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Album Review

"A series of private rehearsal recordings," notes the album cover, and inside are performances by composer Kurt Weill and lyricist Ira Gershwin, demonstrating songs written for two Weill projects of the mid-'40s, the 1943 Broadway musical One Touch of Venus and the 1945 movie musical Where Do We Go from Here? Gershwin is featured only on the tracks intended for the latter, to which he wrote the words. The film concerns a contemporary man intent on getting into the Army, and thereby the action, during World War II, despite a 4F physical rating, who stumbles upon a genie in a lamp and inadvertently ends up in various historical incidents including Columbus' discovery of America (the extended piece "The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria"); Washington at Valley Forge (where the hero overhears the enemy Hessians singing "Song of the Rhineland"); and, in a section cut from the final script, the Indians discussing the sale of Manhattan ("Manhattan [Indian Song]"). Accompanied by Weill at the piano, Gershwin sings these songs spiritedly in his distinct New York accent, Weill piping in in his high German tenor at points in "The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria." Gershwin's wit and wordplay are on display even on these minor efforts. The songs from One Touch of Venus, with lyrics by Ogden Nash, are much better remembered, particularly "Speak Low" and "That's Him." Weill alone handles this material, which includes two songs, "Very Very Very" and "Jersey Plunk," that were dropped from the score before opening night. Of course, these are not polished, professional performances intended for the public to hear, but they will fascinate fans of show music.

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