Original Broadway Cast

One Touch of Venus

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Decca Records' recording of an album of songs from the Broadway musical Oklahoma! featuring members of the cast of the initial production is considered the first example of a new genre in the record business, the "original Broadway cast" album. That recording took place in October 1943, more than six months after the show opened, a delay caused by the recording ban called by the musicians union the previous year, which had only just ended when the cast went into the studio. During that same month, on October 7, 1943, another musical opened on Broadway, One Touch of Venus. Its star was Mary Martin, who also recorded for Decca as a solo artist. So, it's not surprising that the label put her and co-star Kenny Baker in its studio one month later to record a cast album of the show. The concept was still a little new, which may help explain why the results were less than perfect. For one thing, the "long-playing" (LP) disc was still several years away from being introduced, and while Decca was willing to devote five 78s to the One Touch of Venus album, that still only allowed for ten individual tracks and a running time not much over half an hour. For another, the idea of using all or most of the actual cast members had not taken root firmly. Only Martin and Baker, plus "the One Touch of Venus Orchestra" and an unnamed vocal quartet and chorus appeared, leaving out secondary performers Paula Laurence and John Boles entirely. Their songs were left out, too, for the most part, although Baker took over one of Boles' numbers, "West Wind." In total, seven songs from Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash's score were missing, one of which was the title song. But what was included gave a good sense of why the show, which went on to run for 16 months, was such a success. Martin, playing the title role of the statue of a Greek goddess come to life in modern Manhattan, was starring on Broadway for the first time, five years after she had made a splashy debut in Leave It to Me! singing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and following a sojourn in Hollywood. She added to her sexual allure with "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," in which Venus laments how complicated love has become, but she also showed a more romantic side in the show's hit song, "Speak Low," and in "That's Him." Baker, for his part, got a comic showcase in "The Trouble with Women." The choice to include two instrumentals, "Forty Minutes to Lunch Ballet" and "Venus in Ozone Heights," instead of a couple of the other songs, seemed curious. But for all its limitations, the cast recording of One Touch of Venus helped establish the pattern by which the "original Broadway cast" album became a staple of the record business from the 1940s on.

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