, September 2008
Naxos has gone back to the vaults to find another gem to shine up and release.
Few are unfamiliar with this musical. The original release of the 1956 Broadway cast recordings reached #1 on the Billboard album charts. At the time the musical set the record for the longest continuous run on Broadway and achieved more than 2000 performances in the West End. The film adaptation eventually won 7 Academy Awards in 1964. The original cast included Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, and Robert Coote in addition to Julie Andrews in her first major role.
The story is famously an adaptation of Pygmalion, and concerns the transformation of the young and pretty Cockney Eliza Doolittle from a common flower girl to a woman capable of passing in upper class society. Many of the songs, such as I Could Have Danced All Night, On the Street Where You Live, and Wouldn't It Be Loverly have become standards. The remainder are equally outstanding. What's more is that the original cast seems to have been perfectly assembled. Listening to this recording makes it obvious why this was such a brilliantly successful musical.
The original recordings have been cleaned up to pristine condition. There is little background noise and the fidelity is as good as the 1950s recording equipment would produce. Generally speaking this entire disc is as good as a vintage recording can be.
The bonus material is different from the cast recordings that front the CD, but also quite good. Songs written by Lerner and Lowe for The Day Before Spring and Brigadoon are given an easy listening light jazz treatment. Kaye Ballard competently handles the bulk of the vocals, but the lyricist himself, Alan Jay Lerner, sings There But For You Go I. The performances are given a straight-ahead jazz treatment that would not be out of character for Chet Baker.
Anyone who does not already have an earlier copy of these recordings should definitely consider purchasing this album. As a Golden Age Broadway musical recording this is as good as it gets.