In many cases the lyrics provided the inspiration for the music. Many of the arrangements are perfunctory, which is surprising given Hayman’s reputation. As we are missing crucial elements of the whole, I would have expected more than just a shopping list of tunes. Some of these scores respond well to the full orchestral treatment.
Surprisingly, Charles Strouse’s music for Annie does. As do those that originally had a whiff of operetta about them, such as Showboat and Carousel. Others, such as Oliver! simply sound top heavy. Then there are the ‘popera’ scores; the recent fashion for faux operettas, such as Phantom of the Opera. In the cold light of day, Lloyd Webber’s shallow Tosca-like chords from Phantom sound very pompous and threadbare. Similarly, famous songs like ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from The Sound of Music sound bloated and pretentious. Another surprise was how musically thin is Les Mis when given this treatment. Like so many recent musicals, it’s all show and little substance. Oklahoma responds graciously to the big band treatment; but then Richard Rogers was a real composer.
The main drawback is that these arrangements make this diverse selection of scores sound much the same. I can’t see this does much for their reputations. Much of the time the overall effect is numbing, representing the dumbing down of a great musical theatre tradition. No thanks.