The Reprise Repertory Theatre

Finian's Rainbow [Reprise Repertory Theatre]

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After founding Reprise Records and signing a bunch of his fellow pop singers to the label, Frank Sinatra conceived the idea of "the Reprise Repertory Theatre," which is to say, albums of songs from Broadway shows as sung by the stable of company artists. This is the first of those LPs, devoted to the 1947 musical Finian's Rainbow. It is not a "studio cast" recording like those record companies sometimes do, in the sense that individual performers have not been cast in the roles in the show; rather, the songs have been parceled out without consideration of the characters who sing them in the show. Nor is there any fidelity to characterization or to the original orchestrations. On the contrary, the whole idea here is to take the songs from Finian's Rainbow and perform them the way these artists might do on their own albums. The arrangements are contemporary pop ones like what one might hear at a Las Vegas show or on a TV variety show or on another Reprise LP. Sinatra has given pride of place first of all to himself (he sings "Old Devil Moon" and "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love") and to his Rat Pack chums Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., each of whom also get two tracks. So does Rosemary Clooney, who handles two ballads that in the show belong to the female lead, Sharon, "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" and "Look to the Rainbow." The performances by these stars sound exactly like what one might have expected. The more unexpected performances come from the secondary performers, including a cute duet between Bing Crosby and Debbie Reynolds on "Something Sort of Grandish"; a bizarre version of "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich" that finds Lou Monte and the Mary Kaye Trio negotiating an arrangement that veers from Renaissance classical to brassy swing; and a treatment of "The Begat" by the McGuire Sisters that eliminates lyricist E.Y. Harburg's derisive reference to the Republican Party. Most welcome is Clark Dennis' reprise of "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" Dennis is a real Irish tenor, and it would have been appropriate to give him more to do, if he were only as big a name as some of his labelmates at Reprise.

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