Original Broadway Cast

Jamaica [Original Broadway Cast] [Incomplete]

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Librettist Fred Saidy and lyricist E.Y. Harburg, who had previously collaborated on Finian's Rainbow and Flahooley, originally intended Jamaica to be a tale about a natural island man's superiority to modern civilization. That man was to be played by Harry Belafonte, and Harburg and composer Harold Arlen wrote a score full of calypso-tinged songs to suit his style. But Belafonte dropped out of the project, and producer David Merrick insisted on the necessity of a major star, so the creative team approached Lena Horne, who had never starred in a book musical despite her renown as a nightclub performer, and proposed to cast her as the natural man's civilization-loving girlfriend, a role they proposed to beef up. Horne agreed despite misgivings, but the part was never rewritten enough to suit her or change the focus of the show. Arlen and Harburg did give Horne some more songs, so that she was featured in 11 of the 20 musical sequences. But the musical remained an odd star vehicle in which the star didn't really drive the plot. Nevertheless, Horne proved enough of a star to carry the show for a profitable 558 performances after it opened on October 31, 1957. The cast album reveals the basic problem, however. Ricardo Montalban, replacing Belafonte, has the best songs with the most clever lyrics, notably "Incompatibility" and "Monkey in the Mango Tree," with other good tunes given to Adelaide Hall and Josephine Premice. But then, that means that, on record, the score is more balanced than it was on-stage. [There were several different versions of the cast album. This one, RCA Victor LOC-1103/LSO-1103, reissued in 1965, has extended versions of some of the songs as compared to the 1957 mono release, but does not have the overture featured on the 1957 stereo release.]