Special Theater Shelf Extra: Gorging on Gershwin

Sometimes it seems George Gershwin isn’t gone at all. Even now, Broadway is blessed with the revival of Porgy and Bess and the new Nice Work If You Can Get It. In regional theater, hardly a month goes by without a production of Crazy For You or a revival or one of the warhorses he wrote with his brother, Ira. We mark the 75th anniversary of his death with five reviews by our Brad Hathaway of books and CDs devoted to Gershwin’s works including the new, controversial Broadway version.

Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in ART production of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess / Photo by Michael J. Lutch

By Brad Hathaway

The George Gershwin Reader

July marks an anniversary of an event that I, along with John O’Hara, don’t wish to acknowledge. In 1937 he wrote: “They tell me George Gershwin is dead, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”

Well, I don’t want to believe it either, but I also don’t want to let the seventy-fifth anniversary of that uncountable loss go unmarked. So this month’s Theater Shelf columns will all be devoted to items of and about America’s unique gift to the music and theater world, born Jacob Morris Gershvin in Brooklyn, New York in 1898, but known to the world as George Gershwin.

We begin the month with a relatively slender (only 350 pages) paperback volume that is perfect for those who want to learn just who this George Gershwin was, what he accomplished in his all too brief 38 years and the legacy he left.

It is another of the valuable “Readers” series of Oxford University Press. This time, it is the George Gershwin Reader, edited by Robert Wyatt and John Andrew Johnson who have compiled articles, interviews, letters and sketches by and about their subject with an eye toward revealing both the man and his music.

They begin with “Portraits of the Artist” – seven views penned by his brother Ira, his sister Frances, his long-time friend and presumed lover Kay Swift, his musical side-kick Oscar Levant and others. These concentrate on the man himself.

Then the book turns to the evolution of his career, starting with nine pieces covering his early years (1919 to 1924) and then another eleven items covering his explosion of activity between the opening in December of1924 of his seventh Broadway show but his first big hit, Lady, Be Good! and 1930 when, as the editors put it, “The United States was in the throes of the Great Depression and Gershwin was comfortably on his way toward immortality.”

There are sections on his later works, one concentrating specifically on Porgy and Bess, another on his Hollywood years and others on his final days, his death and the tributes and later assessments of his accomplishments viewed through the lens of passing time.

Among the revelations inside these covers is the eloquence and careful thought that went into Gershwin’s own writing – of prose, not music. In addition to the newsy letters to family and friends giving us a view into his private life, here are articles he wrote on music that are a delight both for the lessons they present and the language he used to make his case in support of the role of jazz in American music.

Said Gershwin, “We are living in an age of staccato, not legato.”

In answer to a university president’s injunction to the graduating class of a School of Music to “beware the dreadful jazz … cultivate good music, hold fast to that which has been proved by time,” Gershwin asked “what would the learned Prexy say if a musician of note should rise before the commencement class in his Scientific School and declaim: ‘Boys and girls, beware the modern in science. Shun evolution and investigations of recent years. Give your time to Lucretius and the established classics of the golden age of King Tut. There is no such thing as progress. All that is good is old. All that is new is bad.’ ”

Talk about reductio absurdum!

I was also struck by his ability to turn a neat phrase. Writing about the flood of popular music as the age of the phonograph and radio stimulated an outpouring of Tin Pan Alley tunes, he said there had never been “such a plethora of composers – professional, amateur, and alleged.”

There’s no surprise in the acerbic humor found in the articles by Oscar Levant, probably the premier performer of Gershwin’s classical piano pieces other than the composer himself. Of course, he’s a legendary wit, but it is a kick running into some of his bon mots such as the question he once put to Gershwin: “Tell me, George, if you had to do it all over, would you fall in love with yourself again?” Not all of Levant is flippant, however. His devotion to his friend is clear from his writing which includes the observation on Gershwin’s enthusiasm for life: He “woke up excited, eager to see what the new day would bring.”

Other memorable comments abound. Isaac Goldberg wrote about Gershwin’s early musical education which was minimal (he studied with notables as an adult but that was after he’d already achieved success.) As Goldberg wrote, Gershwin was “the product less of tuition than of intuition.”

There are reprints of reviews of the premieres of some of his major works including Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F and shows such as Strike Up The Band, some of which are insightful as well as fascinating. Robert Benchley’s comments on the later “devastating satire” of war and war-makers maintained that such a satire would only be allowed “during those intervals when nobody happens, for the moment, to be wanting to make a war.”

The editors don’t limit themselves to puff pieces or plaudits, presenting a cross section of opinion. Olin Downes, writing about An American in Paris, finds that “it is still considerably easier … for (Gershwin) to invent ideas than to develop them.”

The 46-page, seven-article section on Porgy and Bess is of particular interest today as the latest Broadway revival just won the Tony Award for the Best Revival of a Musical after stimulating much controversy over the liberties it took with the original work. The section includes some of the correspondence between Gershwin and DuBose Heyward who wrote the original novel of Porgy, co-wrote the play and then collaborated on the opera with Gershwin and his brother Ira. Also included are two reviews of the Broadway premiere of the folk opera from The New York Times which sent both their drama critic, Brooks Atkinson, and their music critic, Olin Downes, to cover the event, plus lengthy interviews with both its Porgy, Todd Duncan, and its Bess, Anne Brown.

As if that weren’t enough, the sampling of obituaries and tributes coming after his death from a brain tumor accompany a detailed report on the last days from George A. Pallay, the friend of the Gershwin family who actually attended the final operation. Reading through its rather clinical account simply reinforces my resistance to believing that the composer who was such a force of nature could have been silenced at such a young age, depriving him of the pleasure of his success for decades to come and us of the untold musical treasures which would have come from the brain that tumor shut down.

The George Gershwin Reader
Oxford University Press
354 Pages including a Chronology, Selected Bibliography and Index
ISBN: 0195130197
List Price $25

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 Porgy and Bess – in print and on disc

Let’s face it – George Gershwin’s masterpiece Porgy and Bess must occupy some of the theater shelf of any serious lover of either music or theater. In fact, so many books, CDs and DVDs offer quality material, that a Porgy and Bess section could be a separate cabinet – and a large one.

There really isn’t any one “best” recording of P&B, nor is there one “best” book on the subject, but I’ve got some suggestions for those who want the basics.

First off, of the many books on the subject, one new release serves the purpose of a readable introduction, combined with enough depth and apparent accuracy to be a real source of information and perspective. The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, A 75th Anniversary Celebration by Robin Thompson may look a bit like a coffee table book since its large (8 1/2″ x 11″) pages present big type and lots of white space with nearly 200 black and white and color illustrations.

It is not, however, a show off book. It is not filled with fluff. Instead, its text is a well structured recitation of the multiple stories that add up to how the great American Folk Opera came to be, and then covers the history of its productions from the 1935 premiere to just before the current Broadway revival.

Thompson sketches the lives of George Gershwin, his lyricist brother Ira, and DuBose Heyward, the South Carolina aristocrat who wrote the novel and co-wrote the play and then wrote the libretto and most of the lyrics for the opera. He details the rehearsal process for the original production and introduces the reader to director Ruben Mamoulian, producers Theresa Helburn and Lawrence Langer of the Theatre Guild, and the original stars, Todd Duncan and Anne Brown. He gives a fair treatment to the fact that it was a financial failure as a Broadway show, but that its 124 consecutive performances was an unprecedented accomplishment for an opera. It then details the revivals and major productions in the US and around the world which track the transition from a financial flop into an acknowledged masterpiece.

So, now you know a bit about the work and you want to watch it. What’s out there? The Samuel Goldwyn movie version with Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis, Jr. is not available on DVD because the Gershwin estate has refused permission. Those who want a quality video of Porgy and Bess can thank EMI Classics for releasing the telecast version directed by Trevor Nunn. The combination of superb singing, deep resonant sound and visual semi-realism works for me, although the sound often seems separate from the visual.

That production is also available in an audio CD, but it is only one of many choices you might enjoy. There is a recording of the early 1950s production which toured to 70 cities on five continents, including groundbreaking performances in Russia and in East Germany. This is the production that made a star of Leontyne Price and also featured Cab Calloway as Sportin’ Life.

RCA released the complete opera in its Houston Grand Opera production. Thomas Z. Shepard, the record’s producer, used sound effects and wide-spread stereo to create the illusion of a full production which works well even today.  My favorite operatic rendition, however, is Lorin Maazel conducting the Cleveland Orchestra in the opera as it existed before Gershwin found he had to cut much of it because it ran so long.

The latest addition to my Porgy and Bess shelf is the PS Classics two-disc recording of the current Broadway revival staring Tony Award winner Audra McDonald and three Tony Award nominees: Norm Lewis as a thrillingly human Porgy, David Alan Grier as a seductive dandy Sportin’ Life and Phillip Boykin as a thoroughly despicable but vibrantly virile Crown.

The recording beautifully captures the strengths of the production, but also documents some of its weaknesses.

In its effort to convert the three-act “American Folk Opera” into a more traditional two-act Broadway musical, cuts were made and liberties were taken. In the theater it is an often thrilling experience and the changes which caused controversy prior to its opening are less intrusive and less destructive than had been predicted.

One aspect that mars the production in the theater is by its very nature an aspect that also mars the recording. The orchestrations by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, two practitioners of that refined art of aural color whose skill and taste have impressed in earlier projects, fail to match the musical strengths of the vocals they support.

They had to work under horrendous constraints, however. The original orchestrations of George Gershwin were for a pit orchestra of over 40 which is more than any modern Broadway show could afford. The current revival could only afford 22 which is still a huge orchestra for a show today. For those used to the massive sounds of Gershwin’s glorious originals, these new orchestrations simply sound skimpy. What is more, Brohn and Jahnke made decisions about the arrangements which do some violence to the original work of Gershwin. While Gershwin’s orchestra consistently lent a sense of majesty, always granting a feeling of dignity to the world of southern blacks that he was portraying, the new orchestrations seem at times to descend to a Disney-ish view of southern “coloreds” of the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah school.

The recording attempts to minimize the difference in the size of the orchestra by augmenting the players in the studio with four more violins, but that still leaves the new forces short nine strings, two reeds and five brass players when compared to Gershwin’s originals. There are also distracting artificial sounding accents used from time to time (and, then, not consistently). While Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward struggled to find a way to present the Gullah dialect spoken by the people on the outer banks near Charleston, South Carolina, without either confusing the audience or seeming to be demeaning, modern ears may well stumble over “A Woman Is A Sometime Thang.”

Still, this new recording has many moments to be treasured. Nearly every minute that Norm Lewis’ Porgy is speaking or singing is a revelation, for he brings a humanity to the role that builds in intensity as the cripple gains a new level of self respect from the love of Bess. His exclamation “Bess, you got a man now – You got Porgy” after he kills Crown touches the heart, while his final determination to follow her to the ends of the earth is overwhelming. Particularly notable is his “I Got Plenty of Nothing,” a thrilling release of joy by a man who never expected to experience the love of a woman.

The title of the current revival and the title of the new book is The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which is a shame. Many operas and musical theater pieces are known by the name of the composer. (After all, we speak of Mozart’s The Magic Flute without mentioning Schikander.) So I don’t know that I’d object to calling each of these Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. But placing the apostrophe after the “s” in “Gershwins'” includes Ira while explicitly excludes Heyward whose contribution to the entire project was clearly greater than Ira Gershwin’s. It was his story, his novel, his play, his libretto and most of the songs … including “Summertime” and “My Man’s Gone Now” had his lyrics. He should not be excluded thus!

DVD Directed by Trevor Nunn – EMI Classics ASIN: B00005LIN0
1940s Recording with original cast members – Broadway MCA ASIN: B000002OJM
1952 Live Recording in Berlin – Guild ASIN: B0017RRDRS
Houston Grand Opera – RCA Red Seal – ASIN: B000003EMO
Cleveland Orchestra 3 Disc Set – Decca ASIN: B000SSPKZ4
2012 Broadway Cast – PS Classics – ASIN: B007FEHA34

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The Gershwins in Hollywood

Permit me a digression to discuss a treasured item from my own theater shelf – a disc you may have to search for in order to get, but would be well worth the trouble and expense.

In 1991, the old Philips Classics label issued a disc (catalog number 434-274-2) that documented the incredibly productive last year of George’s life. It was titled The Gershwins in Hollywood. For the most part, it used the original orchestrations from the movies for which George and Ira wrote their final songs. Five of the 14 tracks were instrumental leaving nine that featured the vocals of the late Gregory Hines and Patti Austin. The orchestra, under conductor John Mauceri, was the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

That orchestra possessed the heft and the exquisite musicianship that was often found in the orchestras assembled for movie studio soundstages after the advent of “all singing, all dancing” talkies. Mauceri’s credentials for the project were impeccable as an established conductor of opera and symphony orchestras who also worked as musical director for Broadway productions of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, Richard Rodgers’ On Your Toes and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance.  What is more, record producer Michael Gore’s engineer, Joel Moss, used a wide-spread stereo to emphasize the expanse of the orchestra to bring to mind the sound of the musicals of the ‘30s, making it almost feel as if you are at the recording sessions for the films.

