Friday, May 24, 2013

Music Review: Annie - Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many great songs no matter who sings them
Cons: A bit dated arrangements
The Bottom Line:
It's Annie's first cast
Singing now familiar songs
Get stuck in your head

Soundtrack to be Enjoyed Tomorrow – and Today

Judge me as you will, but I really do enjoy the musical Annie.  So somewhere along the way, I bought the original Broadway cast recording to supplement the 1999 TV movie version I usually listen to.  I don’t drag it out that often, but when I do I enjoy it.

The soundtrack includes all the classic songs we associate with the musical.  It opens with “Maybe,” in which Annie sings her dream of her parents.  There’s her other solo, the famous song “Tomorrow.”  And all the orphans join her to sing about their life in “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.”  Moving over to the villains, we’ve got Miss Hannigan’s lament “Little Girls” and the song she sings with her brother and his girlfriend, “Easy Street.”

Of course, as we’re going through the familiar songs, there are some differences.  The other orphans actually join Annie in the final two lines of “Maybe,” something that caught me off guard the first time I heard it.  The version of “Easy Street” here leaves out much of the talking that takes place during the song when performed on stage, and I miss it.

But the biggest change comes in “I Don’t Need Anything but You.”  This duet between Daddy Warbucks and Annie includes two extra verses I’ve heard no where else.  And since I love the song, I enjoy hearing those verses.  Those kind of changes happen as a show goes through its first initial production (I’ve noticed it on other soundtracks I have), but I wish they hadn’t chopped them.

Both movies versions have cut out some songs that really help anchor the piece in the 30’s, and those songs are here.  Early in the musical, we get “We’d Like to Thank you Herbert Hoover,” a song as known as “Hooverville,” at least in the two productions I’ve seen recently.  This song is the rantings of the poor who are just struggling to get by during the Great Depression.  Also falling into this category is “A New Deal for Christmas.”  Frankly, while I get the attempts to tie things into history (FDR is a character after all), I don’t feel this song works with the rest of the play.

There is only one reprise on this disc, and that’s the reprise of “Tomorrow” as sung by Annie, FDR, and members of his cabinet in the second act.  Frankly, I find this version of the song hilarious, and I’m thrilled to have it here.

The music is dated.  Part of that is on purpose as the composer was trying to capture the popular music of the 30’s for the songs.  That part actually works well and creates some of the most memorable numbers here from the jazzy “Easy Street” to the toe tapping “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” or the Charleston inspired “I Don’t Need Anything but You.”

However, another part of it doesn’t work.  The arrangements, including the vocals, feel like old Broadway soundtracks.  Even though this is from the 70’s, there’s a certainly feel to it that gives it away.  I find that puts me off a bit when I’m listening to it.  And the horn section is very front and center on this disc, too.

When I got this disc, it came with some bonus tracks.  There’s the first public performance of “Tomorrow,” but the real gems are the songs that were originally written and then cut from the musical.  We even get a description of the original opening.  And who would have guessed the Miss Hannigan’s original name was Miss Asthma?  Anyway, it is easy to see why these songs were cut.  You can see how the ideas behind some of them, like “Apples,” turned into other songs (in this came “We’d Like to Thank you Herbert Hoover.”)  Others, like the song written for the fake "Parents" to sing as they try to claim Annie, just would have slowed things down.  Of these, the most interesting one is “Just You Wait.”  Written for Miss Asthma, the tune was saved, but the lyrics were changed to “Little Girls.”  Again, the musical is better for it.

Of course, one danger from this soundtrack is getting the songs stuck in your head for days.  And it’s always something like “Hard Knock Life” or “Little Girls” and never “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”

No, the original Broadway cast version of Annie is not my first choice when it comes to this musical’s soundtrack.  But when I want to hear those songs I am missing, I do enjoy hearing the entire show here.

CD Length: 1 Hour
1. Overture
2. Maybe
3. It's the Hard-Knock Life
4. Tomorrow
5. We'd Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover
6. Little Girls
7. I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here
8. N.Y.C.
9. Easy Street
10. You Won't be an Orphan for Long
11. You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
12. Tomorrow (Reprise)
13. Something was Missing
14. I Don't Need Anything but You
15. Annie
16. A New Deal for Christmas
Bonus Tracks:
17. Introductory Remarks
18. Apples
19. Lead-in and Song: We Got Annie
20. & 21. Lead-in and Song: Just Wait
22. & 23. Lead-in and Song: That's the Way It goes
24. & 25. Lead-in and Song: Parents
26. Lead-in and Song: I've Never Been so Happy
27. Tomorrow (First Public Performance) 

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