Shelley Berman / Eileen Heckart

A Family Affair [Original Cast]

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Described by theater historian Gerald Bordman as "essentially...an extended Jewish joke" about the complications leading up to a wedding, the 1962 musical flop A Family Affair marked the Broadway debuts (at least, in these jobs) of composer and co-lyricist John Kander, co-lyricist James Goldman, librettist William Goldman, director Harold Prince, and choreographer John Butler. Standup comedian Shelley Berman, one of the two above-the-title stars, had appeared in one previous musical flop and never did so again; the other, Eileen Heckart, was a straight actress appearing in her only musical. Both managed to hold their own as singers. Juvenile lead Larry Kert had previously appeared in West Side Story. Linda Lavin, a minor cast member who can be heard, just barely, in one of her parts as Fifi the Dressmaker in the song "Harmony," went on to a more substantial Broadway career. So, of course, did Kander (in his long-running partnership with lyricist Fred Ebb), James Goldman, and Prince, while William Goldman became a successful screenwriter. It is those names that make the cast recording of A Family Affair of interest to show music fans. The score is, not surprisingly, mediocre. Kander clearly had not found his individual identity yet, although he showed talent writing in a variety of styles that included a march, a Hawaiian song, and even a bolero. The album quickly went out of print after being released by United Artists Records. Forty-three years later, independent musical theater specialist DRG Records licensed it from EMI, which had acquired the United Artists catalog, and reissued it on CD on October 18, 2005.

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