BWW CD Reviews: Masterworks Broadway's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Excellently Preserves a Broadway Gem

BWW CD Reviews: Masterworks Broadway's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Excellently Preserves a Broadway Gem
Cover art. Courtesy of Masterworks Broadway.

There is no conceivable way that New York City and the tradition of American drama had any idea how Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? would change the face of the theatre. It officially opened on October 13, 1962 at the Billy Rose Theatre (which is now called The Nederlander Theatre), and it went on to win both the 1963 Tony Award and New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. Additionally, Arthur Hill took home the Tony for Best Actor for his portrayal of George and Uta Hagan took home the Tony for Best Actress for her portrayal of Martha. Now, for the digital age, Masterworks Broadway has re-released the 1963 Columbia Masterworks original Broadway cast recording, letting a whole new generation experience the classic play with its brilliant original cast.

In the winter of 1963 Columbia Masterworks took an uncommon step and brought Uta Hagan, Arthur Hill, Melinda Dillon, and George Grizzard into the studio to record the play in its entirety. The original four-LP boxed recording was released in both the stereo (DOS 687) and monaural (DOL 287) formats. Naturally, the original pressing is out-of-print and, until now, had never been re-released, making it quite the highly prized find for collectors. Even with this new digital and CD release, I'm sure the original LPs will still carry their well-earned clout. After all, the legacy of this show and this production is still alive and well.

As a CD, the recording is pressed on two discs. The digital and physical formats of the recording run approximately 2 hours and 37 minutes. As is expected, there is a quiet and ignorable hiss running in the background of the audio, bringing a nostalgic quality to the experience. With the advent of the popularity of Hipster culture, it seems my generation is obsessed with all things vinyl when it comes to recordings and every aspect that sets them apart from modern recordings. Therefore, this is truly a technical aspect that can be appreciated.

Technicalities aside, what makes this recording so exceptional is the power of the performances offered on the recording. Even though the cast is recording the show in the studio, we hear it as if it were recorded from the stage. There is a depth of sound on the recording that highlights the spatial aspects of live performance, with voices being thrown from distances when characters would be off stage. While we cannot visually see these four talented performers interacting with each other as we would on stage, their deliveries of the lines are so skillful that our mind's eye has no difficulty visualizing what each scene looked like in performance. Furthermore, this recording offers us front row seats to the 1963 performances of this theatrical gem, letting every listener understand how and why this show and its cast won the awards they did.

Masterworks Broadway has preserved an excellent piece of American Theatre's history by choosing to re-release this fantastic album. With the innumerable productions of Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? occurring at any given time across the world, there is no denying the long lasting impact this show has had on the world of theatre. This recording takes us back to the early days of the show, giving us a fascinating glimpse into its celebrated and respected Broadway premiere.

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (Original Broadway Cast Reocording) was released exclusively for purchase via on February 18, 2014 in a limited quantity of Manufacture-On-Demand CDs as well as digital download. The CD will be available through Arkiv Music on March 18, plus downloads through digital service providers the same day.

For information about other theatrical recording releases, click here.

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