STYNE: Gentleman Prefer Blondes

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Original Cast 1949)
Music by Jule Styne Lyrics by Leo Robin
Lorelei Lee - Carol Channing
Dorothy Shaw - Yvonne Adair
Henry Spofford -Eric Brotherson
Gus Esmond - Jack McCauley
Josephus Gage - George S. Irving
Sir Francis Beekman -Rex Evans
Mrs Ella Spofford - Alice Pearce
Dance Team - Honi Coles, Cholly Atkins High Button Shoes (Original Cast 1947)
Music by Jule Styne Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Harrison Floy - Phil Silvers
Sara Longstreet - Nanette Fabray
Hubert Oglethorpe -Mark Dawson
Fran - Lois Lee
Stevie Longstreet - Johnny Stewart
Henry Longstreet - Jack McCauley

  For nearly fifty years, Jule Styne was the composer who best represented 'the sound of Broadway'. He wasn't the most successful, although he had his share of hits, and he wasn't the most consistent, because he switched collaborators the way some guys change their socks. But there was something in the distinctive, brassy bleat of his tunes that eventually made him the go-to guy for that special New York sound. 'Whenever I think of a Broadway musical', said Michael Feinstein, 'I hear a Jule Styne overture in my mind'. And the two shows featured on this recording - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and High Button Shoes - are the ones that made his reputation on the Great White Way in the late 1940s. He was born Jules Stein to a poor family in London, England on 31 December 1905. In 1912, they relocated to Chicago, where young Jules became known as a classical piano prodigy, making his debut with the Chicago Symphony at the age of nine. Early in his teens, he suffered an accident with a drill press that damaged one finger permanently and sent him from the concert stage to the orchestra pit of the local burlesque houses. (When he wrote the score for Gypsy forty years later, he didn't have to do any research.) He went on to become a popular player and conductor for dance bands in the Windy City, but after he penned a popular hit called "Sunday" in 1926, he started to dream of bigger things. Early in the 1930s he moved to New York to find he could only get work as a vocal coach. But he did so well that in 1938, he was sent to Hollywood to instruct and provide special material for child star Shirley Temple. He was slaving away at Republic Studios, home of the B-Movies, when he got paired up with Frank Loesser. In 1941, they wrote the smash hit 'I Don't Want to Walk Without You,' and continued to turn out winners, until Styne switched over to Sammy Cahn as his lyricist. They became Frank Sinatra's unofficial songwriters for a time, providing him with tunes like 'I Fall In Love Too Easily' and 'Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.' Emboldened by their Hollywood success, Styne and Cahn headed east in 1944 to write a Broadway musical. Called Glad To See You!, it proved to be a horrible disaster (directed by Busby Berkeley on the way down), closing out of town in Philadelphia. The songwriting duo licked their wounds for a while, but were lured back a few years later to write the score for High Button Shoes. Based on a book by Stephen Longstreet called The Sisters Liked Them Handsome, this was the kind of nostalgic musical looking back to a simpler time which was so popular in the years following the Second World War. Nearly thirty such shows, in fact, opened over a period of five years. This one was set in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1913, the home of Rutgers University. Its patched-together plot mainly deals with the antics of con-man Harrison Floy and how they impact on the happy Longstreet family. The show's book by Longstreet is flimsy even by the standards of the period and it was doctored heavily by director George Abbott. It's probably the main reason it has never had a major revival, despite a genuinely tuneful score by Styne and Cahn, that features such gems as 'Papa, Won't you Dance With Me?'and 'I Still Get Jealous'. Popular soubrette Nanette Fabray was only 27 at the time and far too young to play Mama Longstreet, but she did it with such warmth that critics and audiences alike sang her praises. They also loved the freewheeling comedy of Phil Silvers, but their greatest praise was reserved for something not preserved on this recording. Choreographer Jerome Robbins put together