These original cast recordings are great fun, and,
though they are not recorded at live performances, have a tangible immediacy
and period feel to them. Many of these songs are now classics, and the
ones from Guys and Dolls in particular are here sung by the performers
with whom they are most strongly associated. The Fugue for Tin Horns
as performed here by the great Stubby Kaye and friends is of course
a classic, and there are many more delights. I loved the humour and
sheer joie de vivre of Isabel Bigley’s If I were a Bell, and
Vivian Blaine, in Adelaide’s Lament, manages to be both hilarious
and touching. On the minus side, Robert Alda is a distinctly smarmy-voiced
male lead (listen to the way he sings ‘I’ve never been in lurv before’,
for example!), which is a pity, as he rather spoils the duet with
Bigley, I’ll Know. Nonetheless, the performances have a really
authenticity to them, and all the panache of the show is here.
The same goes for The King and I, though of
course it’s a very different type of show from Guys and Dolls.
Where the latter is economical, getting its results in the simplest
and most direct ways, Rogers and Hammerstein were aiming at something
much more sophisticated and romantically intense. Some of the more ‘serious’
numbers have, I find, dated; My Lord and Master, and Something
Wonderful for example, might be a little hard to take for some,
but there’s always the lightness of I whistle a happy tune, or
the mock-oriental charm of March of the Siamese Children. And
some of the musical subtleties are genuinely impressive; take the complex
key and chord structures of We kiss in the shadows, which contribute
to its poignancy of expression.
If you’re old enough to remember the early 50s, this
will take you back in the most painless way possible; if you’re not
– get wise!