Irving Berlin's Annie
Get Your Gun first opened at the Imperial
Theatre on May 16, 1946, and ran for 1,147
performances. It was the third longest running
musical of the 1940s and the biggest Broadway
hit of Ethel Merman's career. The music is
arguably Irving Berlin’s most enchanting and
distinguished complete score. It was certainly
the greatest box-office triumph of his career,
and it yielded at least half a dozen substantial
song hits. Indeed, "There’s No Business
Like Show Business" has since
become the unofficial anthem of American theater.
As brilliant and inventive
as Berlin's melodies and lyrics are, his was
by no means the only salient contribution
to the remarkable production. Mention also
is normally made of Ethel Merman's compelling
and irresistible performance as Annie, Joshua
Logan's imaginative staging and the colorful
choreography of Helen Tamiris. Thus it certainly
seems that it would be a blessing when Naxos
re-released the original Broadway cast recordings
bundled with the original 1950 film soundtrack.
They even were kind enough to add a couple
of other distinguished performances.
The album starts with a well
done Boston Pops recording of a medley of
the music. The performance itself is worthy
of preservation, with Arthur Fiedler conducting
and the Pops in top form. Though the recording
fidelity is certainly nothing special, it
is evident that Naxos took great care to get
as clean a recording as possible for the mastering.
There is only so much that one can do with
historical recordings of this type, and at
least for this track they’ve taken the original
recording as far as possible.
Unfortunately the same cannot
be said of the original Broadway cast recordings.
While the performances are definitely energetic
and fun, there is a loud tape hiss throughout
the entire playback. Certainly these are vintage
recordings, and there is a trade-off in fidelity
when the tape noise is removed, but some reduction
in high fidelity would certainly be warranted
when the noise is as loud as it is in this
The 1953 encore recording
of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin singing "There’s
No Business Like Show Business" is better
recorded and produced. Unfortunately the performance
itself is not particularly good. The two singers
perform in unison, vying for the lead and
attention throughout. The best that can be
said of the performance is that it is short.
The final eight tracks from
the film soundtrack cast are less energetic,
but more polished than the Broadway recordings.
Even though Merman made the part of Annie
Oakley famous, Betty Hutton does a better
job singing the role. It’s probable that Merman’s
stage performance was the superior one. For
at least these recordings, Hutton’s delivery
is sung rather than belted throughout. The
remastering is also better accomplished, with
far less tape noise and better sound fidelity.
This could be because the recording technology
was superior, but the fact remains that these
are both better performances and recordings.
The fact that these are original
Broadway and film cast recordings certainly
makes this album a historical record of note.
As a result, anyone who is going to perform
the musical or is interested in the history
of the Broadway musical would enjoy this album.
Unfortunately, with the sound fidelity problems
that accompany the centerpiece recordings
of this album, it is difficult to highly recommend
this album to any other audience.