Musical theater history is replete with memorable masterpieces and noble failures, both of which end up being well-remembered. Less common are modest successes that somehow don't live beyond their moment in time. Such a show was Plain and Fancy. Set in Pennsylvania Amish country, it contrasted a couple of city dwellers with a strict religious community, providing the usual romantic sparks that musical comedies are expected to, the result being that following its opening on January 27, 1955, it ran for a profitable 13 months at the Winter Garden on Broadway. It also spawned a London production, but there wasn't a U.S. tour, and by the time DRG Records decided to reissue Capitol Records' original Broadway cast album, there had never been a Broadway revival. Plain and Fancy rates two footnotes in musical theater history. First, it was the first successful Broadway musical to feature Barbara Cook, and second, the romantic ballad "Young and Foolish" became a semi-standard, recorded by the likes of Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis. The cast album demonstrates that it deserves to be remembered for more than that, however. Cook is only one member of a strong ensemble cast, and though her performances of "This Is All Very New to Me" and "I'll Show Him" have her customary distinction, such colleagues as Gloria Marlowe and Shirl Conway also make a good show for themselves. And there is more to composer Albert Hague and lyricist Arnold B. Horwitt's score than just "Young and Foolish." Both have resumés boasting several other Broadway entries, and they clearly know how to write show music. Hague's melodies are excellent and Horwitt's lyrics are often witty. The score as a whole is quite good, with "Why Not Katie" and "City Mouse, Country Mouse" particular standouts. Plain and Fancy deserves to be rediscovered.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Plain and Fancy, musical play|