Many that know me are aware of my rather gargantuan 160GB ipod with its shuffled playlists. Anyway, I’m bored, cursed with an irritating post-nasal drip whose cause remains uncertain. (I’m still not sure if I’m sick or it’s just another “Bad Allergy Day”) so I’m going to just jot down thoughts as I listen..
“Climb Ev’ry Mountain” – The Sound of Music, 1981 London Revival Cast Recording. June Bronhill is probably the first Mother Abbess to look at this aria and tell the powers that be that it’s too low… She sings the entire song up a step and a half, ending it on a high B natural after the key change.
“Overture – Irma la Douce, 1960 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Has any other show made such ample use of the xylophone in its orchestration? How rare for a musical about life in the Pigalle of Paris to feature one actress and all men as support; the reverse Nine. Did you know? …this was Fred Gwynne’s first Broadway musical appearance? Yep, Herman Munster did the musicals. This and Here’s Love.
“Let’s See What Happens” – Darling of the Day, 1968 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Why is this gentle Jule Styne ballad, with its lilting waltz refrain and subdued lyrics not a standard? And wow the string and harp based orchestration of the song is among the best I’ve ever heard. Oh Pat Routledge, how you charm with that lush soprano…
“Two Little Words” – Steel Pier, 1997 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Oh Kristin Chenoweth. Remember the days when this routine of yours was fresh, and not considered your usual bag of shtick tricks? Why does this still work and your glazed ham rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay” come off like yesterday’s gardenias?
“Sunshine Girl” – New Girl in Town, 1957 Original Broadway Cast Recording. A fantastic number from Bob Merrill. An early 1900s period number with honky-tonk piano and several part harmony – that also comments on the action. (Girl jilted by guy. Girl sad. Girl becomes hooker. You know the drill… Hey that’s what happens when you turn O’Neill into a musical comedy).
“You hear the fallin’, the pitter and pat
She wears a raincloud instead of a hat
She still remembers the day that they met
She may forgive him but never forget
An angel’s heart became the devil’s prize
The sunshine girl has raindrop in her eyes…”
“My White Knight” – The Music Man, 1957 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Thank God for Barbara Cook. One of the only major problems I have with the film adaptation of this show is the use of “Being in Love” in its place, which just shows us that Marian’s pretty much hot to trot for any man she’s ever met, as opposed to this gentler song which expresses her yearning for the ideal suitor, someone she doesn’t want to settle for, and someone whom she’d wish to respect and share her life. It’s extraordinary… Oh and that high Ab. I remember vividly the night I saw the revival: Rebecca Luker stopped the show cold with this. But, my goodness, we’re blessed to have had Barbara in our lives.
“Home Sweet Heaven” – High Spirits, 1964 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Tammy Grimes sings Elvira!! One of my favorite songs from this score, with its brassy bluesy feel. The lyrics are so witty, one can only imagine how she brought down the house with this eleven o’clock number. Apparently she wasn’t big on performing the song and had to be pushed out onstage and delivered it with a pouty demeanor that brought the show to a complete halt, much to her surprise. She performed it the same wistful way every night to similar applause.
“After I’ve lunched with Keats and Shelley
Posed for Boticelli
Martin Luther asks me out to dine
And it would really bowl you over
Try to flirt with Gertrude Stein
(she’s a gas is a gas is a gas is a gas is a…)”
Tammy’s delivery is definitive. And it’s got a spectacular rideout.
“Nobody Steps on Kafritz” – Henry, Sweet Henry, 1967 Original Broadway Cast Recording. The show was an unfortunate failure, but left behind an amusing score. I guess this doesn’t really fit into the story too well, but Alice Playten managed to walk away with the entire show with this raucous paean to adolescent evil. (She left the opening audience wanting more by denying them an encore when they refused to let the show continue. Besides, she had another showstopper in the second act, anyhow). Every time I hear this song, I always think of Natie Nudelman from How I Paid for College. Seriously, with their shameless personalities and monetary schemes, the two are soul mates. I think Alice needs to perform this one for us at the Theatre World awards, don’t you agree?
