In the 1954-55 Broadway season, musical theater fans had their pick of leading ladies, from veteran Mary Martin in Peter Pan to newcomer Julie Andrews in The Boyfriend, and including Pearl Bailey in Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's celebrated flop House of Flowers, Hildegarde Neff in Cole Porter's final show, Silk Stockings, and Gwen Verdon in the season's biggest hit, Damn Yankees. Little wonder, then, that second-echelon sisters Betty and Jane Kean had trouble breaking through the traffic with Ankles Aweigh. It didn't help that the show seemed like such a throwback; Guy Bolton, whose first Broadway credit dated back 40 years, co-wrote the libretto for this frothy service comedy, and "dated" was the key word. Sammy Fain, a successful songwriter who worked primarily in Hollywood and was involved with many other Broadway failures, wrote the music to lyrics by Dan Shapiro, and while the resulting score was certainly adequate, boasting an Arlen-style blues tune in "Headin' for the Bottom Blues," an answer to Rodgers & Hammerstein's "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame" in "Nothing Can Replace a Man," and a dreamy ballad in "His and Hers" (not to mention the raucous drinking song "Here's to Dear Old Us" and the forward-looking "Honeymoon," which shockingly proposed that affianced couples should try having the honeymoon before the wedding), it was no more than adequate. Like the show itself, it often seemed generic; this was a musical in which the "eleven o'clock song" (a Broadway term for the big song placed near the end) was actually called "An Eleven O'Clock Song." Betty and Jane Kean gave their all to the material, though Betty had occasional pitch problems, and their male partners, Mark Dawson and Lew Parker, matched them. The show opened April 18, 1955, and ran a surprisingly long 22 weeks, still not enough to turn a profit. Decca Records, which recorded it, didn't help matters. Although the recording session took place in May, the LP was not issued until October, after the show had closed.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Ankles Aweigh, musical play|