The selection of late Hines and Austin as vocalists for the album was particularly appropriate. It is hard to come up with the name of another well known male vocalist of the 1990s when this album was recorded that had vocal qualities so like those of Astaire for whom many of these songs were written. Just like Astaire, he was a dancer who sang and, perhaps as a result, the rhythmic element of a song propelled his delivery. Austin has a blend of jazz and pop that seems to allow her to play with a lyric while delivering a melodic line with pizzazz.

The catalog of material they had to choose from was nothing short of astonishing given the short time the Gershwins spent on the sunset side of the continent.

After the disappointing initial run of Porgy and Bess, George and Ira accepted contracts to work on films in Hollywood. They left New York by air on August 10, 1936, just 11 months before George’s short life was ended by a brain tumor at the age of 38. In those 11 months, they wrote songs for two Fred Astaire films, Shall We Dance, which was the seventh of his films with Ginger Rogers, and A Damsel in Distress in which his leading lady was the non-singing, non-dancing Joan Fontaine. When George died they were working on songs for the Samuel Goldwyn feature The Goldwyn Follies.

The songs recorded in this album, using the orchestrations from the films, included “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck,” “Slap That Bass,” “They All Laughed,” “A Foggy Day,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Love Walked In” and “Love Is Here to Stay.” That all of these were written in less than a year is amazing, but the album doesn’t even have all the hits they wrote that year. It is missing “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “I Can’t Be Bothered Now” and “Things Are Looking Up” as well as lesser known titles such as “Hi-Ho! At Last,” “Wake Up, Brother, and Dance,” “The Jolly Tar and the Milkmaid,” “Stiff Upper Lip,” “Sing of Spring,” “Pay Some Attention To Me,” “I Was Doing All Right,” “I Love to Rhyme” and “Just Another Rhumba.”

And that’s only the songs. George also composed eight instrumental pieces. One of the delights of this album is that it includes two of these instrumentals – the lilting “Walking the Dog” number for Astaire and Rogers when their characters meet on board an ocean liner and the full production number “Watch Your Step!” that had Astaire dancing with an entire chorus of girls wearing Ginger Rogers masks.

To open the album, the orchestra delivers a superb performance of an “Overture” that veteran orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett assembled featuring melodies from their Hollywood output. Later on the disc, Bennett’s charts and those of George Parish for “A Damsel in Distress” are restored and edited into a suite which is here titled “An American in London.” The original charts are used for the recording of the final ballet of Shall We Dance, “Watch Your Step.”

The most valuable instrumental item on the album is the first commercial recording of Gershwin’s own orchestration of the final segment of “Delicious,” the single film the Gershwins worked on in their earlier trip west. In essence, it is a ten-minute piano concerto which he later re-worked into his “Second Rhapsody.” Here we hear his original 1931 orchestrations with Wayne Marshall playing the piano part.

Speaking of Gershwin orchestrations, his chart for the “Walking the Dog” number is a revelation of wit. Two other orchestrations, however, jump out of my earphone speakers into my consciousness as unarguably brilliant. They are the orchestral background for two classic Gershwin songs, “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” and “Slap That Bass.” They are both by Johnny Green who went on to win no fewer than four Oscars for musical direction (Easter Parade, An American in Paris, West Side Story, Oliver!).

There are many recordings of theater music that have gone out of print, many featuring music composed by George Gershwin. None, in my opinion, as enjoyable and fascinating as this one.

The Gershwins in Hollywood
Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
Philips Classics 434 274-2
Out of print but offered online

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The Memory of All That
George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities

Having begun this month’s concentration on George Gershwin with a review of a book I enthusiastically endorsed, I’m sorry to say this week we look at one I cannot recommend for its Gershwin content.

In spite of the fact that its title would lead you to believe that Gershwin was at least a major topic of the volume, Katharine Weber’s book adds little to what you would know about George Gershwin if you read The George Gershwin Reader .
This book lends new meaning to the phrase “a real page turner.” Normally, that means a book so interesting that you can’t wait to turn the page to find out what comes next. Here, on the other hand, you keep turning the page to find out when the author is going to start writing about George Gershwin. By the time you get to the 100th page, you’ve only found two paragraphs about the composer whose name is so prominent in the book’s title.

And what have you learned? That in 1936, when visiting a friend in a hospital, the author’s father discovered that Gershwin was in the same hospital undergoing tests and he dropped in on him every day for three days. Whether or not they actually knew each other or if her father simply enjoyed pestering famous persons isn’t known. She says “It is impossible to know if Gershwin welcomed these visits from someone he barely knew, or slept through them.”

