The Good Music Record Co., which assembles collections for such mail-order firms as Yestermusic, collaborated with Sony Music Special Products for this two-CD/cassette compilation of tracks drawn from original-cast albums controlled not only by Sony, but also by BMG, MCA, and PolyGram. One song each has been chosen from 30 shows that opened in New York between 1943 and 1980. (All but two of these were full-scale Broadway musicals: Godspell, represented by "Day By Day," was a modest off-Broadway production when its cast album was recorded, and The Fantasticks, the source of "Try to Remember," had played 13,711 performances off-off-Broadway at the small Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village as of June 9, 1993, the cutoff date for the album's annotations.) The first track, "Lullaby of Broadway" from 42nd Street, and the last one, "Give My Regards to Broadway" from George M!, are ringers; the former originated in the 42nd Street movie in 1933, the latter in the 1904 musical Little Johnny Jones. In between, the collection samples show music from 1943's Oklahoma! to 1977's Annie, taking up the period sometimes cited as Broadway's golden age (1943-1964), with several selections from the following decade thrown in. Every show included ran at least 600 performances, and the songs are often the best-known ones from each production. Most of the biggest stars of the era are heard, among them Julie Andrews, Yul Brynner, Carol Channing, Alfred Drake, Robert Goulet, Joel Grey, Richard Kiley, Gertrude Lawrence, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Zero Mostel, John Raitt, and Gwen Verdon, and the selections include such standards as "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Hello, Dolly!," "If I Were a Rich Man," "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)," "Mame," "My Favorite Things," "Oklahoma!," "Send in the Clowns," "Tomorrow," and "You'll Never Walk Alone," with such songwriters as Leonard Bernstein, Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields, Frank Loesser, Jerry Herman, Kander & Ebb, Lerner & Loewe, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Jule Styne well represented. The compilers have eschewed the trend toward rock that began to be heard on Broadway by the late '60s (there's nothing from Hair, Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar, or The Wiz). And certainly, even within the context of what was considered acceptable, there are omissions. Where are "Till There Was You" from The Music Man, "People" from Funny Girl, or "I Believe in You" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying? (In the first two cases, the answer seems to be that they come from the vaults of EMI, not one of the collection's licensees.) Also, the sequencing is nearly random, and the annotations, which provide only basic facts and figures about each show, could be more extensive. But The Best of Broadway lives up to its name for the general audience for which it was intended, an important plus being that, unlike many similarly titled albums, this one really does draw from the original-cast recordings.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann