In 1962, Julie Andrews, fresh from the Broadway hit Camelot (which had generated a chart-topping original Broadway cast album), was expecting her first child, and therefore not available to stage or screen. But she was able to work in the recording studio, and Don't Go in the Lion's Cage Tonight (titled Heartrending Ballads & Raucous Ditties in some territories) was her second album of the year for Columbia. On her first, Broadway's Fair Julie, she had turned in a set of theater ballads in her familiar sincere style. This album presented her other side. It was a collection of vaudeville and music hall songs, copyright dates ranging from the 1890s to the 1910s, which she dug into with gusto. If the earlier record gave listeners variations on Guenevere from Camelot, this one contained the kind of music Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady would have liked before she came under the tutelage of Henry Higgins and cleaned up her diction. There were some sentimental ballads, such as "She Is More to Be Pitied Than Censured," maudlin tales that may have been sung straight once, but that Andrews treated tongue-in-cheek. The rest were outright comic numbers, sometimes, such as "Waiting at the Church (My Wife Won't Let Me)," sung in a Cockney accent. Andrews clearly had a feel for this kind of material, and Robert Mersey's arrangements, which occasionally included a barbershop quartet, abetted her interpretations. The singer recalled the down-on-his-luck Beau Brummel tale "Burlington Bertie From Bow" six years later and reprised it in her Gertrude Lawrence film biography Star! Don't Go in the Lion's Cage Tonight may have been a commercially negligible album, but it was a delightful collection that must have been as much of a hoot to record as it was to listen to.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann