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Saturday Night (Original New York Cast) Cast Recording

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Cast Recording, June 20, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Recorded at The Hit Factory, New York, New York. The Hit Factory, New York, NY (03/28/2000).After having its world premiere in London in 1997, 43 years after it was written, Stephen Sondheim's first professional musical, Saturday Night, was produced in Chicago in 1999 and finally, on January 18, 2000, opened off-Broadway in New York. Based on a play by Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, it tells the tale of a group of male friends in Brooklyn in 1929, most of whom are focused on getting dates on Saturday night, though one is determined to rise socially and financially, even if he has to break a few rules to do it. The young Sondheim demonstrates a feel for these ethnic characters that probably helped lead the producers of West Side Story to think he could also handle the words sung by the gang members in that show. But as in West Side Story, he sometimes has them using a vocabulary that is implausibly large, and the songs show off the sharp wit for which he later became known, especially "In the Movies," which contrasts real life with screen fantasy, and "What More Do I Need?," a declaration of love despite the travails of urban life. The tuneful music is a mixture of 1950s show music conventions and accurate pastiches of 1920s pop, the latter including "Love's a Bond," a song it's easy to imagine coming out of the megaphone of Rudy Vallée. The 1997 London production of Saturday Night produced a cast album in 1998, but this one is an improvement on it. Sondheim revised the show for the Chicago production, and this album contains several previously unheard songs and reprises. The American cast is an improvement on the British one, which sometimes had trouble with those Brooklyn accents. And the album is packaged with an elaborate CD booklet that contains the lyrics. As such, this Saturday Night is the preferred recording. ~ William Ruhlmann

A few years before he burst onto Broadway with a stunning debut (as the lyricist for West Side Story), a certain young maverick was at work on his very first musical--though it would remain buried for almost a half century. Stephen Sondheim was only in his mid-20s when he wrote the music and lyrics in 1954 for Saturday Night, based on a play by Julius and Philip Epstein called Front Porch in Flatbush, a romantic comedy set in the Brooklyn of 1929. It's fascinating to detect in embryo traces of the Sondheim still to evolve: in the twists of imagery drawn from the stock market or in the rapid-fire, saucy tone that might easily fit into "Gee, Officer Krupke," as well as in the quietly yearning harmonies of the show's loveliest ballad, "So Many People." There's also a sweet innocence here (Sondheim has called it his "baby picture"), emanating from an era when being dateless on a Saturday night could be presented as one of life's major challenges. Although a few gems like "What More Do I Need?" had separately made it into circulation, the show received its very belated premiere in London, but the original 1998 cast recording that resulted left out four songs, such as "Gracious Living Fantasy," in which the Wall Street gofer hero Gene (played with guileless charm by David Campbell) imagines making it in high society. Moreover, Sondheim himself supervised the session for this recording (Nonesuch's first Sondheim cast album), made with the cast of the show's New York premiere, which was in early 2000 at Second Stage Theater. Saturday Night turns on its ensemble, which in this production is endearingly fresh and doe-eyed. Sure, it's a portrait of the artist as a very young man, but is not to be overlooked as a mere piece of juvenilia. --Thomas May

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Overture
  2. Saturday Night
  3. Class
  4. Delighted I'm Sure
  5. Love's a Bond
  6. Isn't It?
  7. In the Movies
  8. Exhibit A
  9. A Moment with You
  10. Saturday Night (reprise)
  11. Gracious Living Fantasy
  12. Montana Chem
  13. So Many People
  14. One Wonderful Day
  15. Saturday Night (reprsie)
  16. I Remember That
  17. "Love's a Bond" Blues
  18. All for You
  19. That Kind of a Neighborhood
  20. What More Do I Need?
  21. One Wonderful Day (Finale)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 20, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Cast Recording
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B00004TG64
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,695 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This New York revival cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's first show as composer and lyricist is a must-own for any Sondheim fan. Even if you own the 1998 London cast recording of Saturday Night, you will want to purchase this recording for several reasons. First, this recording is more complete. It includes such songs as "Montana Chem.," which clearly gives hints and previews to quintessential Sondheim "dialogue songs" to come in later shows such as Company. Second, the orchestrations are far superior, including many more strings and four trumpets. Third, unlike the London cast, this recording does not torture the Brooklyn accents (and the fake Southern accent in "Isn't It.") Fourth, the cast is sensational, especially Australian David Campbell as Gene. Saturday Night is a sweet musical and this recording will have you singing along. The enclosed book includes the complete libretto, a history of the show, and poses the intriguing question of where Sondheim's career may have gone had Saturday Night actually been produced in 1954 and particularly whether the show might have been successful or not. With this recording and Kathleen Marshall's off-Broadway production, it is hard to imagine in retrospect that the show could have failed. This recording certainly does not.
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Format: Audio CD
Sondheim referred to watching the recent production of "Saturday Night" as analagous to seeing his baby pictures... nowhere in this sweet, simple little musical is there a trace of the man who for the next four decades would turn the musical theater world on its head with its most ambitious material.
The craft is there already, though... the wordplay, the structure, the wonderful melodies can be seen even in this 45-year old material. And it's not just an intellectual exercise, either: "Saturday Night" is a charming show in its own right, and it's hard to believe that it took this long to stage. The story, centering on a group of young men trying to a) get a date, and b) strike it rich, is charming, and the snippets of dialog introducing the songs sound great.
The songs themselves include "What More Do I Need"? (The ultimate New York City valentine), "So Many People" (perhaps Sondheim's best pure ballad), "That Kind of a Neighborhood" (how many odes to Brooklyn have YOU heard recently, let alone one which can find a rhyme for "delinquents"?), and "Montana Chem," which could have been a Loesser song out of "How to Succeed." Speaking of "Montana Chem", it's one of four new songs on this recording which were not on the previous Bridewell company cast recording. This recording also features Jonathan Tunick's brilliant (as always) orchestrations, an overture, and a reprise or two not previously recorded.
The sound is a bit less "edgy" than that of the Bridewell recording, and most of the Brooklyn accents have been softened here (with one notable grating exception: in "In The Movies," Valentino is mentioned as 'wearing a poiple toiban')...
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Format: Audio CD
At last, the full score with that long-lost "dinosaur" of musical preludes- an OVERTURE! This American original NY cast does beautifully by Sondheim's very first score originally written in the mid-1950's yet tragically unproduced due to the sudden loss of its producer. It just might have been a little ahead of its time in musical construction and sophistication, but it would have been a kick to see how its cleverness would have fared with some of its peer musical scores of the day that were considerably less witty and smart. Although the British cast did a valiant job with the New York American dialect, this recording has the accent down pat, which is so integral to the score, story, and timeline. One would think that such a mundane topic as a bunch of guys struggling to get a date and ultimately enter the sophisticated realm of cafe society in a time and place where social status mattered deeply (and once again does, as much, if not more) would not be the stuff that intense, comically dramatic musicals are made of, but Stephen Sondheim, with this score, showed for the first time, that plunging into the depths of the yearning human psyche with highly intelligent and apt wit, could turn a simple story into one of great insight. This just wasn't a common event in musical theater of the 1950's, (or 1960's) for that matter. Plunging the depths of human emotion, yes, but the complications of the mind, not so much. So it is a pleasure to have this definitve "early" Sondheim musical on disc, at last. But not just because it's his long-lost first show, but because even in his youthful first go at a musical, Mr. Sondheim was not in such an "early stage" at writing the kind of score he has so many years later become famous for. Saturday Night is not "early Sondheim," it is SONDHEIM "written early!" "What can you do on a 'Saturday Night,' alone, alone?" Listen to this recording and learn the answer!
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Format: Audio CD
Any Sondheim fan will most likely be surprised by the pure delight in this recording. After listening to this, it is hard to believe that this is the man who would revolutionize Broadway with Company, Assasins, and Sweeney Todd, amongst others. A very old-fashioned score with catchy music and some of his most clever lyrics (You can start with a bagel/ and end up with Conrad Nagel) are accompanied by a conventional and old-fashioned plot. People hoping to delve deep into the characters and plot may be dissapointed, as the songs aren't quite as emotional as some of his other works (Epiphany, The Ladies Lunch, Rose's Turn), but if you are either a Sondheim fanatic or just enjoy light, old-fashioned Broadway, you will want this score. Charming and almost on the brink of innocent, it shows the enchantment of early Broadway
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