Thank you everyone for commenting. I've been a little bit busy this weekend, so I basically signed on long enough to post the latest part of No Myth and get the results of the survey. I didn't expect an overwhelming vote to keep them here. Thank you everyone who answered the question. I can only hope that by the end you won't lose complete respect for me. I have some pretty odd-ball tastes in music.
I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to comment on the comments for the survey (and thank you for the kind words), but I was tied up with polishing the latest part of No Myth, fleshing out scenes for the next part, as well as other assorted weekend-y tasks. Plus, I have a visit from the Parental Units and my brother, who'll be having a B-day on the morrow. Yes, he got Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 2 out of me for the prezzy.
I rock as a sister.
At any rate, here's today's catch. Welcome to the Monday Blue Plate Special.
Special Showdown: Into the Woods (1988) vs. Into the Woods (2002)
I admit to a significant Sondheim love. I admit to a significant love for this play in particular. I've seen it three times (once on Broadway with the original 1988 cast minus Bernadette Peters). So, when Into the Woods was revived on Broadway in 2002, I just had to get it, especially since there are songs in the revival that were cut from the initial run. Don't get me wrong, Into the Woods 2002 still a good soundtrack, but it can't hold a candle to the original.
The first Into the Woods cast were actors first and singers second. The second Into the Woods cast were singers first and actors second. Yes, the voices in the second cast are marginally better for the most part, and some of the singers in the second cast sound eerily similar to the actors in the first cast. However, the second cast is slightly more operatic.
In my own clumsy way, I guess what I'm trying to say is that in listening to the soundtrack for the original Broadway production, you can actually hear the characters come through the singing. Not as much in the second cast. By 2002, Into the Woods had taken its place as a pretty important play in the Sondheim ouvre and the revival was cast accordingly.
That's nothing less than a shame.
To illustrate what I mean, I'm going to pull the same song from both CDs called No More sung by the Baker (Chip Zein in the Original Cast; Stephen DeRosa in the Rivival). People who've read Whisper will recognize this song as Dolly's personal theme song in that story. I can't explain why I love this song so much. Maybe it's because of Zein's voice hitting that sweet note at the height of the song that just sends shivers down the spine. DeRosa is a better singer, but I think his version lacks the emotional appeal.
No More by Chip Zein (Into the Woods, 1988)
No More by Stephen DeRosa (Into the Woods, 2002)
See what I mean?
Now for the ratings and some sample tracks.
Into the Woods (1988) Rating=$$$$$
[Support the Artist]
How I Got This CD: Bought new when I was still in college.
I could bibble all day about how much I love this play, the music, and Sondheim's wickedly truthful lyrics. Fans of Grimm fairytales will totally dig this, not only because Sondheim is true to the original stories in the first half of the play (yes, the birds really do peck out the eyes of the evil step-sisters), but his supposition of what happens after 'And they lived happily ever after.' The Baker and the Baker's Wife (played by the awesome Joanna Gleason) are the only original chracters in the play, and as such, serve as the stand-in for the audience. Their quest to break the Witch's curse of childlessness (Bernadette Peters) intersects with Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstock, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood. Along the way, the Baker and the Baker's Wife — separate and together — are responsible (sometimes directly, sometimes in a round-about way) for setting all the fairytale characters on their archetypal paths and help them get out of the straightjacket imposed by "happily ever after" and the reprecussions of those characters' earlier actions.
Buffy fans should note: the power of the "the wish" plays a pretty important part in the play, incuding the unforseen consequences of having that wish come true, a full 10 years before we ever saw Anya.
As a side note: a quote from the play that I will always remember (and remains my Dad's favorite line anywhere) comes from Prince Charming. When Cinderella in the second half confronts him over his roving eye, his response is: "I was raised to be charming, not sincere." Fits in with Dad's philosophy that if anyone meets Prince or Princess Charming and they're riding a white horse, the best bet is to check the horse for a paint job.
I chose this sample track because you can hear the entire original cast in all their glory. Plus, I have a soft spot for Giants in the Sky sung by Ben Wright (Jack). The best way I can put it: It's a very high school-era Xander-y song.
Sample Song Download: A Very Nice Prince/First Midnight/Giants in the Sky
Into the Woods (2002) Rating=$$$$
[Support the Artist]
How I Got This CD: Bought 40% off during employee days during my Bordersverse Daze.
While not as good as the original cast (Vanessa Williams, in particular, doesn't have Bernadette Peters' oomph as the Witch), this CD is worth having. The original cast recording can be devilishly difficult to get and would require a little bit of hunting (although I think it's very much worth it). This version is much, much easier to find. Plus, if you've seen the revival, you might prefer this one anyway. However, if you've got the original, don't bother.
I wanted to choose a song that highlights all the singers in the second play, but have a different track to do it in. While not as good as the track I chose for the original cast, this one does the trick.
Sample Song Download: Finale: Children Will Listen
Read the index for previous thumbnail reviews.
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!
$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking frisbee.
$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.
$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.
$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.
$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.