Decca's Roberta/The Vagabond King features two Broadway operettas from the 1940s and '50s on one CD. The 1944 version of Roberta -- which originally premiered in 1933 and was turned into a movie starring Fred Astaire and Irene Dunne two years later -- boasts music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Otto Harbach, as well as a cast including Kitty Carlisle, Kathryn Meisle, Paula Laurence, and Alfred Drake. Carlisle's sweet, rich voice is perfect for songs such as the classic "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Lovely to Look At," while Laurence turns in charming performances of the wittily romantic "Let's Begin" and "I'll Be Hard to Handle." Drake is winning, as well, particularly on "Fashion Show" and "Don't Ask Me Not to Sing." Unfortunately, one of Roberta's best songs, "I Won't Dance," is not included; but the quality of the recording and the performances here still make this a worthwhile artifact. Drake also starred, along with Mimi Benzell and Frances Bible, in 1951's The Vagabond King. This operetta, which was also made into a movie in 1930 and again in 1956, features music by Rudolf Friml and book and lyrics by W.H. Post and Brian Hooker. The Vagabond King revolves around Villon (Drake), a 15th century Parisian poet who rallied the peasants to defeat the Burgundians and planned to dethrone King Louis XVI, as spelled out in "Song of the Vagabonds." It's a more dramatically inclined operetta, as evidenced by yearning songs such as "Only a Rose," "Some Day," and "Huguette Waltz." While this album omits four numbers -- "King Louie," "Mary, Queen of Heaven," "If I Were King," and "What France Needs" -- it's still a good representation of the production. Combined with Roberta, this release becomes very worthwhile for Alfred Drake fans, as well as aficionados of vintage musical theater.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
|The Vagabond King, operetta|