an inspired 'Mack Sennett Ballet' that captured the magic of silent movie comedy to perfection and Styne composed some magnificently witty music for it. All these positive elements together combined to make the show that opened on 9 October 1947 a 727 performance hit. Cahn longed to return to his family in Los Angeles, but Styne loved having a Broadway hit and wanted another. So he was in a receptive mood when they asked him to join the creative team for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Anita Loos had written the original novel in 1925 at the height of the Jazz Age that it mocked with a jaundiced but affectionate eye. In it, she created one of the great comedic figures of the twentieth century, Lorelei Lee, the original gold-digger. Loos was joining up with playwright Joseph Fields to write the book and they wanted Styne to provide the music. 'I said yes instantly', he recalled years later. 'I had been playing piano in the clubs and dance bands back then. I knew that period. I knew I could write the hell out of it.' He joined up with the witty Leo Robin as lyricist and turned out a score which remains a marvel to this day. It manages to capture perfectly the breezy insouciance of the Roaring Twenties in 'Bye, Bye Baby', 'I Love What I'm Doing'and 'Keeping Cool With Coolidge'. But, even better, Styne and Robin know how to spoof the period's various crazes - from Latin dancing to Fitness mania - with numbers like 'It's Delightful Down in Chile'and 'I'm A'Tingle, I'm A'Glow'. And best of all, they understood how to create songs that would perfectly define Loos' unique creation, Lorelei Lee. 'A Little Girl From Little Rock'and 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend' are still two of the great musical comedy songs. Not only are they infectiously melodic numbers filled with sure-fire comedy lines, but they also give us a perfect portrait of that blonde bundle of avarice called Lorelei. Styne even found the ideal person to play the role for them. 'I told them about a girl I had seen in a revue called Lend An Ear and said they had to see her.' Loos at first was reluctant, because Styne's candidate was on the tall side and she had always seen Lorelei as diminutive, casting it that way in fact in a previous non-musical stage version. 'Look,' said Styne, 'you don't want to do it the way you did before. You got to do it bigger than life. It's a musical, for crying out loud. This girl will be the blonde to end all blondes.' And she was. Carol Channing was her name and she helped carry the show to glory when it opened to unanimous rave reviews on 9 December 1949. Strangely enough, it ran 740 performances, only thirteen more than High Button Shoes, but of the two shows, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is the one that remains enshrined in memory as a classic. There are several reasons for this. One is the subsequent 1953 film version starring Marilyn Monroe, which firmly planted the role, the title and the songs in the public's mind. The other is the fact that Channing kept Lorelei front and centre for many years, even bringing her back to Broadway in a rewritten version called Lorelei in 1974. Perhaps best of all, these back-to-back hits launched the career of Jule Styne
Disc: 1
High Button Shoes
1 Overture
2 It's High Time (Dorothy, Chorus)
3 Bye Bye Baby (Gus, Lorelei, Chorus)
4 A Little Girl From Little Rock (Lorelei)
5 Just A Kiss Apart (Henry, Dorothy)
6 I Love What I'm Doing (Dorothy)
7 Scherzo
8 It’s Delightful Down In Chile (Sir Francis, Lorele
9 You Say You Care (Dorothy, Henry)
10 I'm A'Tingle, I'm A'Glow (Josephus, Dorothy, Lorel
11 Sunshine (Dorothy, Henry, Chorus)
12 Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (Lorelei)
13 Mamie Is Mimi (Dance Team, Chorus)
14 Homesick Blues (Lorelei, Dorothy, Ella, Gus, Henry
15 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Lorelei, Gus)
16 Finale: Keeping Cool With Coolidge (Dorothy, Choru
17 Can't You Just See Yourself (Hubert, Fran)
18 There’s Nothing Like A Model 'T' (Harrison, Sara,
19 Get Away For A Day In The Country (Henry, Stevie,
20 Papa, Won’t You Dance With Me? (Sara, Henry, Choru
21 On A Sunday By The Sea (Harrison, Chorus)
22 You're My Girl (Hubert, Fran)
23 I Still Get Jealous (Henry, Sara)
24 Nobody Ever Died For Dear Old Rutgers (Harrison, M
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