RCA Victor has gone into its musical theatre vaults to dig out original Broadway cast recordings of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's Saratoga and David Heneker's Half a Sixpence, reissuing them on CD June 6.
New liners notes are included with both recordings, illuminating the history of two lesser-known shows. Playbill On-Line columnist Steven Suskin writes about the Tommy Steele vehicle, Half a Sixpence, the Broadway version of which is being released. Drawn from H.G. Wells' rags to-riches story, "Kipps," the show has book by Beverley Cross and music and lyrics by David Heneker.
The musical opened in England in 1963 and when it crossed the Atlantic it had a trimmed score and new dances, and proved a flashy showcase for the toothy onetime British pop star, Steele (seen in the films "The Happiest Millionaire" and "Finian's Rainbow"). A film version of Half a Sixpence followed.
The score includes the title song, "I Know What I Am," the comic "Flash, Bang, Wallop!," "Money to Burn" (which allows Steele a lusty banjo solo), "A Proper Gentleman," "She's Too Far Above Me," "Long Ago," "The Party's On the House" and the show's signature tune, "If the Rain's Got to Fall."
Saratoga, from 1959, is based on Edna Ferber's "Saratoga Trunk" and is set in New Orleans and Saratoga, NY, in 1880. The libretto and direction are by Morton DaCosta (who staged Auntie Mame and The Music Man). Howard Keel and Carol Lawrence were top billed. The story concerns a woman (Lawrence) who returns to New Orleans to find wealth and respectability (she's the product of a rich man's affair with a mistress). She is drawn to a gambler named Maroon (Keel), and they both fight for position first in New Orleans, then in Saratoga, where they get involved with railroad barons. The show ran 80 performances; Arlen pulled away from the show due to an apparent illness and Mercer wrote music and lyrics for three songs.
The score (presented on the disc not in the proper story order) includes "Petticoat High," "Love Held Lightly," "Why Fight This?" (music by Mercer), "You or No One," "The Cure," "Goose Never Be a Peacock," "Gettin' a Man" (music by Mercer), "I'll Be Respectable," "Saratoga: Duet," "One Step, Two Step," "A Game of Poker," "The Men Who Run the Country" (music by Mercer), "The Man in My Life," "Countin' Our Chickens."
Next up from RCA Victor is the cast recording of the Manhattan Theatre Club staging of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, to be released July 11.
-- By Kenneth Jones