The chapter in which Weber begins to deal with Gershwin doesn’t start until page 126 of this 270-page book. It isn’t a chapter on Gershwin however. It is a chapter on the author’s grandmother, the Kay Swift of the title. Swift was, of course, the composer of the musical Fine and Dandy who had a deep and lasting relationship with Gershwin which is generally assumed to have been a decade-long romantic and sexual affair. It is that which leads those interested in Gershwin to read the book in the first place.

Swift was a fascinating presence in Gershwin’s life and an interesting part of Broadway’s history in her own right. (There’s a delightful recording of her score for Fine and Dandy on PS Classics – ASIN: B0001XAQDM, and a thoroughly researched full biography of her entitled Fine and Dandy – The Life and Work of Kay Swift, by Vicki Ohl, published by the Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-10261-5.)

Information on Swift’s life and career contained in Weber’s book adds some color to drier, more academic writings about Gershwin and Swift. For example, a three paragraph quote from Swift’s own notes for a possible memoir give a delightful look at one night in Gershwin’s life when Swift took him to see Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and they ended up stumbling into a pile of snow as they exited the theater in their formal evening wear.

The one chapter in the eight-chapter book that purports to be about Gershwin is titled, as is the book, “The Memory of All That” – a line from the Gershwin song “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” The chapter, however, is not really about Gershwin. It is more about Swift and the impact that her relationship with Gershwin had on the lives of others in Weber’s family. It is here, however, between pages 127 and 221, that you will find what interesting material about George Gershwin there is in the book.

There is a great deal of speculation in the book: family traditions that can’t be proven true or false, suppositions that can’t be documented, possible lies (white or otherwise) told by relations she believes or suspects deviated from the truth whenever it was convenient. Some of this is interesting, some is titillating – and some is downright objectionable. She indulges in a bit of speculation as to whether Gershwin might have taken some indecent liberties (unspecified) with her mother, the daughter of Kay Swift. There is no evidence of such a thing presented and even the author says first “I am suspicious of my own suspicion” and then “My best guess is that nothing that would qualify in contemporary terms as literally abusive ever occurred between my mother and George.” Then what the heck is it doing in this book? And why is there no indication anywhere that she undertook any independent investigation into any possible source of evidence other than items in her own family’s possession?

Notably, the book has no index, no footnotes, no endnotes, no bibliography and no indication of sources. Weber does, however, include five family trees covering the major branches of her story. They come in handy time and again when it isn’t clear just whom is related to whom and how.

All of this is not to say that the book wouldn’t be of interest to other readers. Surely, Mrs. Weber’s family will all find the book alternately fascinating and infuriating, depending on whose secret she’s discussing on which page. And there are thousands – perhaps tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands – who read her novels and will find material here that explains the views she brings to her fiction. She is the author of five novels, including Triangle, a piece of historical fiction centered on the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which 146 garment workers died in New York City in 1911. This book reveals that the author’s great-grandmother was a garment worker at that same factory until shortly before the fire, which lends a sense of personal connection to the tale.

But those who learn of this book from this column, presumably those theater aficionados who want to learn about George Gershwin, need be warned that the title’s promise of information about the great composer goes unfulfilled. In short, I read the book so you don’t have to.
The Memory of All That –
George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities
by Katharine Weber
Broadway Paperbacks – New York
ISBN 978-0-307-39589-4
List Price $14

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Sweet Little Devil – World Premiere Recording

As we continue our look at works by and about George Gershwin, we are fortunate to have a first class world premiere recording of an obscure early work of his to savor.

It comes as no surprise that the name Tommy Krasker graces the credits for PS Classics’ recording of Sweet Little Devil, the Broadway show that launched Gershwin’s big year, 1924. We have Krasker to thank for the bulk of the recordings of Gershwin’s shows which cause many of our theater shelves to groan under the weight of box sets of scores which track the growth of this American genius.

He’s given us, among others, irreplaceable recordings of Girl Crazy, Lady, Be Good!, Oh, Kay!, Strike Up the Band, Tell Me More and Pardon My English.

Sweet Little Devil ran for three and a half months starting in January of 1924. That may not sound impressive today but at the time the hope of every firstnighter was for a show that would run for the balance of the season. This one did.

