, August 2006
Although not the greatest successes songwriter Jule Styne ever had on Broadway - Gypsy and Funny Girl have proved more enduring - the works paired here give a neat summary of his accomplished abilities in fashioning a good tune, although uneven in themselves. High Button Shoes (1947, with lyricist Leo Robin), was an early success in Styne's stage-musical career (he was already established as a songwriter in Hollywood); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (with lyricist Sammy Cahn) followed two years after. The earlier work has charm with, for example, the lyrical "Can't you just see yourself", while "Papa, won't you dance with me?", the hit number from the show, is still fresh but also points to a challenge here. The show's success derived less from its workmanlike score and more from the choreography of Jerome Robbins (especially in his zany "Atlantic City" ballet a la Mack Sennett, whose music was not originally recorded), and the physical comedy of Phil Silvers as can man Harrison Flay. Consequently, the show's popularity cannot be conveyed through recording alone (although a transfer on the Sepia label makes the sound more vital than here). Similarly, despite the stronger score, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes found success partly through the quirky performance of Carol Channing as diamond-digging Lorelei Lee; we get only some of her sense of play in the preMarilyn Monroe" Diamonds are a girl's best friend". The contrast of Channing with the lyrically lovely Yvonne Adair works well. Hugh Martin's vocal arrangements are a delight.