Mike Nichols & Elaine May

The Best of Mike Nichols & Elaine May

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This compilation contains key excerpts from the three LPs that Mike Nichols and Elaine May issued between 1958 and 1962. Those titles, which have become nothing short of legendary, include Improvisations to Music (1958), An Evening with ... (1960), and ... Examine Doctors (1962). Each of the various scenarios are composed entirely of improv dialogues based upon a central theme. As such, their consistently electric interaction yields intellectually challenging humor rather than the immediacy inherent from a conventional joke or storyteller. Nichols and May also bring a cinematic quality to even the most common banter, which was aided no doubt by their respective stage and screen experiences. The characters they conjure up are accompanied by Marty Rubenstein (piano), who otherwise aurally colors the scenarios. "Cocktail Piano" seethes with overtly sexual overtones as the bar setting adds an almost discomforting level of reality. The combination of consenting adults and alcohol also yields an obvious, yet unspoken social statement. An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May can be considered the Original Cast Recording of their similarly titled Broadway presentation. The show, which opened October 8, 1960, received unanimously stellar reviews from both critics and attendees. The premise of both concern ensemble improvisations of scenarios as suggested, at least in part, by the audience. The succinctly titled "Telephone" is a classic bit of spontaneity that finds Nichols attempting, futilely it might be said, to obtain a phone number and place a call. While it pre-dates Lily Tomlin's "Ernestine" persona by almost a decade, the nasal, high-pitched operators played here by May could have easily been Tomlin's inspiration. ... Examine Doctors contains material from the NBC Radio Monitor program. The overtly sexual overtones between a surgeon and his nurse on "A Little More Gauze" builds into a darkly entertaining and highly inappropriate conversation. Even more jarring is the surprise ending to "Merry Christmas, Doctor" as the tables turn on a psychiatric patient's request to cancel his Christmas Day session, in order to spend the day with his family. Although this disc has been out of print for quite sometime, In Retrospect (1996) is a worthy and lengthier CD substitute.