The Grass Harp, based on a Truman Capote novel about a group of oddball characters and a home remedy for dropsy, was a quick failure when it was adapted to the musical stage. The Broadway production opened on November 2, 1971, and closed after seven performances. Ordinarily, especially in the early '70s, that would have meant that the score would not be recorded. But the music, written by newcomers Kenward Elmslie and Claibe Richardson, had its admirers and, even more significant, Barbara Cook, who played the central role of Dolly Talbo, had a large audience of fans who remembered her from such shows as The Music Man and She Loves Me. So, tiny independent label Painted Smiles Records undertook the task of preserving the songs on record. The recording reveals a spirited cast, led not only by Cook, but also by a lively, lusty Carol Brice. Lust is a big element in the show, which seems filled with people devoted to "Floozies" (sung by Russ Thacker). Both Brice's "Marry With Me" and Karen Morrow's extended "The Babylove Miracle Show" are paeans to promiscuity, and the whole show has a "free love" feel that may have been timely in 1971, even if not on Broadway. Still, The Grass Harp will be of interest primarily to show music fans eager to have another cast recording featuring Barbara Cook. For the 1999 CD reissue on Varèse Sarabande, three songs written for the show and subsequently recorded on Painted Smiles compilations were added as bonus tracks: "The One and Only Person in the World," which was in the show but cut from the cast album; the cut song "Brazil," sung by George Rose; and the cut song "I Trust the Wrong People," sung by Elaine Stritch, who had been in a pre-Broadway tryout of the show.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann