The Frogs/Evening Primrose [2001 Studio Casts]

The Frogs/Evening Primrose [2001 Studio Casts]

by Stephen Sondheim

CD

Overview

Producer Tommy Krasker has done a great service to show music lovers by organizing the first legitimate recording of Stephen Sondheim's The Frogs, a musical based on the Aristophanes comedy about Dionysos' journey to Hades to bring a famous playwright back to earth, which was produced originally in a swimming pool at Yale University in 1974. It's hard to imagine how the recording could be bettered, featuring, as it does, Sondheim's favored musical director, Paul Gemignani, his favored orchestrator, Jonathan Tunick, and three of the leading lights of Broadway, Nathan Lane, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Davis Gaines. As usual, Lane is a comic wonder, playing a part that recalls his Pseudolus in the 1996 Broadway revival of Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Forum, a show with a libretto that was co-written by this one's book writer, Burt Shevelove. The Frogs is a slight, if pleasant Sondheim work, this edited version running less than 33 minutes, but it is full of delightfully witty, sophisticated lyrics (some of them revised) and musical touches that contain echoes of other Sondheim shows. Its best song, "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience," has been recorded before, but the choral parts that take up most of it (it's based on a Greek play, after all) will be new to most listeners. The album's running time is expanded by the inclusion of the four songs from the Sondheim television musical Evening Primrose, broadcast in 1966. These songs have been recorded many times, but Neil Patrick Harris and Theresa McCarthy bring fresh interpretations to them. Given the size of the Sondheim cult, it's amazing that no one has thought to put The Frogs on record before, but at least now that it's finally been done, it's been done right.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/16/2001
Label: Nonesuch
UPC: 0075597963823
catalogNumber: 79638

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Stephen Sondheim   Primary Artist
Martin Agee   Violin
Dennis Anderson   Clarinet,Flute
John Beal   Bass
Marion Beckenstein   Soprano (Vocal)
Rodney Brown   Tenor (Vocal)
Kenneth Burward-Hoy   Viola
John Campo   Bassoon,Bass Clarinet
Karen Dreyfus   Viola
Patti Dunham   Soprano (Vocal)
Bruce Eidem   Trombone
Melanie Feld   English Horn,Oboe
Paul Gemignani   Musical Direction
Mark Goldberg   Bassoon
John Moses   Clarinet
Eugene J. Moye   Cello
Suzanne Ornstein   Violin,Concert Mistress
Joe Passaro   Percussion,Drums
Jacqueline Pierce   Alto (Vocal)
Clay Ruede   Cello
Marilyn Reynolds   Violin
Jim Saporito   Percussion,Drums
Scott   Clarinet,Flute,Piccolo
Laura Seaton   Violin
Mineko Yajima   Violin
Masako Yanagita   Viola
Bob Zubrycki   Violin
Nathan Lane   Vocals,Actor
James Pugh   Trombone
Richard Brice   Viola
Dean Plank   Trombone
Peter Vanderiet   Bass (Vocal)
Paul Ford   Piano,Celeste
Thad Wheeler   Percussion,Drums
Mary Sue Berry   Soprano (Vocal)
Male Chorus   Track Performer
David Blinn   Viola
Rick Dolan   Viola
Joel Pitchon   Violin
Mark Sullivan   Bass (Vocal)
Davis Gaines   Vocals,Actor
Nedra Neal   Alto (Vocal)
Paul Pizzuti   Percussion,Drums
Dominic Derasse   Trumpet
David Bakamjian   Cello
Beth Robinson   Harp
Belinda Whitney   Violin
Deborah Assael   Cello
James Bassi   Tenor (Vocal)
Jennifer Hoult   Harp
Victor Schultz   Violin
Ben Whiteley   Bass (Vocal)
Xin Zhao   Violin
Eric Degioia   Violin
Richard Rood   Violin
Michael McCoy   Bass (Vocal)
Lisa Matricardi   Violin
Mark Thrasher   Bassoon
Brian Stokes Mitchell   Vocals,Actor
Neil Patrick Harris   Vocals
Joseph Neal   Bass (Vocal)
Theresa McCarthy   Vocals
Drew Martin   Tenor (Vocal)

Technical Credits

Stephen Sondheim   Lyricist
Robert Hurwitz   Executive Producer
Tommy Krasker   Producer,Synopsis
Joel Moss   Engineer
Jonathan Tunick   Orchestration
Paul Zinman   Engineer
Burt Shevelove   Book
Frank Rich   Liner Notes
John Gall   Booklet Design
Gragg Schaufeld   Editorial Coordinator
James Goldman   Book

Customer Reviews

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The Frogs/Evening Primrose [2001 Studio Casts] 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hi, Was very interested in the new recording of FROGS & EVENING PRIMROSE...I have heard the few songs from PRIMROSE, but nothing from FROGS, although they did a production at a local Junior College near me, which forged a relationship with Sondheim to do his works...The college HAD a pool at that time, so FROGS was NOT only done properly, but professinally well....I believe the pool is no longer there, but the memories live on...Primrose & Harris are a wonder...Neil is PERFECT Maybe someone can re-do the one hour 1966 special with him??
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had read about both of these scores in several books about Mr. Sondheim, but I had never had the pleasure of listening to them. They are both, in their own ways, a joy. "The Frogs" is a delight from the "Fanfare" on. After a listening or two, the themes in the "Fanfare" become instantly recognizable as those sung by the chorus of frogs in "Parados: the Frogs." Starting from Aristophanes' frog sound "Brek ke ke kek, koax, koax," Mr. Sondheim has written sparkling lyrics that include playfully distorted quotes from "Old Man River" and other sources. The hymn to wine "Hymnos: Evoe," with orchestrations that remind one of Borodin in the opening bars, offers a wonderful list of wine's capabilities. Several things about the lyric stand out, among which are the refrain "Evo-e alalai alalai" and the lines "We are come to thank you / for the gentle tendrils that intertwine / to produce the grapes that produce the wine," which remind this listener of parts of "The Advantages of Living in the Middle of the Sea." The rhythms of "Evoe for the Dead" may remind listeners of "The Little Things You Do Together" from "Company." The final number, "The Sound of Poets," although eventually capped by the return of the frogs' koax-ing, reminds us of the obligation of dramatists to "Bring the sound of poets in a blaze of words to a heedless earth" and "the taste of wisdom in a feast of words to a hungry earth." Performances by Nathan Lane and Brian Stokes Mitchell are brilliant. Those who care about such things will marvel at how successful Mr. Sondheim was in getting the members of the chorus to sing "DionySOS" and not "DionySIS" as one might have dreaded hearing. The opening number of "Evening Primrose" is a grand waltz. The lyric begins with the spoken (whispered) words of the poet Charles over a bare base line. The music builds into jubilant shout of freedom at his apparent escape from "blood-sucking landlords," "neanderthal neighbors," and "despoilers of beauty." Several points of interest for Sondheim listeners here: the extended release sections, which add to the excitement; the fascinating arpeggiation bubbling beneath Charles' words, which seems to hint at the less-than-healthy aspect of his self-chosen isolation; and the brilliantly executed "lists" (e.g., "fifty pianos and ten-thousand shoes"), which remind me of Louise's menagerie in "If Momma Was Married." "I Remember" has an interesting structure, which arises in part from the ABBA rhyme scheme used in many of its sections. This is the first time I had heard Theresa McCarthy. She is truly wonderful. In "When" we hear the thoughts of Charles and Ella, wanting to meet but afraid of the consequences (those consequences are integral to the story, and I won't go into them here). The music has a tricky 3/4 - 2/4 thing going, a little like "Don't Look at Me" from "Follies." "Take Me to the World" is the most dramatic duet I've heard in a long time. It brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it. Ella (Theresa McCarthy) sings the first two choruses, with a spoken interlude by Charles. In the repeat section of the second chorus, we get a counter-melody from Charles that reaches a climax with his declaration of love. It is a grand climax, but we are not done yet. Ella has a brief speech; then we get Charles singing a full chorus, joined by Ella during the repeat section; toward the end they harmonize, and by God, it's one of the most beautiful wind-ups I've ever heard. Get this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved "The Frogs/Evening Primrose". There are some great songs, my favorite being "The Frogs" and "I Remember". But there was only one complaint, some of the songs from THE FROGS were quite boring, beautiful, but boring. EVENING PRIMROSE seems sooo sad. I am rambling. Anyhoo, I had heard the opening to THE FROGS in a musical review, and ever since, i've wanted to find it, and I have.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having only heard the song and performed the song "Take me to the World" for a college show, i was interested when I saw the collection of EVENING PRIMROSE and FROGS. I was an avid Sondheim fan long before purchasing this CD having practically memorized INTO THE WOODS, SWEENEY TODD, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, ASSASINS, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and FOLLIES. What this new recording offers is a glimpse of the early Sondheim, when his wit, fiendishly clever lyrics, and frankly perfect musical settings where just beginning to show great promise. From the opening "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience" with it's bouncy rythms and tongue-tying rhymes to the frenetic "Frogs" with it's infamous "Brek-kek-kek-kek" frog call, or the lush,exciting "Hymos: Dionysus", Frogs delivers a ridiculous plot: "Bring Bernard Shaw back from the dead!", the vocal talents of Nathan Lane, and frankly just a plain good time. Evening Primrose, often overlooked is a charming set of four songs telling the story of a poet wishing to escape the outside world by escaping into a shopping mall. From Charles "I'm Here" where he describes the joy of escaping "blood-thirsty landlords" and the rest of his worldy destractions, to Ella's "I Remember Sky" to the romantic orchestrated "Take me to the World" where Ella wishes to she the outside world, despite Charles insistance that the world inside the mall is much better. This idea would further be devoloped in INTO WOODS with Bernadette Peters singing "STAY WITH ME" to Repunzel, the lyrics "stay with me" even occur in "Take Me to World" In short, this CD is enjoyable in itself, and shows some embryonic ideas that Sondheim would later develop. A MUST HAVE for any Sondheim fan!