1964 Columbia Studio Cast

The King and I [1964 Columbia Studio Cast]

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In his liner notes to the 1993 CD reissue of this 1964 studio cast recording of The King and I, Marc Kirkeby suggests two reasons for its existence, first that the 1951 original cast of the show "lacked great singers," and second that no stereo version of the show existed. But the 1956 original soundtrack, which was in stereo, boasted a "great singer" in Marni Nixon. Actually, there are two better reasons why Columbia Records chose to make a recording of the show. First, it didn't have one -- the original Broadway cast album was on Decca, and the original soundtrack was on Capitol. Second, RCA Victor, Columbia's third major rival, was about to record the 1964 Broadway revival. Coming up with a studio cast album gave Columbia a competitive product in the marketplace. The highlights of this version are found in the principals, Barbara Cook, who had appeared in a 1960 New York revival, giving a characteristically warm and affecting performance as Anna Leonowens, and Theodore Bikel, late of The Sound of Music, being, for once, a king who could sing. But the album on the whole falls victim to a typical weakness of studio cast albums: Never having been onstage together, the performers sound like they're in different shows. Bikel is the only one who is trying for a dramatic portrayal; Cook doesn't bother to alter her accent, so her declaration that she comes from Wales in one song is laughable. And songs like "My Lord and Master" are sung by opera singers -- like Jeanette Scovotti -- who sound like opera singers. The result is a muddle, though there are some fine performances. (This album marks the first recording of "Western People Funny." "March of the Siamese Children," a Cleveland Pops performance, has been added for the CD reissue.)

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