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Meet Me In St. Louis (Original Broadway Cast)

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Album Review

The 1961 Broadway musical The Gay Life was a failure, running only 113 performances and losing its entire investment. The reasons for that failure have been ascribed to the show's book, set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, concerning the last bachelor days of a womanizer, and to the casting of Walter Chiari in the leading role. But no one has blamed the score, which represented the reunion of composer Arthur Schwartz and lyricist Howard Dietz after 13 years. While no hits emerged from that score, it did boast several memorable songs, among them the ballads "Magic Moment" and "Something You Never Had Before," and the up-tempo gypsy number "Come A-Wandering With Me." Both of those ballads were sung by the cast's chief asset, Barbara Cook, in the role of the bride who finally ends the main character's philandering. But those are only the high points in a collection of songs that is consistently impressive. Schwartz and Dietz were better known for contemporary revues than for period book musicals, but the composer proved himself the equal of Richard Rodgers and Frederick Loewe in writing melodic waltzes, and the lyricist showed that his witty wordplay could work anywhere. The show's flaws are apparent on the cast recording, however, particularly when Chiari opens his mouth; his accent is so strong that it is sometimes difficult to make out the lyrics. But all is forgiven when Cook is the singer, and Elizabeth Allen, in her only number, turns "Come A-Wandering With Me" into a tour de force. The result is the kind of album likely to be appreciated more by theater music fans than the general public, though it makes the best of a musical that didn't work on-stage. ~ Matt Collar & William Ruhlmann, Rovi

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