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Frederick LOEWE (1901-1988) and Alan Jay LERNER (1918-1986)
Paint Your Wagon and Can-Can: Original Broadway Casts, 1951 and 1953
Paint Your Wagon (1951)

I’m On My Way [3:56]
What’s Goin’ On Here? [3:30]
I Talk To The Trees [3:35]
They Call The Wind "Maria" [3:20]
I Still See Elisa [3:21]
How Can I Wait? [4:18]
In Between [2:43]
Cariño Mío [2:48]
There’s A Coach Comin’ In [2:01]
Hand Me Down That Can O’ Beans [1:45]
Another Autumn [2:55]
All For Him [2:31]
Wand’rin’ Star [2:33]
James Barton – Ben Rumson
Olga San Juan – Jennifer Rumson Tony Bavaar – Julio Valveras
Rufus Smith – Steve Bullnack
Robert Penn – Jake Whippany
Dave Thomas – Dr. Newcomb
Franz Allers – conductor
rec. RCA Victor, New York, 15-16 November 1951. ADD
Cole PORTER (1891-1964)
Can-Can (1953)
Overture [1:49]
Maidens Typical of France [1:20]
Never Give Anything Away [2:04]
C’est Magnifique [3:20]
Come Along With Me [4:33]
Live And Let Live [1:54]
I Am In Love [2:37]
If You Loved Me Truly [3:10]
Montmart’ [1:31]
Allez-Vous-En, Go Away! [2:14]
Never, Never Be An Artist [2:56]
It’s All Right With Me [1:58]
I Love Paris [2:27]
Can-Can [2:59]
Lilo – La Môme Pistache
Peter Cookson – Judge Aristide Forestier
Gwen Verdon – Claudine
Hans Conried – Boris Adzinidzinadze
Erik Rhodes – Hilaire Jussac
Milton Rosenstock – conductor
rec. New York, 1953. ADD
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5600 [75:20]

Crotchet Budget price

It may not be obvious what would connect the two musicals Can-Can and Paint Your Wagon, both released on the same CD. With a bit of looking though, there are similarities that serve to tie the two together. These original cast recordings were both made in the 1950s. The musicals form a pair of successful, though under-appreciated Broadway shows. In both cases the musicals are considered less-than-the-best work of their respective writers. In both cases, there was a cinematic release which changed a good deal of the original Broadway musical. In both cases the movie was a noticeable step below the original stage production, further relegating each to second-tier status. Then again, both had formulaic plots and underdeveloped characters. This may not have been what drove the combining of the music from both musicals, but it does form a framework where this disc makes some sense in context. Given that the musicals were both stronger musically than theatrically, it is also quite possible that another tie-in would be that each may be better enjoyed when listened to in a synoptic format rather than seen staged. In other words, the CD is likely a better format for each set of songs than the musical theater, where there is considerably more to distract from the weaknesses of the presentation. The bar is set only at the question of "are these songs worth listening to, and are the performances sufficiently well done?"

For the first musical presented, the bar is met. While Paint Your Wagon was another in the succession of musicals derived from the formula of Oklahoma, the songs themselves do not suffer from the weak plot. Much like Annie Get Your Gun the musical is replete with humorous and energetic song-and-dance numbers alternating with romantic ballads celebrating love in all its forms. The original music is superior to the cinematic version from 1969 in nearly every way. It should be noted that the movie contained five new songs and retained only three from the original musical. If the only version that one has been exposed to is the movie, this musical holds a collection of pleasant surprises. The original cast did a commendable job, with both Rufus Smith and James Barton perfectly suited to their roles. Thus the original performances held for posterity are worthy of preservation and enjoyable for listening.

Similarly, Can-Can was damaged through its cinematic adaptation, though that isn’t its only flaw. Simply stated, it did not live up to the standard that Cole Porter set for himself with Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes. Even so Can-Can still displays the formidable musical ability of its composer. It is probable that the general disregard for the musical is because the 1960 movie starring Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier, and Louis Jordan fell so far below the expectations that would be worthy of such an all-star cast. It didn’t help that the movie was a loose adaptation of the original musical rather than a cinematically enhanced version of the Broadway production. Additionally, it is certainly true that the plot is a simple tongue-in-cheek tale stocked with two-dimensional caricatures and a fairly flimsy plot. That should not detract from the music, as the plot is really just an excuse for Porter to write show tunes. So while this musical is not Porter’s best work, the music does not reflect as poorly. If nothing else, there are the songs It’s All Right With Me and I Love Paris, which still have to be considered among the best melodies that Cole Porter produced. There has to be value to hearing the original as Cole Porter intended these songs to be performed.

The largest problem with both recordings presented is the large amount of needle-noise from the originals. Granted that these recordings are fifty years old, and there is probably a choice that had to be made between giving rebirth to the high-end range and the record pops. The fidelity is very good for the age of the recordings, but it is probable that a bit of that fidelity could have been sacrificed in order to reduce the noise on the CD. After the first listen it was necessary to play the CD on a second player simply to make sure that the cabling going from the tuner to the speakers was not going faulty.

In final estimation, a listener must decide if that is enough of a detracting factor to consider this a waste for purchasing. Anyone who regularly listens to vinyl recordings will easily be able to disregard the noise on the recordings. Those who are used to recordings that have been remastered from tape will likely find the album noise distracting. The performances recorded were definitely worth preserving, and would be enjoyed by any fan of Broadway musicals. It is also true that waiting any longer would definitely not improve the quality of these recordings, so it is a positive thing that they have been released. Thus, these are definitely good recordings for true fans of these two musicals to own. Casual fans of either Lerner and Lowe or Cole Porter can probably pass on this particular disc.

Patrick Gary

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