So often original Broadway casts outshone their screen equivalents and so it is here. Actors (rather than singers) Robert Alda and Isabel Bigley led this stage production together with Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye, both of whom also appeared in the rather flat 1955 Samuel Goldwyn film that starred Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando. The show opened on Broadway on November 24th 1950 and ran for 1200 performances. It is constantly revived to this day.
Viviane Blaine, who specialised in playing dumb blondes, appeared in a number of films in the 1940s and ‘50s including Jitterbugs (1943), State Fair (1945) and Three Little Girls in Blue (1946), as well as the film of Guys and Dolls. Here, she shines in the show’s witty gems beginning with (I love you) ‘A bushel and a peck.’ In ‘Adelaide’ Lament’ she bewails that “just waiting around for that little band of gold, a person can develop - a cold,” adding, “the medicine never gets near where the trouble is...” With an indignant echoing chorus, by the The Hot Box Girls, she later rages, in ‘Take back your mink’, “what made you think I was one of those girls, I may be down but I’m not as flat as all that.” In retaliation, her errant gangster lover pleads, “‘Sue Me’ shoot bullets through me, I love you.” Unimpressed, she rails “You promise me this, you promise me that…we’re through…” In the end, though, she agrees with Sister Sarah, “You can’t get alterations on a dress you haven’t bought … so why not marry the man today trouble though he maybe - as much as he likes to play, rather than sigh and sorrow, you can change his ways tomorrow…give him your hand today and save the fist for after…”
Stout comedian Stubby Kaye’s films included Cat Ballou (1965) and Sweet Charity (1968) as well as Guys and Dolls. His number ‘Sit down you’re rocking the boat’ is one of the big hits of this musical and indelibly associated with him.
Isabel Bigley is a sassy heroine. She puts plenty of vim and zip into her ‘If I were a bell’ – “ask me how I feel after this chemistry lesson – all I can say is that if I was a bridge, I would be burning.” Then she surrenders in the hit romantic duet with Alda, ‘I’ve never been in love before.’ Robert Alda is an equally ardent Sky Masterson in this duet and fervent in his prayer, ‘Luck be a Lady’ (tonight).
The bonus tracks include alternate versions of ‘Three cornered tune’ (a reworking of the opening number on this album, ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’) sung by Dinah Shore; and ‘Sue Me’ with Morey Amsterdam and a very nagging, shrewish trumpet-in-the-hat. Another bonus is Loesser’s ‘Baby it’s cold outside from the film Neptune’s Daughter featuring Lynn and Frank Loesser singing with piano accompaniment.
But most of the bonuses (six tracks) are devoted to another Loesser musical, Where’s Charley? Ray Bolger (The Wizard of Oz and April in Paris etc) sings ‘Once in Love with Amy’ – so too, on another track, does Norman Wisdom (astonishingly romantic-sounding) in another version of the song. (Wisdom played the leading role in the London production of this not-too-successful musical.) Heartthrob, Gordon McRae (On Moonlight Bay, Oklahoma! and Carousel) joins with Jo Stafford to sing (“I’ve wanted to call you –“) ‘My darling, My darling’ (“- for a very long day”). The Loessers also duet in their own version of ‘Make a Miracle’ sung on an earlier track by the irrepressible Ray Bolger and Allyn McLerie.
Packed with good old tunes, witty as well as romantic, here is another recommended Naxos nostalgia trip.