Various Artists

The Musicality of Lerner and Loewe

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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann

The British JAY Records label has built up a library of re-recordings of classic Broadway musical scores, either by bringing the casts of London revivals into the studio or assembling studio-only casts featuring veteran West End and Broadway performers, opera singers, and film stars. The record company has been careful to use the original orchestrations and often added incidental music not heard on the original Broadway cast albums. This effort allows JAY to repackage songs from its collection on various-artists albums such as this one, which is part of a series on the "MUSICality" of theater music songwriters from Jerome Kern to Andrew Lloyd Webber. The 12 tracks here are taken from the successful shows (and one film) by the team of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe: Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Gigi, and Camelot. In some cases, JAY has managed to bank more than one version of these scores, so that, for example, both Gregg Edelman ("How to Handle a Woman") and Richard Harris ("I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight?") are available to voice King Arthur from Camelot, while Melissa Errico ("Wouldn't It Be Loverly?") and Tinuke Olafimihan ("I Could Have Danced All Night") handle Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady. In general, these are professional performances much in the manner of the versions heard on the original Broadway cast albums, although the compilers are betrayed by those film stars. Christopher Lee, singing "Wandrin' Star" from Paint Your Wagon, falls victim to that curse of British actors attempting to do an American accent -- he overdoes it, so that his exaggerated version of a cowboy accent sounds like a parody. Those who are surprised to see the name of Bob Hoskins, the actor perhaps best known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in connection with a musical, not having known previously that he could sing, will discover in his version of "Get Me to the Church on Time" from My Fair Lady that he can't; what's more, his cockney accent, while certainly more authentic than Christopher Lee's cowboy impersonation, is so thick it's hard to understand what he's shouting. The song selection also is somewhat idiosyncratic. It should be seen as a sampling (sometimes nearly random) of Lerner & Loewe material rather than presenting the highlights of their catalog. Hits like "Almost Like Being in Love," "Gigi," and "On the Street Where You Live" are all missing, while near-obscurities such as "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight" (from Gigi) and "There But for You Go I" (from Brigadoon) are present. There are other compilations of the songs of this team that are better than this one.

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