January 9, 2014
One of the endless discussions among high school performers is “What are the best schools for “musical theatre” (or “theater” depending on denominational differences). That question will never be answered. However, we might know what academic institution has one of the best musical theatre recording collections in the country…JMU!
In addition to thousands and thousands of online tracks at Music Online and Naxos, JMU has almost 800 individual show recordings recordings on LP or CD. Yes, some institutions might have more recordings, but I don’t think there is any academic institution that offers a broader repertoire. JMU has been fortunate in having a donor in Washington D.C. who has sent hundreds and hundreds of unique cast recording cd’s. In many instances, JMU Music Library is the only library in the world to have a cast recording of a show. In many other instances, JMU is the only academic library in the world to have a recording of a particular show.
Take for instance Das Barbecü (You might not find it yet as it has not been cataloged). It is Seattle composer Scott Warrender’s and Jim Luigs’ retelling of Wagner’s Ring set in Texas, with big Dolly Parton-“esque” wigs, and twangy music. Originally written to be a companion piece to Seattle Opera’s annual Ring Cycle, it is a hootin’ good time in the style of the 1980’s TV show, Dallas. The only full show recording in WorldCat (the Worldwide Catalog, duh) is at JMU–and it’s the original cast recording. I’m from Texas and I adore Wagner, so I had listen to it. The more you know of the Ring, the better it is. But even someone who knows nothing about the opera will find this musical sendup absolutely hilarious.
What is there to say about The Last Starfighter, The Musical? Well one thing is that only students of JMU and Oakland University can hear the original cast recording of the full show (according to WorldCat). In early 2004, Playbill published the story that this musical was in development. Within days, thousands of pickups of the story appeared on the net–including Fox News, and SciFi.com.
Based on the 1984 movie of the same name, this musical is unique in its subject matter and is one of the few musicals with the line “and then he’d burp and fart”. There are some electronic sounds, an alien chorus, teenage love story, mentions of alien abduction and uh…sexual experiments in the spaceship, and a great spring break story all told at a trailer park. Sounds like a prime candidate for an adventurous high school tired of the same old shows (actually sounds like my high school days–or the ones I can remember)
Another surprisingly little gem that only JMU Music Library owns is When Midnight Strikes, developed and first performed in London. Set on New Years Eve, it offers “a remarkably accurate sense of the brittle gaiety of a New Year party, with all the tensions so often seething beneath the surface. ” (from the liner notes) The music and the lyrics are quite good, in my opinion and the reviews online seem to confirm that.
JMU alone, owns the original 2007 recording of Frank, The Musical, a modern retelling of the story of St. Francis of Assisi; and JMU and Boston Conservatory are the only libraries that own Every Little Vow, a musical that follows three different couples with three very different paths to the alter and beyond.
These are just a few of the unique items from the Music Library collection. If you want to find more, here are some links to help you browse the musical theatre recordings.
- Browse all Musical Theatre Recordings in Music Library
- Browse all Musical Theatre CD’s in Music Library
- Browse all Musical Theatre online tracks in our catalog (there are lots more but only these are in our catalog)