Bravo Giovanni [Masterworks Broadway] is something else again, a lackluster 1962 musical comedy which is nevertheless likely to leave you beaming broadly. The score is the work of composer Milton Schafer (of Drat! The Cat!) and lyricist Ronny Graham (of New Faces of '52). Undistinguished, yes, but full of tuneful tunes and juicy lyrics. Plus, Cesare Siepi, 19-year-old Michele Lee, George S. Irving and Maria Karnilova knock their respective selves out. This is also one of those shows which handily illustrate how a brilliant orchestrator — Red Ginzler in this case, assisted by Luther Henderson — can make a decent score sound much better. You can read about Lady in the Dark and Bravo Giovanni here.
In the small-scale chamber musical category comes Douglas J. Cohen's No Way to Treat a Lady [Ghostlight]. This macabre four-character mini-musical offers a sparkling tale of — well, a serial murderer on the loose in Manhattan. (He is a failed actor, you see, trying to somehow get his picture in the Times.) The clever score bubbles along, offering surprises at every turn, and lives up to its tricky premise. For those of us who missed the show when it was initially produced at the Hudson Guild in 1987 and revived by the York in 1996, this CD brings unexpected enjoyment.
Barbara Cook and Rebecca Luker, I've always felt, make a mighty good pair. Here we have them together on our holiday list. I needn't wax poetic on descriptions; simply click on Barbara Cook: Loverman [DRG] and Rebecca Luker: I Got Love [PS Classics] and see why I'm so enthusiastic. Songs about love (as opposed to love songs) on the one hand, and songs by Jerome Kern on the other. Both receive our highest accolades. Honorable mention goes to Philip Chaffin's Dorothy Fields collection, Somethin' Real Special [PS Classics].
(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Opening Night on Broadway" books, and "The Book of Mormon: The Testament of a Broadway Musical." He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)
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