In our new blog series, theater journalist Andy Propst gives an insider's look (and listen!) to some of the newest releases in the Ghostlight Records catalogue, as well as reflecting on some of our past recordings. After looking at DOGFIGHT & GIANT, Andy spoke with PIPPIN's composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz to find out what's up with the brand-new PIPPIN Cast Recording:
With the digital release of the New Broadway Cast Recording of Stephen Schwartz's Pippin (the physical release date is July 9), the show's legions of fans (the musical has been a rite of passage for countless students over the past 30 or so years) will have a new way of savoring this tuner with such enduring songs as "Corner of the Sky," "Magic to Do," "No Time at All," and more.
It's an album that ably demonstrates what Sh-K-Boom Records founder Kurt Deutsch has said is the overarching question when preparing a new recording of an older show. "When we look at recording a revival," he says, "We kind of ask the Passover question - 'Why is this album different from the other albums, besides just the cast?'"
As an answer to this question, composer Schwartz points out that you'll find "new arrangements and sometimes revised versions of songs" throughout the Ghostlight release, and adds that, it's "satisfying to have a record, in both senses of the word" of the alterations that have been made to the score. Some of these, he says, are structural changes that have been made specifically for this revival, citing "cuts of verses or parts of verses in "War is a Science," "Simple Joys," and "Spread a Little Sunshine.""
In other instances, though, Schwartz says that the changes from the original predate Diane Paulus' Tony Award-nominated production. For instance, he says that the new lyrics in "War is a Science" were "written for an LA production in 2004 as a satirical response to some of the statements made by Donald Rumsfeld and other officials re the Iraq War."
He continues "And there are what I consider to be improved lyrics for "Extraordinary" that I wrote decades ago because I had come to feel the original lyrics were trying to be funny through medieval references ("moths got into the tapestry", etc.) and just weren't working."
But this Ghostlight Records release isn't just notable because of the ways it varies from the Original Cast Recording. It's also got a bevy of material that was not preserved because of time/space limitations back in the 1970s when the show was first recorded on an LP that was co-produced with and engineered by the legendary Phil Ramone.
One of the most remarkable extended sequences on this new Pippin comes after Matthew James Thomas (playing the title role) delivers the sweet ballad "With You." This track extends into a gently delicate waltz but then morphs into something that's incredibly mod (sort of out of television's Laugh-In). Eventually the hedonistic excesses of Pippin's sexual exploits explode in the music, bringing this trippy sequence to life in aural splendor.
This new recording further replicates the sound of audience participation during Andrea Martin's delivery of "No Time at All." As most folks know, this number allows the audience to join in with Martin on the well-known chorus, and for the album, Ghostlight held a special recording session with 700 fans who joined Martin in the studio. The result is that, as you listen, you will feel yourself transported to the Music Box Theatre and are surrounded by the crowd as they sing alongside the Tony-winning performer.
There's one other aspect to this new release that should be noted. There are four bonus tracks on the disc. They're singalong versions of "Corner of the Sky," "Simple Joys," "Kind of Woman," and "Extraordinary," which means that you can try your own hand (voice?) at delivering these tunes backed by the same orchestrations that are being heard nightly - and delighting audiences - at Broadway's Music Box Theatre.
Watch the music video of "Magic To Do:"
Preview the New Broadway Cast Recording of Pippin now on Soundcloud: