9 Original Cast Albums Featuring Replacement Performers | Playbill

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Cast Recordings & Albums 9 Original Cast Albums Featuring Replacement Performers

Lea Michele isn't the only high-profile replacement getting her own cast recording.

Pearl Bailey, Vanessa Williams, and Ethel Meman

After much speculation, we now know that Broadway's current revival of Funny Girl will indeed get a new cast album—and in a rare move, it will feature its current stars instead of its original cast. Lea Michele and Tovah Feldshuh will perform on the release—instead of Beanie Feldstein and Jane Lynch, who opened the show in April.

But this is far from the first time Broadway has gotten a cast album featuring replacement stars. Take a look at the history of this Broadway rarity below.

The Secret Garden, Original Broadway Cast Album
Based on the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman's The Secret Garden features two youngsters in its leading cast. By the time the Broadway album was recorded in 1991, original Colin John Babcock was no longer performing with the show because his voice had changed, rendering him unable to handle the boy soprano range of most of his character's songs. Babcock was able to record the majority of his material, but the second act duet "Come to My Garden / Lift Me Up" proved a little beyond his abilities, leaving original understudy Joel E. Chaiken to take over for that track.

Grease, 1995 Broadway Replacement Cast Album
Broadway's first revival of Grease in 1994 put its star power in the role of tough-as-nails Pink Ladies leader Rizzo, with famous Broadway fan and advocate Rosie O'Donnell making her Broadway debut in the role. Producer Fran and Barry Weissler, later to have their biggest Broadway success with the still-running 1996 revival of Chicago, gave audiences an early taste of celebrity stunt casting by replacing O'Donnell with a string of big name Rizzos: Xena star Lucy Lawless, Linda Blair (in case you were wondering what inspired that Last Five Years lyric), Debby Boone, Brady Bunch star Maureen McCormick, Sheena Easton, and Brooke Shields. The latter, then best known for her screen appearances in The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, made such a splash that she got her very own cast recording. Or rather, Shields got to record her parts on top of the original release as a digital replacement for O'Donnell.

Brooke Shields in Wonderful Town

Wonderful Town, 2005 Broadway Replacement Cast Album
Donna Murphy played Ruth Sherwood in 2003 revival of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green's Wonderful Town. But the following year, Brooke Shields became Murphy's star replacement. Just as she had in Grease, Shields got her own Wonderful Town cast album with her own vocals replacing Murphy's from the original release. Apparently when Brooke Shields replaces you in your show, she gets an album!

Grand Hotel, Original Broadway Cast Album
This musical, based on the 1932 film, took an exceedingly long time to make it to Broadway. Robert Wright, George Forrest, and Luther Davis first musicalized the story in 1958 with pre-Broadway productions in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Lukewarm reception meant that the Broadway plans fizzled out, only to be rekindled by director-choreographer Tommy Tune three decades later in 1989. When an out-of-town run in Boston ran into trouble again, Tune brought in his Nine collaborator Maury Yeston to provide some new songs. That did the trick, because this version of the show opened on Broadway later the same year and ran for more than 1,000 performances. Partially due to legal issues involving that hybrid score, the show did not record an album until nearly two years after the show premiered, by which time original cast member David Carroll was extremely sick with AIDS. Tragically, Carroll collapsed at the recording studio and died of a pulmonary embolism shortly before he was to record his vocals, leaving understudy Brent Barrett to take over the role of Baron Felix Von Gaigern for the album. The ultimate release would include a live recording of Carroll singing his biggest number, "Love Can't Happen," captured at a 1991 fundraiser for Equity Fights AIDS.

Songs for a New World, Original Off-Broadway Cast Album
This song revue started the career of a number of theatrical luminaries: It was the professional songwriting debut for Jason Robert Brown and the cast featured then-unknowns Brooks Ashmanskas, Andréa Burns, Jessica Molaskey, and Billy Porter. Well, Porter stretches the definition of "unknown" a bit. He had won the American Idol precursor Star Search in 1992, and gave his unique gospel flair to "Beauty School Dropout" as Teen Angel in the aforementioned 1994 revival of Grease. His early success led to an exclusive recording deal with A&M Records. That meant that when it came time to record Songs for a New World, Porter could not record his performance since RCA was handling the release. Though not technically a replacement from the revue's stage production—which only played 12 performances total—Porter was replaced on the album by fellow Carnegie Mellon graduate, and later Vintage Trouble frontman, Ty Taylor.

Hello, Dolly!, 1967 New Broadway Cast Recording
When it comes to notable Broadway replacements, it doesn't get more famous than Pearl Bailey's historic run in the original production of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! Original leading lady Carol Channing had helped make the show a massive hit when it debuted on Broadway in 1964. Then the 1967 all-Black touring company led by Bailey and Cab Calloway proved so successful that producer David Merrick promoted that company to Broadway, replacing the then-current company whole cloth. Bailey's take on the fast-talking matchmaker gave the production new legs; suddenly they were playing to sold-out houses again. The performance was such a coup that RCA Victor put out a second Broadway cast recording the same year. In 1968, Bailey was honored with a Special Tony Award for her performance. Bailey even got to reprise her performance when she headlined the revival of the musical in 1975, opposite Billy Daniels.

