Original Cast Recording

Jimmy [Masterworks CD]

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In 1959, Fiorello!, a musical stage biography of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, became a Broadway hit. A decade later, Jimmy, a musical stage biography of New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, appeared on Broadway. But the only constant between the two shows was choreographer Peter Gennaro. Fiorello! boasted a talented creative team including songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, along with veteran book writers Jerome Weidman and George Abbott. (The venerable Abbott also doubled as director.) It was produced by the successful team of Robert E. Griffith and Harold Prince. Jimmy, on the other hand, was produced by movie executive Jack L. Warner, not exactly a welcome name on Broadway. Director Joseph Anthony had a track record that included The Most Happy Fella and 100 in the Shade, but book writer Melville Shavelson and the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Bill Jacob and Patti Jacob were all Broadway neophytes. Comedian/impressionist Frank Gorshin, cast in the title role, had raised his profile from the nightclub and Las Vegas circuit via his guest-starring appearances on the Batman TV series as the Riddler, but that didn't mean he could sing and dance. Happily he was supported by Broadway veteran Anita Gillette (as Walker's girlfriend) and nightclub singer Julie Wilson (as Walker's wife). As heard on the cast album, however, the show's main problem doesn't seem to be one of inexperience so much as timing. The score, when it isn't aping the period style of the Roaring Twenties, sounds like something from the early 1960s, rather than the late '60s, and those are two very different styles. There are several songs ably sung by Gorshin that one could imagine being covered by Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, particularly "What's Out There for Me?," which has something of the flavor of "I've Gotta Be Me" and "My Way," as well as "One in a Million" and "Life Is a One-Way Street." But by the end of the '60s, such singers weren't much looking to Broadway for material, and Broadway was becoming more experimental and rock-oriented. Jimmy (which was struggling as its cast album was released and ultimately closed after only 84 performances) might have done better if it had been mounted a few years earlier. [When Jimmy was reissued as a digital download and on CD by Masterworks Broadway in 2009, the sequencing of the tracks was altered to conform to the order in which the songs were actually sung onstage. This meant that "Riverside Drive" and "What's Out There for Me?," which had been Tracks Ten and 11, were flip-flopped, as were "Life Is a One-Way Street" and "Our Jimmy," which had been Tracks 17 and 18.]

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