“I Can Cook Too” – On the Town, 1960 Studio Cast Recording. If you pay enough attention to the lyrics, you will discover that they are RAUNCHY. But that’s the glory of the double entendre, you can get away with practically any sexual euphemism as long as it’s cute. Nancy Walker is marvelous, I can’t begin to imagine how this brilliant comedienne must have been in the original 1944 company. For obvious reasons, this showstopper was excluded from the sunnier MGM musical adaptation (along with most of Bernstein’s score, which execs felt would seem too sophisticated for film audiences). Who’s Hildy in the Encores! production?
“What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” – On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, 1965 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Forget that movie with ol’ what’s-her-name. Barbara Harris is the perfect combination of quirky and charming on the cast album (and at bluegobo, in televised clips from the show). If there was one thing that Ms. Harris did in her two big Broadway musicals (this and The Apple Tree) was show a penchant for great comedy, but also with a heartbreaking vulnerability that made audiences fall in love with her. Another problem I have with the film rendition of this song is how Streisand decides to reprise a verse a la “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” to paraphrase from the stage show, don’t tamper with perfection. The cast album is where you want to go (especially with John Cullum in glorious voice as her co-star). This is one of those cases where I wish the original performer had made the transfer to the screen version. Harris lives in reclusivity somewhere in Arizona, having given up performing without regret.
“The Money Rings Out Like Freedom” – Coco, 1969 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Say what you will about the musical, about Hepburn attempting to sing or the material itself. There is something fascinating in the score that I can’t quite put my finger on. Hepburn gives it the ol’ college try, even if she is Katharine Hepburn and no where near being Coco Chanel. (Word has it Chanel was thrilled about Hepburn as Coco, because she thought they meant Audrey. She was disheartened when she learned it was Kate and decided to have nothing to do with the show). The show is also important for its emergence of Michael Bennett as a director; Michael Benthall was pretty much useless and Bennett took over for him. This number is Chanel recalling her history (in part of a 16 minute musical monologue, during which we get a choreographed fashion parade of actual Chanel designs). What can I say, it’s a fun guilty pleasure. And in spite of her limitations in the part, Hepburn gave a star turn. (She regularly received standing ovations on her entrance; and at her closing this number received a showstopping hand that lasted almost two minutes). (I keep writing because this is a really long song…) Hopefully, if Encores ever gets around to it, they’ll cast Harriet Harris in the part; for all its flaws, the book has some spectacular lines for Chanel. Andre Previn’s music is fascinating too. Lerner’s lyrics not so much…
“I Had a Ball” – I Had a Ball, 1964 Original Broadway Cast Recording. Karen Morrow, another great voice cursed by a series of Broadway flops belts out the title song here accompanied by the ensemble. There is an extensive dance break, as can be seen on the bluegobo clip, but for the album (with Quincy Jones as a co-producer I might add), they chose a belly dance section that has a spectacularly orgasmic brass transition back into the final chorus. It’s really one of those sock it to the back row kind of numbers that is so good you wonder why the rest of the score and show didn’t hold up. “She’ll sing the hell out of it.”- Jerry Herman. He ain’t kidding.
“The Revolutionary Costume for Today” – Grey Gardens, Original Broadway Cast Recording. Hands down, the best list song heard on Broadway since “A Little Priest.” The song, which beautifully encapsulates our introduction to Little Edie and her sense of fashion (which reveals so much about Edie as a colorful and amusing character). Frankel and Korie perfectly adapted her monologue to the Maysles brothers about her clothing philosophy to act as exposition, with sharp imagery, topical references (“those Nixon-Agnew voters”) and brilliantly sophisticated syntax, telling the audience everything you need to know about where Little Edie is at the top of the second act. One of the best new musical numbers of the past decade. The hook is also insanely catchy. I dare you to listen and not go around humming “da da da DA dum.” This is the best musical theatre composition we’ve had on Broadway in years. And how it lost Best Musical, Book and Score is still beyond me.
“Overture” – High Spirits. Original Broadway Cast Recording. A favorite overture of mine. Full out 1960s Broadway brass. Framed by a blast of the lead-in for “Home Sweet Heaven,” it switches into an uptempo version of “Forever and a Day.” goes for another “HSH” blast, before it softens to the strings of “If I Gave You,” the charming act two opener. Then back to the brass for a very early 60s Broadway sound with “I Know Your Heart,” “You Better Love Me.” This all builds with such energy into the coup d’grace: “Home Sweet Heaven.” They pull it back a bit and let it burlesque out. But oh no, they’re not done yet. They pull back even further with every instrument going full-out.
And… I’m done. Time for bed!