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Your Favorite Replacements

What Broadway replacements do you wish had been recorded? Filichia tallies readers' choices. logo
Alfred Drake
Ronni Krasnow wrote that she wants to hear Lillias White in Once on This Island. Tony Janicki reported that he dreams of Alfred Drake in The King and I, while Bruce Bider craves Patricia Morison in the same show and KevinLVPBlues won't settle for anything less than both of those performers on one recording of the Rodgers and Hammerstein show. As he wrote, "I know they didn't play the roles opposite each other, but both still demand the respect of an album." This happened after I named 40 Broadway replacement performers that I wish had recorded their roles: Liza Minnelli in Chicago, Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard, Danielle Darrieux in Coco, and 37 others. I invited readers to note replacements that I didn't include, and oh, did they come through -- as usual.

Every one of the Broadway Dollys was mentioned, and I doubt that a Mame was missed, too. (Yes, even Jane Morgan was cited by three readers.) Others that received multiple mentions were Shelley Winters' Ado Annie, Lorna Luft in Promises, Promises, Victoria Clark's Ms. Pennywise, Leslie Uggams' Muzzy, Midler in Fiddler, and no fewer than three Lilis in Carnival: Carla Alberghetti, Anita Gillette, and Julia Migenes. But no one came up with the one that I thought of after I made the list: David Jones, the once and future Monkee, as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!

Readers had plenty of suggestions for the British megamusicals -- understandable, given that they ran so long that many a replacement came in. Rob Stevens was the first, but hardly the last, to offer a Sarah Brightman substitute in Phantom: "Patti Cohenour has a better and richer voice and is an Actress with a capital A." Six respondents asked for Judy Kaye's Carlotta instead. Said Dave Burrows, "I'm not a fan of Cats, but even I would play the cast recording more often if my beloved Liz Callaway was featured. I also wish for a definitive cast recording of Phantom of the Opera, pairing the voices of some of its great stars -- Rebecca Luker, Anthony Warlow, and Judy Kaye. If Warlow isn't available, Howard McGillin would do just fine."

More than one person -- more than a dozen, actually -- wished to hear The Secret Garden with Howard McGillin replacing Mandy Patinkin. According to Gryffindor, "If they could only plug Howard into the otherwise flawless original cast recording, I could hear Archibald come through instead of experiencing the love-child of Che Guevera and George Seurat doing an impersonation of a self-involved cabaret artist." Many readers endorsed Maureen McGovern in Nine, while John W. Griffin opted for McGovern in The Pirates of Penzance, as did KevinLVPBlues: "I've heard her do a snippet of the final coloratura trill of 'Poor Wandr'ing One' on her website," he wrote, "and she goes even higher than Ronstadt -- and with more vocal prowess."

I opened the door for spoken word recordings of plays by suggesting Elaine Stritch in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Bobster wrote, "I could swear I read somewhere that there is a recording of that with Elaine. No?" AlanScott says yes, that a friend of his used to take it out of the library all the time. The only other play recording cited was by Ron Fassler, who asked for Yaphet Kotto in The Great White Hope. ("My parents thought he was great.")

Though I predicted that no one would want Martha Wright in The Sound of Music, Tom Herson said he'd like to hear her again -- "or in South Pacific -- though I'd really love to hear what Cloris Leachman did with that score when she filled in." You never know who's going to have a passionate fan. For example, Bruce Bider was aware that Bea Arthur replaced Shirl Conway during the star's vacation in Plain and Fancy. Barbara Carlyon says that, as a high school kid -- and then as someone who worked concessions -- she saw Pippin many, many times and caught Jill Clayburgh's replacement, Betty Buckley, who "cried every time she sang 'I Guess I'll Miss the Man.'"

But Gryffindor topped them all by writing, "Betsy Joslyn is undoubtedly the most underappreciated singing actress of the last 50 years. From standing-by for Bernadette Peters in several star vehicles to being a graceful replacement for three great Sondheim roles on Broadway to creating one of the most challenging roles written for a woman in a musical (A Doll's Life), someone should give this lady her due. I've seen her in no fewer than eight roles and must single out her performance as The Witch in Into the Woods as not only her greatest, but among the greatest performances I have ever seen. I have seen many great ladies tackle the role, but no one gave the withered Witch more depth and pathos or was more fetching and powerful after the transformation."

Donna Murphy
(Photo © Joseph Marzullo)
Others would like to have replacement recordings to recreate that sense of discovery they once had, such as Danelock, who stated: "When I saw Donna Murphy in Drood, I thought, 'Who IS this woman?' I had the same feeling when I discovered Marin Mazzie in Big River." And some readers got pretty obscure. Kevin LVPBlues lusts for a different First Impressions, for his first impression of the cast album wasn't entirely positive. "I love Polly Bergen," he insisted, "but she doesn't really have the sound of a Jane Austen heroine. I would have loved to hear Ellen Hanley's more legit manner and soaring soprano in 'Wasn't It a Simply Lovely Wedding?'"

Josh Ellis complained, "My gal's missing! Did the divine Dolores Gray in 42nd Street just slip your mind? Well, I, for one, am grateful that you didn't suggest a disc redo of My Fair Lady with Sally Ann Howes and Edward Mulhare." Well, Josh, they were among the first performers that Kevin Dawson mentioned -- "to see if they could avoid imitation." And Geoffrey Mark Fidelman had a novel idea: "Ethel Merman filling in for Dinah Shore filling in for Ethel Merman in the original cast of Call Me Madam. Dinah tried to put some life into the RCA original cast recording, but she was NOT musical comedy."

Finally, Chris Van Ness had a response to my statement that I would have liked to have heard Carol Channing in Wonderful Town: "Why don't you give her a call?" he wrote. "I'm sure she'd do it over the phone for you."


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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