Thomas Z. Shepard has produced some of the most famous and legendary Broadway cast recordings ever. His credits read like an encyclopedia of musical theatre. The original cast recordings of Company, Merrilly We Roll Along, Sunday in The Park with George, La Cage Aux Folles, 1776, No, No Nannette and Houston Grand Opera’s Porgy and Bess are just a taste of Thomas’s body of work as a record producer. He produced Barbara Cook’s The Disney Album and has worked with the likes of Elaine Stritch, Bernadete Peters, and a very young Jason Alexander. He can be seen in the film of Company Original Cast Recording which documents the recording session of that legendary musical. Without the artistry of Thomas Z Shepard Company and many other cast recordings would not have turned out as well as they did. Thomas always knew how to preserve the integrity of the material while making the needed adjustments for a recording. He has produced many concerts for the New York Philharmonic which include the legendary Follies in Concert at Avery Fisher Hall. He has composed music for several musicals, five operas, and a movie directed by Otto Preminger called Such Good Friends. He has arranged music as well for such artists as Anna Moffo and Richard Tucker and his music has been heard on PBS’s Between The Lions TV series. He is the recipient of 12 Grammy Awards.
How did you get into the recording business?
I’ve been fascinated by recording from before my third birthday. I was fortunate that when I applied to Columbia Records, it was at the time they had a training program for A&R men. Goddard Lieberson, the company president, believed that one could train a musician to be a businessman but could not train a businessman to be a musician. I had an extensive musical background and was at exactly the right age and stage to apply for this program.
Before the advent of the compact disc only so much music could fit on a LP record. When you were making cast recordings at that time who decided on what cuts were going to be made to the material to make it all fit?
The cuts were mutually agreed to.
How has the business of recording cast recordings changed since you first started and do you think it has changed for the better?
Kurt Deutsch has produced some terrific cast recordings. The nature of today’s musical material is often different from more traditional Broadway songs. Today it seems most Broadway cast albums are produced similarly to a contemporary pop recording. I personally have gravitated to the “radio play” approach whenever possible.
Have you heard the Vanessa Williams KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN?
Of all of the recordings you have produced what are some of your favorites?
The visceral drama, the converting what once had sets, lights and costumes into an audio-only experience has always been my goal. So I would name among my favorites, the Houston Opera PORGY AND BESS, SWEENEY TODD, and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.
Are there any cast recordings that you did not produce that you wish you had?
I wish I had produced the original cast of FOLLIES.