ON THE RECORD: Everybody Rise! The Essential Elaine Stritch Show Recordings, Part One

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07 Apr 2013

Cover art

"You Took Advantage of Me" from On Your Toes, 1954
All right, "You Took Advantage of Me" is not from On Your Toes. But the highly successful 1952 Pal Joey revival spawned a lukewarm 1954 revival of the 1936 Rodgers & Hart hit. Vera Zorina, who had played leading lady Vera Barnova in the 1937 London production and the 1939 film version, here reprised her role. (OK, let's get this right: Tamara Geva, who created the role on Broadway, was the first wife of On Your Toes choreographer George Balanchine. Zorina, after London, became the third Mrs. B. They divorced in 1946 — when Zorina married record producer Goddard Lieberson — but this didn't stop her from working with Balanchine again on the 1954 revival.)

Zorina starred opposite Bobby Van, from Hollywood, who sure didn't measure up to Ray Bolger. But the entire enterprise fell flat. George Abbott (who produced and directed the revival) hired Stritch as what must have seemed like some kind of built-in reminder of the good times of Pal Joey, but it didn't help. Elaine played Peggy Porterfield, the comedy relief. They — presumably Rodgers, who was very much in evidence — decided to interpolate "You Took Advantage of Me," a standard from the 1928 R & H musical Present Arms! Stritch's rendition is, surprisingly, raucous and borders on strip tease (in a dive). Not much help, as the show closed in eight weeks. But the track on the 1954 cast album — with a wild vocal arrangement by Portia Nelson and a jazz-infused orchestration by Red Ginzler — gives us a good audio snapshot of Stritch at 30.

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