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Frederick LOEWE (1901–1988)
My Fair Lady (1956)
Original Broadway Cast Recording
1. Overture [3:01]
2. Why can’t the English [2:41]
3. Wouldn’t it be loverly [3:58]
4. With a little bit of luck [4:08]
5. I’m an ordinary man [4:39]
6. Just you wait [2:43]
7. The rain in Spain [2:41]
8. I could have danced all night [3:30]
9. Ascot gavotte [3:15]
10. On the street where you live [2:57]
11. You did it [4:23]
12. Show me [2:12]
13. Get me to the church on time [2:43]
14. A hymn to him [3:30]
15. Without you [2:03]
16. I’ve grown accustomed to her face [4:04]
17. Finale [1:10]
Julie Andrews – Eliza Doolittle; Rex Harrison – Henry Higgins; Robert Coote – Colonel Pickering; Stanley Holloway – Alfred Doolittle; Philippa Bevans – Mrs Pearce – Gordon Dilworth – Harry; Rod McLennan – Jamie; John Michael King – Freddy Eynsford-Hill; Reid Skelton, Glenn Kezer, James Morris, Herb Surface – Cockneys; Orchestra / Franz Allers
18. The embassy waltz [2:44]
Percy Faith & His Orchestra
Lyrics By Lerner
The Day Before Spring:
19. A jug of wine [4:00]
20. Almost like being in love [1:54]
21. The heather on the hill [3:07]
22. There but for you go I [2:20]
23. Love of my life [3:15]
Kaye Ballard (19-21, 23), Alan Jay Lerner (22); Billy Taylor (piano), Allen Hanlon (guitar), Milt Hinton or Clyde Lombard (bass), Herb Harris or Percy Brice (drums)
rec. New York, 26 March 1956 (1-17), 17 April 1956 (18), 1955 (19-23)
NAXOS 8.120876 [72:07]


Experience Classicsonline

Within roughly eighteen months two of Broadway’s most successful and long-lived musicals were premiered: My Fair Lady on 15 March 1956 and West Side Story on 26 September 1957. Leonard Bernstein’s Romeo and Juliet-based show ran for 732 performances in the original production while Frederick Loewe’s and Alan Jay Lerner’s Bernard Shaw adaptation reached no less than 2717 performances. Both musicals were later filmed and for the 1964 My Fair Lady movie director George Cukor brought over Rex Harrison’s Higgins as well as Stanley Holloway’s Alfred Doolittle. Julie Andrews was rejected in favour of Audrey Hepburn, who was supposed to be a more selling name, in spite of not being able to sing the part. She had to mime to the voice of Marni Nixon. Julie Andrews eventually got her due in films like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. In 1958 it reached London and on 3 February 1959 it opened at the Oscarsteatern in Stockholm. The original Swedish cast was also recorded and all the songs were frequently heard on the radio – I learnt them that way. There have been at least two revivals in Stockholm and on 12 September this year (2008) still another production will be mounted at Oscars.

Original cast recordings tend to capture the atmosphere of a musical better than any later assumptions and this My Fair Lady is no exception. When Columbia set it down just a week and a half after the stage premiere the entire cast was still fresh and enjoying themselves greatly. This is very obvious when one returns to it after a good many years. It is worth noting that all seventeen numbers were recorded in a single day. Clearly everyone was on the ball. Franz Allers, known to operetta lovers through a great number of classic Viennese operetta recordings, conducts the score with obvious relish and ideal tempos. The readings of the central roles are classics with the young Julie Andrews fresh as dew and hilariously cockneyish. Her wrath is really tangible in Just you wait, ’enry ’iggins. Her father is memorably acted by Stanley Holloway and Rex Harrison has probably never been surpassed, not even by his slightly older self in the film version. John Michael King sings well as Freddy and it is interesting to find James Morris, who later became one of the greatest Wagner singers in the world, as one of the cockneys. When this was recorded he was not yet twenty. As a bonus we also get The Embassy Waltz, recorded by Percy Faith and His Orchestra a couple of weeks later. There was obviously not room enough for that music on the original LP.

A further bonus is five songs from two other Lerner & Loewe collaborations, The Day Before Spring and Brigadoon. Four of them are sung by the splendidly expressive Kaye Ballard, including a riveting vaudeville number as the final track, and There But For You Go I is charmingly sung by Mr Lerner himself.

The sound is not up to today’s standard but is more than acceptable. There are other recordings on the market, besides the film sound-track Decca recorded it with Jeremy Irons as Higgins, Kiri Te Kanawa as Eliza and Jerry Hadley as a classy Freddy. I have always liked that disc but nothing can beat the present original cast recording. A necessary purchase for every lover of this immortal musical comedy.

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Patrick Gary


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