Ira Glass writes:
Watching musicians record the original Broadway song for this week's radio show was like watching a seasoned SWAT team at work. It was all so fast!
All this happened in the late afternoon, in a recording studio right by all the big Broadway theaters, so the performers could go straight from the session to their shows that night: The Addams Family, Chicago, La Cage Aux Folles. One of the singers, Christian Borle, was off to dance on the ceiling as Bert in Mary Poppins.
It's hard to write about all this without gushing in a very uncritical way. It was just really fun to watch these people who are so good at their jobs. The song was written by Robert Lopez, who co-wrote Avenue Q and is writing a new musical with Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Our musical director was Stephen Oremus, the musical director of Avenue Q and Wicked. Orchestrations were by Bruce Coughlin, who created the orchestrations for 9 to 5, Grey Gardens, Urinetown, revivals of Annie Get Your Gun and Guys and Dolls. Singer John Treacy Eagan was one of the people who took over as Max Bialystock, the lead in The Producers, after Nathan Lane left the show, and for this recording he definitely amped up the Nathan Laniness.
To record, first they did piano, bass, drums and synthesizer (for strings and a timpani roll at the end), plus the two vocalists, John and Christian. I was surprised that they all perform together, the vocalists singing along with the musicians, but everyone told me this is part of the Broadway sound. They only did two or three takes. Even the first take was pretty close. Then the woodwinds, again just a couple takes. Then the horns. Everyone would have played together but the studio was too small for that. John Kilgore had the thing mixed and finished five hours after we walked in the door, though Robert and Stephen had little fixes the next day. (Most interesting: they replaced the small "bell tree" with a bigger one in the final mix. To give it that full Disney magic, they said.)
You can download your own free copy of the song. And if your high school wants to do your own production of the song, there's sheet music for you! Let us know about it. Finally, we have low-fi video footage of the recording session, produced for us by the Planet Money team.
Thanks to everyone who made possible Broadway's first ever investigative reporting musical comedy number!
Update: Bill Moyers played our song for the authors of "13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown."
Full credits for the song:
Music and Lyrics: Robert Lopez
Vocalists: John Treacy Eagan and Christian Borle
Music Supervisor/Producer: Stephen Oremus
Orchestrator: Bruce Coughlin
Piano: Mark Hummel
Keyboard: Randy Cohen
Bass: Dave Phillips
Drums: Sean McDaniel
Sax/Flute: Dave Mann
Sax/Clarinet: Charles Pillow
Sax/Clarinet: Dave Riekenberg
Trumpet: Tony Kadleck
Trumpet: Bud Burridge
Trombone: Randy Andos
Studio Engineer: John Kilgore
Music Contractor: Michael Keller
Copyist: Karl Mansfield