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BWW CD Reviews: Masterworks Broadway's ANDROCLES AND THE LION (Original Television Cast Recording) is Ebullient and Glee Inducing

Cover art courtesy of Masterworks Broadway.

Born in 1985, I had never heard of the television musical ANDROCLES AND THE LION, based on George Bernard Shaw's play of the same title, until Masterworks Broadway announced they'd be releasing the cast recording. NBC originally aired the star-studded broadcast on November 16, 1967, and it was met with mixed, at best, reviews. Shortly thereafter, the show quietly vanished along with the studio recorded LP that quickly went out of print. Additionally, the Shaw estate made no moves to see the musical adapted for the stage. Now, with Masterworks Broadway recent release, this entirely forgotten gem is seeing the light of day again.

Richard Rodgers composed the score and lyrics for ANDROCLES AND THE LION, and the sprightly little musical features orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett. In true Richard Rodgers fashion, the music for ANDROCLES AND THE LION is sumptuous and full of heart. Every song is mirthful and glee inducing, leaving listeners thoroughly intoxicated by the whimsy of a bygone era of musical composition. To call the album anything other than ebullient would be a disservice, as it presents the listeners with boundless cheer and warmth from beginning to end.

Norman Wisdom stars as the titular Androcles, singing with tangible joy on catchy numbers like "Velvet Paws." He also charms with his witty counterparts on "Strength Is My Weakness." Ed Ames utilizes a decadent and impressive baritone/bass instrument as the muscle-bound star gladiator Ferrovius, standing out on numbers like "A Fine Young Man" and "Strength Is My Weakness." Noël Coward delights as Caesar on the wryly comedic "The Emperor's Thumb." Inga Swenson sweetly sings as Lavinia on numbers like "Strangers" (easily the best song of the score) and "No More Waiting" and its reprise. John Cullum is beguiling as Captain on "Strangers" and "No More Waiting" as well. And while she doesn't sing on the album, Patricia Routledge, who we remember as Hyacinth Bucket on Keeping Up Appearances, is fantastically comical as the henpecking Megaera, Androcles' wife.

Whether you fondly remember this rare and out of print LP, its one airing on NBC, are a fan of Richard Rodgers, enjoy any of the other famous entities involved on this production, or are experiencing ANDROCLES AND THE LION for the first time yourself, Masterworks Broadway's release of ANDROCLES AND THE LION (Original Television Cast Recording) is a charming jewel from the vaults. When compared to scores for television musicals like Rodgers' compositions for CINDERELLA, it's not as memorable. Yet, it is still a true treat to experience and one that you'll probably want to revisit from time to time.

Masterworks Broadway released ANDROCLES AND THE LION (Original Telvesion Cast Recording) on May 13, 2014. As of June 10, the physical CD became available through Arkiv Music. The recording can be purchased from Masterworks Broadway's online stone, Arkiv Music, iTunes, and Amazon.

For information about other theatrical recording releases, click here.

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