Magazine article The Sondheim Review

A Sondheim Rarity

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

A Sondheim Rarity

Article excerpt

A Sondheim rarity

Evening Primrose original soundtrack from 1966 is finally released

REVIEW BY ANDREW MILNER

Few long-running Broadway musicals from the mid-1960s have been as frequently recorded as the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman 1966 made-for-television musical Evening Primrose. Now, 40 years after its broadcast on the anthology series ABC Stage 67, and with three different versions of the four-song score available on CD, the soundtrack of the original television production starring Anthony Perkins and Charmian Carr has finally received its commercial release.

In 1966 Sondheim and Goldman briefly put aside their development of Follies to work on an adaptation of John Collier's oft-anthologized short story "Evening Primrose," which, like Follies, is set at night in an ostensibly abandoned Manhattan building. The broadcast drew mixed reviews and mediocre Nielsen ratings, but critics have appreciated what the work foreshadowed. The opening song "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" anticipates Follies' equally defiant "I'm Still Here" (even maintaining several similar rhymes), and the lyric "Take me to a world where I can be alive" presages "Being Alive" from Company, Sondheim's next stage musical.

While the existing Evening Primrose recordings - on Mandy Patinkin's Dress Casual (1990), Sondheim at the Movies (1997) and The Frogs/Evening Primrose (2000) - brought the music to a broader audience, the original telecast itself is rarely seen. Though illegal bootleg copies are known to be in circulation, the only copies publicly available for viewing (in grainy black-and-white kinescope form) are in the archives of the Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles. ABC, in the common practice of 1960s network television, erased the original color videotape production after its broadcast (a five-minute bootleg clip of "Take Me to the World" has been available on YouTube). Sondheim said in a mid-1990s CompuServe chat that a VHS/DVD release was unlikely: "The rights are very tightly controlled by the Collier estate [... which] only gave us the television rights, and I doubt if that includes any kind of public sales of the video." During the 1980s a limited-edition original soundtrack LP was privately produced and distributed among Sondheim's colleagues, with copies selling for as much as $1,500 on Amazon.com's auction Web site.

Kritzerland's Bruce Kimmel, who put together Sondheim at the Movies for Varese Sarabande, oversaw the re-mastering of the television soundtrack. …

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