Lady, Be Good! 1992 Studio Cast Recording
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It's hard to believe when you're used to grim and gritty contemporary musicals, but Broadway used to be a lot of fun. Listening to '20s Gershwin shows will give you a taste of the melodies, humor, and hi-jinks that used to be common on the Great White Way. Yet another fine installment in the Roxbury series, this recording features a restored score of the 1924 musical that was Ira and George's first full-scale collaboration. Lara Teeter and Ann Morrison take on the parts created by Fred and Adele Astaire (Teeter even reproduces an Astaire tap solo!) while Michelle Nicastro, Jason Alexander, Michael Maguire, and John Pizzarelli spark in the supporting cast. In addition, the choral work is stellar and there are superb songs aplenty ("Fascinating Rhythm," "The Half of It, Dearie, Blues," the title track)--will somebody bring back the 1920s, please? --Elisabeth Vincentelli
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Such was the 1924 musical LADY BE GOOD. Written by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson, the story concerned a "financially embarrassed" brother and sister and their various romantic entanglements--an ideal vehicle for the brother and sister team Fred and Adele Astaire, who had made a tremendous hit in London a season or two earlier. Spots were also written in for Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, one of the more popular recording artists of the day (and later again celebrated as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's PINOCHIO), the popular stage comic Walter Cartlett, and pianists Victor Arden and Phil Ohman. But even with all the star talent, what really made the show special was the music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. The Gershwins had been kicking around the New York stage with varying degrees of success, but by 1924 their stars were on the rise-and LADY BE GOOD would be the smash hit that established the brothers at the forefront of the American musical.
With the advent of the integrated musical, the original LADY BE GOOD would be reworked time and time again in order to keep up with changing fashion. In the process, the original script, scores, and arrangements would be lost--some of it them forever. But this 1992 studio restoration does an incredible job of restoring the show to its original 1920s style. And the result is tremendous fun.
The big numbers here, of course, are the standards "Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm"--but while not every song here belongs to the list of great Gershwin classics, the charm of each is once again apparent. This is particularly the case of the large ensemble numbers "End of a String" and "Linger in the Lobby," and the opening number between Dick and Susie (here performed by Lara Teetor and Ann Morrison), "Hang onto Me," is also uniquely memorable. One of the highlights of the recording is "Little Jazz Bird," originally written for Ukulele Ike and performed by John Pizzarelli, who manages to capture the casual grace of Ike's style without actually imitating him. Although many of the original arrangements are missing, the arrangements created for this recording are perfectly in line with those that do survive, and the sound is classic 1920s: bright and sharp, carefully balancing a tight structure and strict rhythm against the hard-edged jazz flourishes that accented the music of the era. Sadly, there is no recording of the original cast-the habit of creating such recordings wouldn't emerge until the late 1940s-but short of hopping in a time machine and traveling back to 1924, this Roxbury Recording is the best thing going. Recommended.
--GFT (Amazon.com Reviewer)--
I also like the singers. Jason Alexander from Seinfeld is pretty good (really!) and the female singer sings with a great 1920's Betty-Boop-esque voice.
This album attempts to re-create the musical stylistically, and does a great job (there is tapdancing on one of the tracks). Even the parts that arent stylistically correct are enjoyable (John Pizzarelli doesnt exactly play like he's from the 20's but he's great anyway)
Gershwin would be pleased.