This 2000 recording of Stephen Sondheim's first musical, Saturday Night, featuring the original New York cast, is the first fully orchestrated rendering of the play's complete score and marks Nonesuch’s first Sondheim cast album. The New York Times calls the work "an appealing combination" of "several truly exquisite ballads" and "comic treats," including "a paean to life in Brooklyn that anticipates the satiric lyrics of West Side Story."
This 2000 recording of Stephen Sondheim's first musical, Saturday Night, featuring the original New York cast, is the first fully orchestrated rendering of the play's complete score and marks Nonesuch’s first Sondheim cast album.
Saturday Night, recorded in a one-day session under the supervision of the composer, came just two days after the close of the show’s off-Broadway premiere run at Second Stage Theater. With expanded orchestrations by Sondheim’s longtime colleague, Jonathan Tunick, adding color and depth to the music heard in the off-Broadway production, Sondheim guided the cast through the entire score, consulting on various technical aspects while allowing the momentum built by the show’s run to guide the singers.
The Nonesuch recording of Saturday Night, produced by Tommy Krasker and with musical direction by Rob Fisher, features music not heard in the theater, including an extended Overture, and the recording debuts of two songs, “Montana Chem” and “Delighted, I’m Sure,” plus extensive dance music, all recorded for the first time.
In 1954, producer Lemuel Ayers asked Sondheim, then 24 years old, to write the score for a musical version of the play Front Porch in Flatbush. When Ayers died a year later, the project, retitled Saturday Night, with book by Julius J. Epstein and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, was aborted.
Though Saturday Night remained unproduced for over 40 years, songs from the musical cropped up in revues of the composer’s work and concert performances, bolstering its reputation. Saturday Night finally received its premiere by London’s Bridewell Theatre in 1997, followed by the American premiere production by the Pegasus Players in Chicago in 1999. The New York premiere production, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, had a successful 10-week run, winning the Drama Desk Award for Best Lyrics and receiving a total of five Drama Desk Award nominations, including Best Musical.
Writing about Saturday Night, Ben Brantley of the New York Times said,
The score seems forever balanced between wise-guy jauntiness and lyrical gravity. It’s an appealing combination that gives us, on the one hand, several truly exquisite ballads (“So Many People,” “What More Do I Need?”) and, on the other, comic treats like the ensemble number “That Kind of Neighborhood,” a paean to life in Brooklyn that anticipates the satiric lyrics of West Side Story.
Brantley also wrote, “In vocal terms, it’s hard to imagine a better cast.” The recording features Andrea Burns, David Campbell, Donald Corren, Natascia Diaz, Christopher Fitzgerald, Kirk McDonald, Michael Pemberton, Joey Sorge, Clarke Thorell, Rachel Ulanet, Frank Vlastnik, Lauren Ward, Michael Benjamin Washington, David A. White, and Greg Zola.
Producer Tommy Krasker states, “There is a freshness and youthful enthusiasm to this score that is equally reflected within the performances of the cast. It is just a wonderful melding of cast and material.”
Nonesuch Records President Robert Hurwitz, reflecting on the experience of working with Sondheim said: “At the party at the show’s closing, one of the performers said, ‘This is the reason I got in the business—to be able to do a Stephen Sondheim show.’ In that respect, we’re no different. We have hoped to do a Sondheim show since the day I started at Nonesuch, and we are grateful to now have that opportunity.”
Stephen Sondheim said, “I can’t think of anybody I would rather have had record this score than Bob Hurwitz and Tommy Krasker. Recording sessions usually fill me with tension, considering the exigencies of time and logistics, where an original cast album is concerned, especially when the show has just closed. But, although I can’t speak for everyone else involved (actually I think I can), the day in the studio was relaxed and happy, as I trust the results show.”
Produced by Tommy Krasker
Recorded March 28, 2000, at The Hit Factory, New York City
Recorded and mixed by Joel Moss
Orchestra contractor: Seymour Red Press
All music and lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim
Design by 2x4
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz
Michael Benjamin Washington, vocals (2-4, 7, 10, 12, 14 15, 19, 20)
Kirk McDonald, vocals (2-4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 19, 20)
Greg Zola, vocals (2, 4, 7, 01, 12, 14, 15, 19, 20)
Joey Sorge, vocals (2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 19, 20)
Christopher Fitzgerald, vocals (3, 4, 8, 14, 19)
Andrea Burns, vocals (3, 4, 7, 12, 14, 16, 19)
Clarke Thorell, vocals (3, 4, 7, 12, 14, 16, 19)
David Campbell, vocals (3, 9, 11, 13, 20)
Frank Vlastnik, vocals
Rachel Ulanet, vocals (4, 7, 14, 19)
Donald Corren, vocals (5, 9, 17)
Michael Pemberton, vocals (20)
Lauren Ward, vocals (6, 9, 13, 18)
David A. White, vocals (20)
Natascia A. Diaz, vocals (14, 19)
Steven Freeman, conductor, piano
Stephen Marzullo, associate conductor, synthesizer
Violin: Barry Finclair (concertmaster), Al Rogers, Suzanne Ornstein, Maura Giannini, Robert Lawrence, Richard Sortomme, Belinda Whitney-Barratt, Marilyn Reynolds, Mia Wu
Viola: Ken Burward-Hoy, Toby Appel
Cello: Eugene Moye, Scott Ballantyne, Clay Ruede
Bass: Raymond Kilday
Woodwinds: Les Scott, Richard Heckman, John Winder
Trumpet: Brian O’Flaherty, Tino Gagliardi, Matt Peterson, Stu Satalof
Trombone: Clint Sharman
Percussion/drums: Raymond Grappone
Synth programmer: Bruce Samuels