"First Impressions" was the working title of Jane Austen's classic 19th century novel of English manners Pride and Prejudice, and librettist/director Abe Burrows (best known for Guys and Dolls) restored it for this musical adaptation. Let's see: an English setting; a feisty heroine; a stuffy hero; a lively parent. Sounds a lot like My Fair Lady. And so does the music written by first-timers Robert Goldman and Glenn Paxton with veteran pop songwriter George Weiss. The cast is wonderful. Singing star Polly Bergen is the feisty Elizabeth Bennett; movie star Farley Granger is the stuffy Fitzwilliam Darcy; and best of all, Hermione Gingold is the lively Mrs. Bennett. (A young Phyllis Newman plays the second daughter, Jane.) Burdened by "Five Daughters," Gingold seeks to marry them off to rich suitors, among whom is the sneering, secretive Granger, eventually matched to the brainy, talkative Bergen. Critics found the staging, which opened on Broadway on March 19, 1959, overly formal, and the score failed to spawn any hits, so even the talented cast couldn't keep the show running more than 84 performances. Happily, Columbia Records recorded it, capturing Gingold's humorous, winning performance and Bergen's excellent singing of a group of songs that deserve to be heard again. Like the show itself (according to the critics anyway), the lyrics perhaps hew a bit too closely to Austen's long-outdated language, and the music has perhaps a bit too much of Frederick Loewe. But this is one of those cast albums that makes you wish someone would try again with the show, just so the songs could be heard in a theater once more.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|First Impressions, musical play|
feat: Phyllis Newman