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CDs: Peter and Peters

LEONARD BERNSTEIN'S PETER PAN Koch

In terms of Broadway musicals, the best known version of Peter Pan is the one that opened in 1954 with Mary Martin and has been revived on Broadway with Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby. Four years earlier, Broadway welcomed another version of J.M. Barrie's play, with film star Jean Arthur in the title role, opposite the Captain Hook of Boris Karloff. Like all Peter Pans, this one was partly musical, featuring incidental music and five songs with music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein, in his second Broadway contribution following On the Town.

A Columbia Records cast recording of the Arthur-Karloff 1950 Broadway Peter Pan consists mostly of dialogue and underscoring, with Bernstein's five brief songs sung by Karloff and the Wendy of Marcia Henderson. Peter had no songs. For some unknown reason, the recording replaced Bernstein's background score with a different one by Alec Wilder.

Now here's an unexpected new release from Koch documenting Bernstein's full score for the 1950 Broadway Peter Pan. In addition to the five Wendy/Hook songs on the Columbia recording and an extended version of the "Plank" number, we get three additional songs not heard on the 1950 recording: Two of them --an attractive chorus number called "Neverland" and the cut "Dream With Me" for Wendy-- have been previously recorded. So the most substantial discovery here is a cut, operatic "Soliloquy" for Captain Hook that was presumably beyond the vocal abilities of Karloff.

Even better, the new, one-hour CD offers Bernstein's lengthy orchestral score. It's regrettable that the liner notes don't explain why this score, apparently heard in the theatre, was replaced by Wilder's background music for the Columbia recording. In any case, this is the first complete recording of all of the songs and all of the incidental music Bernstein wrote for Peter Pan, and everything has been lovingly restored and conducted by Alexander Frey.

Even with eight songs, the recording is dominated by the background score, which is handsome. There's a particularly attractive passage that accompanies the scene where the boys build a house around the sleeping Wendy. And you'll also note that Bernstein recycled a bit of his On the Town dance music in the "Tinkerbell Lives" sequence.

The songs are quite lovely, and they're in good hands. As Hook, we have opera baritone Daniel Narducci. The choice for Wendy is a more daring one. In a Barbara Cook/Rebecca Luker-type role, we have Linda Eder, singing in a soprano range we've not previously heard her use. But Eder pulls it off, supplying very pretty accounts of "Who Am I?," "Build My House," and "Dream With Me."

As a bonus track, we get a rarity, Eder and Michael Shawn-Lewis in "Spring Will Come Again," a song from the Bernstein-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical adaptation of The Skin of Our Teeth that was left unfinished.

Because the majority of the music on this CD hasn't been heard since 1950, it's an intriguing disc.

BERNADETTE PETERS: SONDHEIM, ETC. ETC. Angel

Her performances in the recent Broadway revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy may have been controversial, but Bernadette Peters stands as the foremost musical-theatre diva of her generation, one who continues to appear in substantial runs of Broadway musicals.

Peters is also a potent concert artist, and she had one of her finest outings on December 9, 1996, when she made her solo Carnegie Hall debut she had previously appeared there in a concert of Anyone Can Whistle as a benefit for Gay Men's Health Crisis. It was Peters' first solo concert in the city, and it was the night that Arthur Laurents, seeing Peters tear the house down with her first-act closer, "Some People," decided that Peters should play Rose in his Gypsy.

Although the first act included "Sooner or Later," "No One Is Alone," and "Broadway Baby," the second half of the concert was devoted entirely to songs by Stephen Sondheim, including such adventurous choices as "Later," "Johanna," and "Hello, Little Girl." As he would be for both of her recent Broadway revivals, Peters' musical director/conductor was Marvin Laird.

Angel recorded the concert live, and in 1997 released a seventy-one-minute CD called Bernadette Peters: Sondheim, Etc. It featured such highlights as "Time Heals Everything" from Mack and Mabel, Dames at Sea's "Raining in My Heart," Peters' immortal "Saturday Night Live" entry "Making Love Alone," and such Sondheim selections as "Some People," "There Won't Be Trumpets," "Not a Day Goes By," "Being Alive," and "Move On."

It was a terrific CD, but now, eight years later, there's an unexpected follow-up. On August 2, Angel will release Bernadette Peters: Sondheim, Etc., Etc., a fifty-two-minute CD that includes everything from the 1996 Carnegie Hall event that had to be left off the first CD.

It begins with a special Peters overture, followed by a lively opener, "We're in the Money" partly in pig Latin and "Pennies from Heaven." There's a belty rendition of her Song and Dance number "Unexpected Song." And there are strong renditions of four songs from her pop albums, "If You Were the Only Boy in the World," "Faithless Love," "Other Lady," and "I Never Thought I'd Break," the latter delivered as a tribute to its composer, Peter Allen.

Then there are four Sondheim numbers, including the evening's biggest rarity, "I Believe in You"; the surprising choice of "Later"; a reprise from Anyone Can Whistle of "With So Little to Be Sure Of"; then one of her own numbers, "Children Will Listen." Those are followed by a closing seasonal wish in the form of a lovely "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." For those wondering about the nature of the gift Peters asks the audience to accept on the way out, it was a round, white Christmas tree ornament with the words, "Love, Bernadette" in red.

If forced to choose between the two Carnegie Hall CD releases, I'd have to say the first one has the edge. Still, this addendum was well worth issuing, and it's a Peters completist's dream. It should also be noted that much of the material on both these CDs can be seen in Bernadette Peters in Concert, the live DVD of Peters' Royal Albert Hall, London performance.

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