"THE MUSICAL THAT CHANGED THE WAY BROADWAY SOUNDED"
J. T Waldmann | Carmel, IN, home to the fabulous new Regional Perf | 03/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Here, after fifty years, is the CD debut of SAY. DARLING, the musical that changed the way Broadway sounded. That's quite a claim, and only half-seriously made; but this unassuming "comedy about a musical" did, in fact, directly bring about the revolution in orchestration that took us from the age of Russell Bennett to the age of -- well, GYPSY.'
So begins Steven Suskin's March 16 [...] review of DRGs "never before on CD" reissue of RCAs first stereo Broadway Cast album, and I urge you to read Suskin's entertaining and highly informative piece. (Go to the website's homepage and chose "On the Record." Type "say, darling" as the keyword and chose the author from the drop down list.) Not only does Suskin clarify his opening statement, but he also provides a wonderful narrative about the creation of the show. Not really a musical, the show was scored for two pianos only, but "RCA reasoned they should add an orchestra, the better to sound like a real Broadway cast album, so they commissioned staff arranger Sid Ramin to work something up." The sound of Broadway was changed forever.
Some critics have dismissed the score as second rate. Marc Miller ("TheaterMania Guide to Musical Theater Recordings") writes: "Most of the numbers are performance pieces that don't advance the plot; some of them -- such as 'Husking Bee' and 'Chief of Love' -- are intentionally cheesy." Suskin avers: "Styne, Comden and Green wrote spoofs in many flavors, but their hearts -- or at least their best efforts -- seemed not to be in it." Call me weird, but I really like the score and have ever since first hearing it nearly 50 years ago. Although the show contains only 10 songs ("Try To Love Me" is sung at different times by the show's two leads), I found myself singing along with at least four of them. Not bad for a show that's not even a musical.
Johnny Desmond (Giovanni Alfredo De Simone), in his Broadway debut, applies his Big Band experience to the title song, as well as "It's the Second Time You Meet That Matters," and "Try To Love Me," and he puts his "legitimate" voice to good use in "It's Doom" and the afore-mentioned "Husking Bee." Vivian Blaine goes "torchy" with the first reading of "Try To Love Me," does a Big Broadway-style duet ("Dance Only With Me") with Mitchell Gregg, and lets it all hang out on "Chief of Love." The big surprise is David Wayne, simply terrific as the second baritone in the old hymn "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," the snake oil salesman in "The Carnival Song" (with Ms. Blaine and Steve Condos joining in the sham), and the riverboat captain who informs us that "Something's Always Happening at the River."
All this, and the "breathtaking" overture as well. (Suskin's descriptive, not mine;, with which I agree.)
Allow me to let Mr. Suskin bring this review to an end: "Let us close by saying a word in appreciation of DRG. When the CD format came along, the survivor companies of the major labels -- Columbia, RCA and Capitol -- dutifully (if in a sometimes puzzling manner) transferred a good portion of their respective catalogs. But that was then. The newer corporate parents seemed to lose interest, the stream of reissues dried up, and many of the titles fell back out of print. Over the years, DRG has happily picked up many of the fallen cast albums, and with great dedication and care has brought them -- as well as various never-before-on-CD titles -- back into print. At this point, the catalog includes such titles as NO STRINGS, PLAIN AND FANCY, GREENWILLOW, THE GAY LIFE, the superb Shirley Jones/Jack Cassidy BRIGADOON, OH CAPTAIN!, GOLDEN BOY and more. Each of which, really, should be on your CD shelf . . . " (On the Record, [...], October 15, 2007)
Highly recommended, even though the audio quality is not up to DRGs lofty standards. "
A Forgotten Oldie
Gary Smith | Canada | 03/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the late 1950's I saw Say, Darling in New York City. It was my first Broadway show. I loved it. There is such a force of humor in the music and the lyrics. That was transferred neatly to the album which I played over and over. I waited and waited for a CD and then I figured it would never come out. Well, thank goodness it has. This is a show with music that is fun to listen to. It sends up some things about Broadway but always with a loving heart. Viviane Blaine, hot off Guys and Dolls is brilliant singing the show's ballads. And Johnny Desmond has that rich big voice that made him a star on records, on Broadway and on tour. David Wayne and Robert Morse add fun to the whole thing. The full orchestration on this CD is better than the 2 pianos used in the theatre and the music reminds you that these were the days when even a minor musical like Say, Darling had a terrific score. Say, Darling is a perfect addition to a theatre lover's collection. Thank goodness someone finally had the sense to release it on CD. If you want to wallow in Broadway nostalgia of the golden 50's this one is for you. Gary Smith"
Anthony J. Adam | 04/24/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Although Jule Styne is one of the great names in Broadway musical comedy, SAY, DARLING was not one of his high points. The cast is good, David Wayne and Vivian Blaine in particular, with fine service by the pretty much forgotten Johnny Desmond, but the music/lyrics themselves are second rate, at best. The title track isn't bad, by Styne standards, but what is one to make of "The Husking Bee" or "Something's Always Happening On the River," which seems endless (but bouncy and a bit reminiscent of "Blow High, Blow Low")? No extra tracks are included, but perhaps they were mercifully lost."
Vivian Blaine in lesser-known Styne/Comden/Green musical
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 07/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite being panned by most critics, SAY, DARLING (based on Richard Bissell's book of the same name) managed to run for 332 performances in a banner season on Broadway, which was also marked by THE MUSIC MAN and WEST SIDE STORY. Vivian Blaine (GUYS AND DOLLS) stars in this bouncy musical treat with a score by Jule Styne.
The premise for SAY, DARLING is the making of a Broadway musical, the virtual plot-less show is spun around several different songs, performed by the would-be diva, her handsome leading man, their eager writer and a supporting gallery of colourful theater folk. In a bold departure for a major Broadway musical of the period, the songs were played "rehearsal-style" using only two pianos (although the cast album greatly benefits from a full orchestra under the guidance of Sid Ramin).
Vivian Blaine shines with three attractive numbers ("Try to Love Me", "Chief of Love" and "Dance Only with Me"). Her co-stars--including Johnny Desmond (FUNNY GIRL), David Wayne (FINIAN'S RAINBOW) and Robert Morse (HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING)--are just as delightful. This lesser-known show from the team of Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green doesn't really count among their all-time best, but it's enjoyable nontheless.
Making it's CD premiere, SAY, DARLING (one of RCA's first stereophonic cast albums) will be a welcome addition to the collection. [DRG-19109]"