But it was just the beginning of a year that would convert George Gershwin from a well-thought-of professional to a rising star in the world of American music – popular, theatrical and even the concert pieces written for halls that usually featured Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

February of that year brought the premiere of his first concert piece – the classic Rhapsody in Blue. April had him performing Rhapsody at Carnegie Hall! Then he crossed the Atlantic to open a West End musical, Primrose. By December he was back on Broadway with his first mega-hit, the Fred and Adele Astaire vehicle Lady, Be Good!

You can track the continued growth in his craft over the course of that year and on for nearly another fifteen years. That progress was to reveal itself in concert works like first the Concerto in F and then American in Paris, Second Rhapsody and The Cuban Overture.

More striking, however, was his improvement as a theater composer. His scores became more sophisticated without becoming less popular or less pleasing. But to track a growth curve, one must begin with a starting point and Sweet Little Devil provides just that point at the bottom of the left hand side of the chart.

It is the last of the scores Gershwin would compose that fails to rise much above the level of his contemporary colleagues. That was, of course, a fairly high bar and clearing it was no small achievement. But, while every Gershwin score had a song or two (or three or four or more) of note, this was the last score that, as a whole, didn’t rise much above the competent.

That is not to say the score lacks either charm or beauty. Just listen to the overture – so well recorded here that you feel as if you might be sitting in an orchestra seat at the old Astor Theatre at the corner of Broadway and 45th Street, having just walked under its three lantern-like chandeliers where the Marriott Marquis now sits having displaced the Astor, the Morosco, the Bijou, the Follies Bergere and the Gaiety.

“You’re Mighty Lucky” offers a lilting melody that ends up winding itself around a central point as it becomes a charming counterpoint duet. “The Jijibo” is one of those “here’s a new dance that’s sweeping the nation” kind of romp. The lyric that Buddy DeSylva wrote for “Quite a Party” has enough references to brand names that, had it been written in the age of product placement payments, could have financed the entire production. His “Just Supposing” is clever and Gershwin came up with a catchy setting for it.

All of this is performed before a ten-piece pit band playing the original charts prepared by the legendary orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett. Here we get a treat from Brian Miller’s flute on the delightful flourishes Bennett provided for the flowing melody of “Someone Believes in You.” Tony Kadleck’s trumpet taking a solo spot in the nearly five-minute long overture is another notable moment. This was also an early example of Bennett’s work, and the recording provides a chance to base a study of his growth as well. He went on to chart such landmarks as Show Boat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Camelot.

The amount of music in the score is a bit slender by today’s standards. It totals just about 50 minutes. Krasker has fleshed out the recording with enough dialogue to place the songs in context. After a first listen, you may want to program your machine to skip over the two tracks that are just spoken (Tracks 7 and 13) but you will still get a few passages of talk, some with underscoring. All told, the disc runs 56:33.

Collectors of show records will recognize some of the cast that Krasker has assembled here including three-time Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein (The Drowsy Chaperone, South Pacific, Follies) and his wife, the incandescent Rebecca Luker who is also a three-time Tony Award nominee (Mary Poppins, The Music Man, Show Boat). The lead male role is sung by PS Classics co-founder, the silver throated Philip Chaffin, while the side-kick role is the province of the always enthusiastic Jason Graae.

The female lead, a role written for the then-famous, now-obscure Constance Binney, is voiced by a suitably sparkly Sara Jean Ford.

If you don’t already happen to have the recordings mentioned in the third paragraph above, you might want to order them before you get to this one. Indeed, you should also order Michael Tilson Thomas’ recordings of Of Thee I Sing and Let ‘Em Eat Cake. Then, add this one along with Pardon My English, Tip-Toes and Tell Me More.

That should make your theater shelf slump a bit at the “G” section.

Sweet Little Devil
PS Classics Catalog PS-1207
Running time 56:30 over 18 tracks
Packaged with notes and synopsis
List price $15.95

Other score recordings of note:
Girl Crazy – Label: Nonesuch ASIN: B000005J0J
Lady, Be Good! – Label: Nonesuch ASIN: B000005J1V
Of Thee I Sing and Let ‘Em Eat Cake – Label: Sony ASIN: B0000026H7
Oh, Kay – Label: Nonesuch ASIN: B000005J3C
Pardon My English – Label: Nonesuch ASIN: B000005J2N
Strike Up the Band 1927 Version – Label: Nonesuch ASIN: B002LBCAT0
Strike Up the Band 1930 Version – Label: P.S. Classics ASIN: B004YOECTI
Tip-Toes and Tell Me More – Label: New World Records ASIN: B00005RGM8

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