chooses from the same batch of material; 15 of the 16 are to be found on one of the discs in the previous collection, the only exception being "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," by Ethel Merman from Annie Get Your Gun. This is not surprising, since compilation producer Joseph S. Szurly was also the co-producer of the earlier albums. The choices are mostly unobjectionable, consisting of songs that have become standards ("Try to Remember," "The Impossible Dream," "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'") sung by the stage stars who introduced them. But in the attempt to cover the whole long period, there are some curiosities, such as Peter Allen's "I Go to Rio," included only by virtue of its having been sung in the 2003 jukebox-musical biography The Boy from Oz by Hugh Jackman, and "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think" from the 2000 flop The Seussical. (In fairness, The Seussical has, unsurprisingly, made money for its creators in numerous middle-school productions.) And then, there are the omissions. The most striking one in the earlier series was the lack of anything written by Stephen Sondheim, for the simple reason that none of Sondheim's shows was recorded by a label controlled by Universal. Meanwhile, Andrew Lloyd Webber was over-represented because all of his shows were in the Universal camp through an association with his Really Useful label. There's still nothing by Sondheim, of course, but now Szurly has eliminated Lloyd Webber as well! (It may be, of course, that some undisclosed legal restriction has precluded the inclusion of, say, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina.") Still, for a likely release price of ten dollars at retail, the album does contain many old Broadway favorites.

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