Noël Coward

Sail Away/Noël Coward Sings Sail Away

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This two-fer CD set combines two albums associated with the Broadway musical Sail Away that were released on LP during the show's five-month run in 1961-1962, the original Broadway cast recording and a disc of the songs performed by the songwriter, Noël Coward. Sail Away, Coward's first musical for Broadway in more than 20 years, was set on a cruise ship traveling from New York through the Mediterranean and back. Elaine Stritch starred as Mimi Paragon, the cruise director, who falls in love with Johnny Van Mier (James Hurst), a younger man, and there was also a secondary romance between Nancy Foyle (Patricia Harty), a young woman traveling with her aunt, and a young man, Barnaby Slade (Grover Dale). The setting and the romances made for lots of musical opportunities for Coward, who was, in a sense, revisiting some of his favorite themes. He had first used the older woman/younger man plot in his first successful play, The Vortex, in 1924, and he was a past master at writing songs about the contrasts between tourists (or colonists) and natives in exotic climes (e.g., "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"). The best songs in his score were the witty ones, and they were very witty: "The Passenger's Always Right," "Useful Phrases," "You're a Long, Long Way from America," "The Customer's Always Right," and "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" Stritch, more a comedienne than a romantic lead (actually, there had been a romantic lead in the out-of-town tryouts, but then she was fired and her role merged into the comic one Stritch had been playing already), handles her share of these songs well, while she and the other lovers are adequate on the adequate love songs. The first disc concludes with two demo recordings of songs that were cut from the show, "This Is a Night for Lovers" and "Bronxville Darby and Joan," raucously performed by Coward with the show's choreographer, Joe Layton, over a piano. ("Bronxville Darby and Joan" was restored for the 1962 London production.) The second disc is, if anything, even better than the first, as Coward, accompanied by Peter Matz & His Orchestra, ably handles 12 of the songs in nightclub fashion, rolling his "R"'s as he exults in his own clever rhymes. If the songs are not as familiar as his earlier standards, they are often very good.

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