NEW YORK (AP) — A nondescript building near Times Square was turned for a day into a small Russian village in 1905 when the cast and orchestra of the Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” recorded the cast album.
MSR Studios, where albums such as Kanye West’s “Graduation” and Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” were worked on, instead played host to “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” last month.
“It’s going remarkably quickly,” said Bartlett Sher, the show’s director, as the session wound down. “I usually am what I call the Intention Police — I keep an eye on making sure the intention of the songs is in place. I’ve been pretty chill on this one.”
The mood was certainly loose as the 22-piece orchestra and 32 cast members spent the day knocking out a digital copy of one of the last great musicals of Broadway’s Golden Age.
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Sheldon Harnick, who wrote the lyrics, relaxed on a leather couch in one control room. There was even enough time for violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman to record a bonus track arranged by John Williams.
The album, on the Broadway Records label, will have its worldwide release on March 18, though fans will find it at The Broadway Theatre — the current home for the revival — beginning Thursday.
MSR Studios is one of only two studios in Manhattan large enough to accommodate a big Broadway orchestra, albeit here broken up into parts and put in different rooms. Principal singers, too, were broken up and put in isolation booths even when singing duets. All were in constant vocal contact with musical coordinator David Lai and conductor Ted Sperling.
The morning session started at 10:30 a.m. and focused on songs such as “Miracle of Miracles” and “Do You Love Me.” There was an early afternoon overdub session with the full company doing the big dance numbers and then the late afternoon assignments for “Sunrise, Sunset” and “The Rumor.”
“I was just reveling in the moment. I just had a great, great time,” said Danny Burstein, the show’s fantastic Tevye, who spent a long off-day from the show in a small booth singing all day with headphones on.
“Sunrise, Sunset” was nailed in just three and one-half takes. The ensemble was in a large studio wearing street clothes and gathered around four microphones. They took selfies during down times. Out of sight in tiny booths elsewhere were Burstein, Jessica Hecht as Golde, Samantha Massell as Hodel and Ben Rappaport as Perchik.
After the first take, Sperling asked everyone to be mindful of the s-sounds in the lyrics “happiness” and “tears.” After another take, Hecht asked politely if Burstein’s voice be turned down a bit in her headphones. “Rolling on Take 3” said Lai.
Burstein, a five-time Tony Award nominee who grew up in New York adoring musical theater, said he felt honored to be able to record the show, knowing it will be listened to with the same passion he showed to records of the past.
“It’s unbelievably heady to think of it that way because I was that kid growing up, memorizing everybody’s name on the back of the cast albums,” he said. “It gave me great joy and happiness as a kid. The idea that we may be able to do that for others is unbelievably great.”
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