Like most hit Broadway musicals of its time, the rollicking Li’l Abner – inspired by Al Capp’s blockbuster comic strip – got the full Hollywood treatment in 1959. Musical theater fans know the film as a remarkably pure transfer of a classic 1950s Broadway musical, skillfully re-setting and preserving a theatrical experience onscreen. Most of the Broadway cast was retained: Peter Palmer reprised his portrayal of Li’l Abner, and the stage veterans included Stubby Kaye, Julie Newmar, Joe E. Marks plus a number of ensemble performers. Nelson Riddle adapted and conducted the Gene de Paul/Johnny Mercer score for the Li’l Abner soundtrack, with choral arrangements by Joseph J. Lilley; they earned the film’s only Oscar (and, later, Grammy) nomination. The “soundtrack” album (in stereo, while the Broadway recording was available only in mono) is actually a re-recording (or re-editing) of the songs for the soundtrack’s commercial LP release, a common practice that promised a smoother listening experience on the home hi-fi. The Li’l Abner film soundtrack will be released for the first time in the digital era on January 14, exclusively for purchase via MasterworksBroadway.com in a limited quantity of Manufacture-On-Demand CDs as well as digital download. The CD-R will be available through Arkiv Music on February 11, plus downloads through digital service providers the same day.
Looking ahead, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Original Broadway Cast Recording will be available for the first time in the digital era February 18 followed by TV soundtracks of Brigadoon / Kiss Me, Kate starring Robert Goulet available March 18.