The team of composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. Harburg returned to Broadway after an absence of seven years with another socially conscious musical in 1944. By its title, Bloomer Girl may have sounded like a frothy chorus girl comedy, but in fact it took advantage of the social upheaval of World War II to engage the issues of feminism and civil rights. Set at the eve of the Civil War, it told the story of the niece of Dolly Bloomer, designer of a women's undergarment that was a scandal in its day, and her romance with a slave-owning Southerner. Arlen and Harburg's songs reflected the script's focus on the necessity for women and blacks to be freed from their different forms of enslavement, notably in "It Was Good Enough for Grandma" and "The Eagle and Me." At a time when women were working in record numbers and blacks were heading north to find their own jobs in the defense industry or joining the military to fight, and when Broadway, led by Oklahoma!, was embracing story-based integrated musicals, Bloomer Girl became the biggest stage hit of Arlen's career. (It didn't hurt that star Celeste Holm and choreographer Agnes de Mille came over from Oklahoma!) Decca Records recorded an eight-disc 78-rpm album, and Bing Crosby, a Decca recording artist, made a Top Ten hit out of "Evelina" from the score. But if the times were right for Bloomer Girl in 1944, the political retrenchment of the late '40s and a Communist witch hunt that engulfed Harburg, among others, doomed the show to obscurity thereafter. The cast album remains, however, to demonstrate the quality of the score and the cast, including Arlen. The 2001 reissue adds three bonus tracks, among them Crosby's recordings of "Evelina" and "The Eagle and Me."
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann