24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Something Almost Wonderful,
This review is from: The King and I: A Decca Broadway Original Cast Album (Original 1951 Broadway Cast) (Audio CD)Recordings of stage musicals have a somewhat limited audience, and even as recently as the 1970s few record companies felt any need to spend more time or money than absolutely necessary on them. So there are several strikes against the original 1951 New York cast recording of THE KING AND I right out of the gate. The recording is monoaural and quite poor in quality. The individual songs have been altered to fit the length of the original album's playing time. And the entire score is not included.
Moreover, the leads are not as powerful as one might expect. THE KING AND I is one of the few widely available recordings that allow listeners the chance to hear Gertrude Lawrence--a performer who was celebrated as "the toast of two continents" in an era when such accolades had actual significance. But in truth, Lawrence's gift was a powerful star quality that drew every eye to her--a star quality so powerful that it easily over-rode her rather non-descript and distinctly flat singing voice. And shorn of her actual presence, her voice reads as precisely that: non-descript and distinctly flat. As for Yul Brenner, over time he would make the King his signature role, performing it on the screen and in endless revivals to great acclaim. But in 1951 he was an unknown, and this recording shows him still very insecure in the role.
The supporting cast is very good ("My Lord and Master," "We Kiss In A Shadow," and "Something Wonderful" are truly memorable)--but given the nature of Lawrence's singing voice, Brenner's obvious caution, and the various flaws and limitations of the recording, this is a Broadway soundtrack that is perhaps best left to hardcore fans. To them it is strongly recommened; others, however, would do better to purchase a more recent version.
--GFT (Amazon reviewer)--