How Rare Is It for a Straight Play to Release a Cast Recording?

Jennifer Ashley Tepper Is answering your questions with Broadway Deep Dive!

By: May. 19, 2024
Stereophonic Show Information
Get Show Info Info
Get Tickets Ticket: from $52
How Rare Is It for a Straight Play to Release a Cast Recording?
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

Do you have a burning Broadway question? Dying to know more about an obscure Broadway fact? Broadway historian and self-proclaimed theatre nerd Jennifer Ashley Tepper is here to help with her new series, Broadway Deep Dive. Every month, BroadwayWorld will be accepting questions from theatre fans like you. If you're lucky, your question might be selected as the topic of her next column!

Submit your Broadway question in the comments here!

This time, the reader question was: With all of the Stereophonic hype this season, is it uncommon for a play to release a cast recording? How often has that happened in the past?

It seems like everyone who loves theatre is currently listening to the incredible cast recording recently released by Stereophonic. While Stereophonic, now on Broadway at the Golden Theatre, is technically a straight play and not a musical, it is filled with songs performed by the fictional music group that the show is about.

Stereophonic is by David Adjmi, and has original songs by Will Butler, known for his work with the band Arcade Fire. Since the highly buzzed about show opened at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway earlier this season, audiences have been thrilling at its original songs.

How rare is it for a straight play to release a cast recording?

Very infrequently in Broadway history has a show that is not a musical with a complete musical score released a cast recording. Even a good amount of musicals do not receive cast recordings, since these can be expensive, and if a show is short-lived, the funds to record it may not be there.

In 2020, five straight plays were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Score. These were A Christmas Carol, which won (music by Christopher Nightingale), The Inheritance (music by Paul Englishby), The Rose Tattoo (music by Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb), Slave Play (music by Lindsay Jones), and The Sound Inside (music by Daniel Kluger). None of these scores had lyrics. Not a single one received an original cast album.

Besides for these five nominated plays in 2020, and Stereophonic in 2024, in Broadway history, only ten plays have received Best Score Tony nominations, and only two of those received cast recordings.

In 1999, Jeanine Tesori received her first Tony nomination for scoring the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center. The production starred Helen Hunt, Paul Rudd, Kyra Sedgwick, and Philip Bosco, and was filmed for television. The music by Tesori, who has since become one of the most celebrated composers working on Broadway today for shows including Kimberly Akimbo, Fun Home, Caroline, or Change, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, received an original cast album.

More recently, One Man, Two Guvnors, the uproarious British transfer that starred James Corden in 2012, also received both a Best Score Tony nomination for Grant Olding, and an original cast recording.

Of the other plays that received Tony nominations for Best Score, Much Ado About Nothing (1973), with a score by Peter Link, was captured for television and received an album of the score as recorded for TV. The Good Doctor (1974), The Song of Jacob Zulu (1993), Enron (2010), Fences (2010), Peter and the Starcatcher (2012), Angels in America (2018), and To Kill a Mockingbird (2019) were not recorded.            

In 1958, the play Say, Darling! received a cast recording, a rarity for a play. Say, Darling! is about the making of the musical The Pajama Game. Based on Richard Bissell’s book, Say, Darling! has a script by Richard Bissell, Marian Bissell, and Abe Burrows, with songs that have music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Based on the cache of those involved, and the unconventional amount of songs present for a straight play, it is somewhat unsurprising that Say, Darling! was recorded as though it was a musical. The original production featured two pianos playing the score, but the cast album boasts a fully orchestrated version of the score.

A few other Broadway shows technically classified as plays or special events rather than musicals have received recordings over the years. One was Elaine Stritch at Liberty which, in 2002, featured nearly 20 songs illustrating the stories of Stritch’s long and celebrated career. Another career retrospective type of special event with the same robust song list size, Liza’s at the Palace… (2009) received an original cast recording as well. In 2001, Blast!, also classified as a special event, received a recording.