Lyricist/librettists Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the musical Bells Are Ringing as a vehicle for Judy Holliday, their old partner from their nightclub act the Revuers. Holliday was an Academy Award-winning comic actress (Born Yesterday, 1950), but her musical talents had gone largely unregistered until now. Comden and Green set their original, New York-based story at an answering service, with Holliday as an operator who becomes involved with her clients, one in particular. Sydney Chaplin played that romantic interest, and both he and Holliday won Tony Awards. The show opened on November 29, 1956, and ran 924 performances. The original Broadway cast album reveals the production's strengths and weaknesses. The chief strength, of course, is Holliday, who barnstorms through comic numbers like "Is It a Crime?" but also handles romantic material such as the hit "The Party's Over" well. Jule Styne's music is typically tuneful, and Comden and Green are typically witty in such songs as "It's a Simple Little System" and "Drop That Name." The chief weakness is Chaplin, who just doesn't have much of a voice. The show's other hit, "Just in Time," was written for his narrow range and was already on the charts for Tony Bennett on opening night; Chaplin certainly couldn't have made a standard out of it, and his rendition of "I Met a Girl" is painful. Still, the good far outweighs the bad. The 2001 CD reissue of the cast album adds additional dance music to "Hello, Hello There" and "Mu-Cha-Cha," and for bonus material there are three publishing demos effectively sung and played by Styne, "It's a Perfect Relationship," "Just in Time," and the cut song "Boogie Woogie Shoogie, Baby of Mine."
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann