With the exceptions of a few landmark shows (Show Boat, Anything Goes), Broadway musicals from before the era of the original cast album (which is to say, pre-1943), do not tend to be represented by multiple album-length recordings of their scores. For example, as of 1997, Rodgers & Hart's May 1938 musical I Married an Angel had no legitimate cast or soundtrack albums (though there were grey-market versions of a 1942 radio broadcast and the soundtrack to the 1942 film), while their October 1939 musical, Too Many Girls, only had one, by a 1977 studio cast. Both of those shows had longer initial runs than the Rodgers & Hart musical that came in between them, The Boys from Syracuse (November 23, 1938), and yet this is the fourth cast album based on the score (following a 1953 studio cast album, the 1963 Off-Broadway revival cast album, and the original London cast album of 1963). Maybe the point is that The Boys from Syracuse has proven more easily revivable, and the revivals have led to recordings. Why is that? The show is based on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, which may mean that it has a better script than other Rodgers & Hart shows of the '30s. It also has an excellent score (but so do the others mentioned). On May 1, 1997, City Center Encores!, the New York-based organization dedicated to mounting concert performances of neglected vintage musicals, took it on, and DRG quickly stepped in to preserve it on disc. The original Hans Spialek orchestrations (with a bit of uncredited tweaking here and there) remain lively; Rodgers' melodies, if similar to many of his others (the march "Come with Me" anticipates "Oklahoma!"), are tuneful; and Lorenz Hart's lyrics are a witty combination of classical and current (circa 1938, that is) references. And here, the casting is ideal, particularly with regard to the women. Rebecca Luker is a sweet-voiced Adriana ("Falling in Love with Love") and Debbie Gravitte a broadly comic Luce ("What Can You Do with a Man?"), and when they team up with Sarah Uriarte Berry (after her triumphant "This Can't Be Love") on "Sing for Your Supper," they make for a new version of the Andrews Sisters. This recording has more music from the score than any previous disc, too, making it a terrific treatment of one of Rodgers & Hart's better efforts.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Boys from Syracuse|