Songwriter Johnny Mercer did not have much luck writing for Broadway, but the exception was Lil' Abner, based on the satiric Al Capp comic strip about the rural residents of Dogpatch. Mercer wrote the song lyrics to music by Gene DePaul, with whom he had worked on the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. After the show opened on November 15, 1956, it became the only stage work with which Mercer was associated to turn a profit, running 693 performances. Actually, the score isn't as strong as that for one of Mercer's flops, St. Louis Woman, but it is appropriate to the subject matter. The songs "Jubilation T. Cornpone," "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands," and "Progress Is the Root of All Evil" wittily capture Capp's sense of humor and dim view of politics. There are also some attractive romantic ballads, notably "Namely You" and "Love in a Home," both of which became minor hits. Edith "Edie" Adams and Stubby Kaye lead a cast of unknowns who give their all to the show's broad comedy. A key element of Lil' Abner's success was the staging and choreography of director Michael Kidd, not available on record, although the 2002 reissue adds the main dance number, "Sadie Hawkins Day Ballet." The disc is, in fact, full of new material, including a stereo version of the "Overture" (Li'l Abner was Columbia Records' last cast album not recorded in stereo, but the label was experimenting); the previously unreleased song "What's Good for General Bullmoose"; an expanded version of the finale, "The Matrimonial Stomp"; "There's Room Enough for Us," from the 1959 soundtrack album; and pop versions of two songs cut from the score, Percy Faith's "The Way to a Man's Heart" and Rosemary Clooney's "It's a Nuisance Having You Around."
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Li'l Abner, musical play|