DROP the needle, and the curtain rises on the latest batch of vinyl souvenirs from Broadway and Broadway-bound musicals, two of which will arrive here this year.
LES MISERABLES -- Original London cast (First Night Records import). After turning Dickens' massive "Nicholas Nickleby" into a theatrical blockbuster, directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird and London's Royal Shakespeare Company have transformed another daunting doorstop novel into a musical. Weighing in at 1,123 pages in paperback, Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" is distilled to three hours on the London stage, and trimmed to 90 minutes for this crisply recorded two-record album. The pop-flavored music and lyrics by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg (with English translation by Herbert Kretzmer) tend to be either rousing, staccato marches or Aznavour-style Gallic crooners. They are sung by a large, boisterous cast of microphone-bred singers, including Patti LuPone as poor melancholy Fantine, who dies before the end of side one. "Les Miserables" (or "Miz" as it's already been nicknamed) will make its American premiere at the Kennedy Center Opera House December 20, for an eight-week stay before invading Broadway.
SONG AND DANCE: THE SONGS -- Original Broadway cast (RCA Red Seal HBC1-7162). With Bernadette Peters as the cast of one, what more do you need for a Broadway show? In the unconventional "Song and Dance," Peters plays Emma, a naive English hatmaker who comes to conquer America and its men, and winds up being conquered herself. In chamber pop settings, the tunes by the ubiquitous Andrew Lloyd Webber are polished, if familiar. And though Peters' British accent is a mite cloying, she has a consistently personable and winning presence, even on vinyl. The song cycle was first produced as "Tell Me on a Sunday" (Polydor PD-1-6260), sung by Marti Webb with the London Philharmonic augmented by a rock combo.
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD -- Original Broadway cast (Polydor 8 27-969-1 Y1). Dickens left his mystery story unfinished, so Rupert Holmes -- composer, lyricist and book author of this clever, sprightly musical -- democratically decided that the audience should have a say about the ending. Hence, the first solve-it-yourself Broadway musical. The LP includes only one "confession" (we're not telling whodunit), but those who opt for the CD version of the album are supplied with six different conclusions to choose from. Gimmicks aside, "Drood" stands as an appealing pop record even for those who haven't seen the show, with rollicking music-hall sing-along songs and several sweet ballads benefitting from Betty Buckley's soaring soprano as Edwin Drood and Cleo Laine's earthy relish as the lovable villainess Princess Puffer.
TANGO ARGENTINO -- Original Broadway cast (Atlantic 81636-1-Q) It takes two -- records, that is -- to capture "Tango Argentino," the sleeper Broadway hit that illuminates the dance form and its tales of poverty and lost love. Without the vision of seven tangoing twosomes, these 23 delicate, seductive tangos in vocal and instrumental settings become atmospheric listening or settings for a do-it- yourself dance session. "Tango Argentino" arrives at the Warner Theater in late September. Those who develop an insatiable taste for tango might also try the "Tango Project, Vol. I" (Nonesuch D-79030), another set of authentically recreated tangos.