ON THE RECORD: Melissa Errico–Finally–In One Touch of Venus

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01 Jun 2014

Brent Barrett

These items, along with Weill's two ballets ("Forty Minutes for Lunch" and "Venus in Ozone Heights"), make the score a bountiful gift from 1943. That said, there are songs–more than a few of them–which might have sounded fine back then but fall flat. Nash was quite a rhymester, and his poems were quite the thing in his day; but the comedy songs, here and now, grasp for laughs. Nash indulges in the same type of wordplay as the aforementioned Gershwin and his college-pal Harburg; but Ira and Yip made masterful use of tortured rhymes. Nash just lays them out, one after another. After listening to the CD three times, I vowed to permanently skip "How Much I Love You," "Way Out West in Jersey," and "The Trouble with Women."

Special mention must be made of "Doctor Crippen," the extended first act finale about a notorious, Edwardian wife-murderer. Weill and Nash clearly thought they had come up with another "Saga of Jenny"–the showstopper from Lady in the Dark–but the thing is endless and unlistenable, to my ears at least. Did audiences really sit through this for 567 performances? Oh, well. What are a few lapses when you've got "Speak Low" and the rest?

Jay has done a fine job on this recording, bringing us a golden score that we really haven't quite heard. Errico is joined by Brent Barrett as Rodney Hatch, the modern-day (circa 1943) barber who Venus falls in love with; Ron Raines as Whitelaw Savory, the modern art aficionado who falls in love with Venus; and the aforementioned Vicky Clark. Also on hand are Judy Kaye and Lauren Worsham. The two-disc set also includes three songs that were cut prior to the opening, "Vive La Difference," "Who Am I," and "Love in a Mist."

Before I sign off, let me add a note for those of you interested in orchestrations. Having found a clutch of Venus score pages that were not in Weill's hand while doing research for my 2009 book "The Sound of Broadway Music," I identified them as being written by Russell Bennett. The good people at the Kurt Weill Foundation duly investigated, and discovered that these pages actually came from a copyist, one John Costa Coll (whose musical handwriting is–indeed–quite similar to that of Bennett). These were passages Weill had orchestrated elsewhere in the score; rather than rewrite them, he asked Coll to copy the passages. There are other minor sections in the show by two as-yet-unidentified orchestrators, but my attribution to Bennett was mistaken. I thank the Weill Foundation archivists for solving the mystery, and gladly take the opportunity to correct it.

(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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