Australian cast recordings

I miss Australian cast recordings of classic musicals.

I miss Australian cast recordings of classic musicals. There was a time when every new production that came into Australia was accompanied by an Australian cast LP. These days they are few and far between and in recent years, almost non existent. The main reason for this is that it costs so much to record a show and the general feeling is that the Broadway or London casts of shows should suffice. The only reason to record a show is to make money and promote and it just doesn’t seem to make good economics to go to the expense of recording an Australian cast as the recording that exists is probably cut with a bigger budget than anything that could be afforded an Oz cast recording. It would have been fun, just the same, to have had recordings of recent Oz casts of shows such as The Producers, Titanic, Wicked, Jersey Boys and even Mamma Mia, as, is  often the case, the Oz cast is often vocally superior to many of their overseas counterparts. From memory the last Australian cast recordings were Priscilla, The Boy from Oz and Shout (all jukebox musicals, but nonetheless great to have them).

I would like to go back and look at some of the great Australian cast recordings of Broadway shows from the past, noting the few (too few) that have at some point been released on CD. Most of these are now rare LP collectors’ items, many worth quite a bit of money.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES:- This is one of the best recorded cast recordings by an Oz cast. Keith Michell was such a vocally superior leading man and Jon Ewing so powerful as Albin and their performances transferred well to disc. There is sharpness and vitality that was missing from the Original Cast recording  Todd McKenney is among the Cagelles on this recording (not available on CD).

CHICAGO. Was available on CD (if you go searching), this 1981 cast recording is a true treasure and preserves the musical performances of Nancye Hayes, Terrence Donovan, Geraldine Turner, Judi Connelli and the cast of the STC version of the show. This production is very fondly remembered and the recording is as fresh as if it was recorded yesterday.

ANNIE. The 1977 cast of this classic Broadway musical gave Jill Perryman one of her rare chances to preserve one of her classic stage roles on disc. In every way a brighter, sharper, pacier version to the Broadway cast, it features Sally Anne Bourne as Annie, the wonderful Hayes Gordon as Daddy Warbucks and Nancye Hayes and Kevin Johnston as Lilly and Rooster. A real treat if you can lay your hands on it  .Never seen the light of day on CD.

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. A classic recording  of the very first (of so many) Australian productions. Do not confuse with later versions. This one has also never been out on CD, but was a huge best seller of its day and preserved Reg Livermore’s glorious Frank N Furter.

NINE. John Diedrich did a magnificent job directing and starring in this 1988 production of the Maury Yeston hit musical and if this recording doesn’t sport the legendary Broadway names of the original cast, it is a very bright, well sung and viable recording. Nancye Hayes, Pieta Toppano, Maria Mercedes etc star.   This was at one time released on CD.

PIPPIN. John Farnham and Colleen Hewitt were the stars of this 1973 production of the Stephen Schwartz musical. At the time they were the king and queen of pop land and their faces dominated the cover. This was a wonderful recording and Farnham’s vocals are so much stronger than John Rubenstein (original Broadway Pippin). The whole recording has more to offer than the Broadway recording and features Nancye Hayes . A rarity now and never on CD.

BIG RIVER. A totally superior recording to the Broadway original, this Oz cast recording starring Cameron Daddo and John Bell is beautifully recorded and an excellent record of a show that was so American it was never expected to find its way here, yet, when it did, it proved a smash hit and cemented the musical theatre future of the Gordon Frost organisation (and yes it was available on CD).

THE SOUND OF MUSIC. There is a real significance to hear June Bronhill sing the role of Maria in the original Australian cast recording of this classic show. Bronhill’s voice was a wonder in itself and even if the rest of the recording is hokey by today’s standards, it is thrilling that this version was preserved on disc. Very rare today and unbelievably (considering that so many other Bronhill recordings are on CD)  not transferred at this stage.

ANYTHING GOES. Geraldine Turner, Simon Burke, Marina Prior had a ball with this Australian version of the Lincoln Centre revival of this show and the disc (it was at one time available on CD) may not quite measure up to Patti LuPone and the sound and tone of the Broadway revival, but just to have these performer’s voices on disc makes it something to treasure.  

THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The 1999 Australian revival cast is one of the most recent cast recordings released and was on CD. It is interesting in that it was recorded during several performances and the result is terrific. It features Lisa McCune’s delightful and vocally strong Maria, John Waters as the Captain and Tim Draxl as Rolf.

There are other Lps, the poorly recorded Barnum with Reg Livermore, Oklahoma with John Diedrich, a very rushed and unappealing recording, a dated version (or two) of Hair. So many have not been preserved, so many missed opportunities. In closing wouldn’t it be great to have a cast recording of the Australian Mary Poppins, did someone say this is a possibility???!!

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