Vanessa Williams in Kiss of the Spider Woman Martha Swope / The New York Public Library

Kiss of the Spider Woman, New Broadway Cast Recording
This Kander and Ebb musical, based on the novel by Manuel Puig, played its first full production in London in 1992, led by Chita Rivera, Brent Carver, and Anthony Crivello. When the musical came to Broadway the following year, the entire cast travelled with it. Because they had recorded a London cast album, there was no need to do it again on the other side of the pond. Cut to June 1994, when Grammy nominee and former Miss America Vanessa Williams made her Broadway debut in the show, opposite fellow replacements Brian Stokes Mitchell and Howard McGillin. The trio was so well received that they got their very own cast album, released in 1995.

Passion, 2013 New York Cast Recording
Classic Stage Company's Off-Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Passion starred Melissa Errico as Clara, Judy Kuhn as Fosca, and Ryan Silverman as Giorgio—when the production opened, that is. Midway through the run, Errico came down with bronchitis and had to miss performances, with understudy Amy Justman filling in. The cast had been scheduled to hit the studio and record a cast album towards the end of the production's run, but the session was postponed in hopes that a recovered Errico would be able to participate. Actors had to be flown back out to NYC for the second recording date. When Errico was still not well enough to record her performance, producers were forced to get a replacement. They turned to Rebecca Luker, who had co-starred with Kuhn in a separate revival of Passion, at Kennedy Center in 2002. And don't worry—Errico has since made a full recovery.

Company, London Cast Album
The original bachelor Bobby in Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company was film actor Dean Jones, but because he was going through a divorce at the time, his time with the production was brief (though his voice can be heard on the Company cast album). Jones left the production a month after the musical opened, with West Side Story original cast member Larry Kert taking over. The replacement happened so early in the run that Kert was even ruled Tony eligible without having originated the part, an anomaly that has not since been repeated. When the show crossed the pond to open in London's West End, several Broadway cast members transferred along with it, including Kert, Elaine Stritch, Donna McKechnie, Teri Ralston, Beth Howland, and Steve Elmore. With so many performers reprising their performances from the Broadway album, producers opted to have Kert record his vocals over the original release. Jones' voice was removed as best as possible, rather than bringing in the entire London cast and recording a wholly new album. The resulting recording is labeled as the London cast album, though that's not actually accurate.

Honorable Mentions
These releases were not full albums but featured replacement stars singing select songs from their musicals' scores.

Hello, Dolly! with Ethel Merman
Dolly Levi, at least as musicalized by Jerry Herman, is forever linked in many theatre fans' hearts with original leading lady Carol Channing. But the score was actually written with Ethel Merman in mind, though she reportedly turned it down. Despite that setback, the original production was such a big hit that Channing was replaced by a long string of celebrities—an early example of stunt casting—including the aforementioned Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller, Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, and Thelma Carpenter. By the time the Broadway production was nearing its end, Merman decided to play the role after all, and she became that run's final Dolly. In an unusual move, Merman's stint in the show reinstated two songs that had been cut prior to the original Broadway opening: "World, Take Me Back," and "Love, Look in My Window." Merman didn't record a complete cast album of Dolly, but she did put out a record of those two songs in 1970. And they have since turned up as bonus tracks on the remastered CD release of the original Broadway cast album.

My Fair Lady with Laura Benanti
Like Lea Michele in Funny Girl, Tony winner Laura Benanti made no small secret that Eliza Doolittle in Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady is one of her dream roles—she brought it up frequently in interviews and social media posts. Benanti finally got her wish in 2018, succeeding original star Lauren Ambrose in the Broadway revival of the Golden Age musical. The following year, Benanti got to record Eliza's songs—"Wouldn't It Be Loverly?," "Just You Wait," "I Could Have Danced All Night," and "Show Me"—for a special mini-album released by Broadway Records. Much like Brooke Shields' replacement albums, Benanti recorded her vocals on top of the already released revival cast album.

Sunset Boulevard
Speaking of shows that have featured a string of legendary leading ladies, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard has released mini albums featuring a number of replacement Norma Desmonds. When Cats star Betty Buckley took over for original West End leading lady Patti LuPone, she released a four-track album capturing her takes on the songs "Surrender," "With One Look," "New Ways to Dream," and "As If We Never Said Goodbye." This turned out to be a trend starter. Cats and Evita star Elaine Paige was next in the role and released a two-track single of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" and "The Perfect Year." The following year, Petula Clark added "With One Look" to the roster for her own release when she joined the West End production. The U.S. first national tour also released a three-track promo album featuring performances from Linda Balgord and Ron Bohmer.

Annie Get Your Gun with Reba McEntire
Country star Reba McEntire's run in the 1999 Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun, replacing Bernadette Peters in the title role, was so well received that it led to the creation of a "Best Performance by an Actor or Actress in a Recreated Role" category for the Tony Awards. Spoiler alert: The nominating committee never nominated anyone in the category and discontinued it the following year in an odd change of heart. McEntire did not get to record an entire album, but a non-commercial promotional CD was produced featuring her performances of "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" and "I Got Lost in His Arms."

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