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

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07 Apr 2013

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"Come to Me" and "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" from Sail Away, 1961
Opportunity knocks twice, they say; Stritch, at least, was to have two original musical comedies written around her. (If either had been successful, there would no doubt have been more.) The knockee in this case was Noël Coward, no less, with a vapid shipboard tale called Sail Away. Struggling to salvage the show, they fired one of the two stars during the tryout — not Stritch, the other one. But to no avail; the show died after 21 weeks. The original cast album [DRG] is less felicitous than Goldilocks, but it is good for occasional listening. For our purposes, I select two tracks — Stritch's opening number and her closing number. Neither are especially good songs. "Come to Me" shows Stritch thoroughly in charge, at least. Her character, a cruise ship hostess, is assuring passengers that she will see them through no matter how rocky the cruise becomes. The way she sings it, though, suggests that she is going to personally entertain the theatergoers; no matter if the writer and director (i.e., Coward and Coward) are thoroughly stranded. And listen to what she does with "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" The song is a one-track list song which only intermittently hits. No matter; Stritch sings it like it is some Irving Berlin 11-o'clock number, and earns the built-in encore.

What of the romantic ballad, "Something Very Strange (Is Happening to Me)"?, people familiar with the cast album might ask. I'm afraid I've never found it effective. Stritch sings it well enough, but she doesn't sound real to me; perhaps because the song was written for another character altogether. While you're listening, though, you might want to stop for a non-Stritch song, "Call Me." This is Grover Dale (who was to become a choreographer) and Patricia Harty, as the young lovers, with a delightful Irv Kostal arrangement that makes Coward sound almost contemporary. Speaking of Kostal, I would suggest that you simply avoid the 1962 original London cast album. Producer Harold Fielding refused, at the last minute, to pay Kostal for the use of his New York charts; Kostal, thus, refused to allow Fielding to use them. Wally Stott — who later became Emmy-winning arranger Angela Morley — rushed through new orchestrations, but they have none of the sparkle of the originals.

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