J. T Waldmann | Carmel, IN, home to the fabulous new Regional Perf | 10/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's good to have Harold Rome's FANNY once again available on compact disc, although it's rather disappointing that is comes not from BMG/Sony (or DRG, for that matter) but from Flare Records, a British label. However, in these times of corporate mergers with (what seems to be) concern only for the bottom line, we should be grateful that someone is interested in preserving our Great American Musical heritage, even if that "someone" happens to be from across the pond.
Regardless of its considerable merits, FANNY will always be remembered as the first musical to bear the name of legendary Broadway producer, David Merrick. According to Victor Lewis' informative liner notes, "After spending a decade trying to launch a career as a theatrical entrepreneur, his search for a vehicle that would take him into Broadway's heady world had finally brought him to [Marcel] Pagnol's story, and he set about seeing it realised [sic] as a musical. . . ." Merrick was able to persuade Joshua Logan to come on board as director, author and co-producer, and together they approached Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to write the score, hoping to re-create the success of SOUTH PACIFIC. They even lined up Ezio Pinza, Mary Martin, and William Tabbert for the leads. Merrick and Rodgers had a falling out, and the job eventually went to Harold Rome. Ms. Martin withdrew from the project, and the role of Fanny was given to 20-year-old Florence Henderson.
FANNY finally opened - to mixed reviews - on November 4, 1954, and with Merrick's unrelenting promotion, it managed a run of 888 performances, winning a Best Actor Tony for Walter Slezak. Brooks Atkinson, whose "reviews were reputed to have the power to make or break a new stage production" (Wikipedia), wrote in his New York Times review, ". . . the story is so genuine and rueful, the writing is so tender, the music is so melodic and the casting is so engaging that it results in a thoroughly absorbing theatre experience." (In Atkinson's obituary, the same paper called him "the most important reviewer of his time," and a Broadway theater now carries his name.)
Harold Rome's score made quite an impression on this (then) sixteen-year-old Nebraska farm boy, who would sing "Here's a boy with no heart to give,/Fanny, Fanny, Fanny./Not worth one tear you'll cry,/Fanny,/Oh, Fanny, goodbye!" at the top of his lungs. And even today he gets a lump in his throat when Walter Slezak sings "Panisse and Son" and "To My Wife," when Ezio Pinza asks "Why Be Afraid To Dance" or rhapsodizes about the common, everyday miracles of life in "Welcome Home." These are but a few moments in a score that includes "Be Kind to Your Parents," "Restless Heart," "Never Too Late for Love," and the "Octopus Song."
About the score, Victor Lewis writes: "And what a score it is. . . . Rome's soaring melodies and the straightforward sentiment of his lyrics seem to me to take it in the direction of light opera, and one can only be glad that the commission for the score was eventually given to him. Oscar Hammerstein was, no doubt, a brilliant lyricist, but his tendency to sentimentalise [sic] a theme, and his proneness at times towards the most purple poetry, would have been not quite suitable for Fanny's down-to-earth situation. So in this instance perhaps we are better off without a sky being 'a bright canary yellow,' and larks singing through the night 'learning to pray.' "
But there's something slightly "off" about FANNY. William Tabbert and Florence Henderson sound as though they are trying too hard, singing everything full-throttle. And as much as I admire the work of Philip J. Lang, his orchestrations for this show are too "big," too fussy. I felt that, in this case, smaller would have been better. These words from Time Magazine's review of November 15, 1954 express it better than I can: "FANNY . . . might have come off far better had it been done on a shoestring. For its very Gallic story of the Marseille waterfront -- of a young girl who finds herself pregnant after her sea-crazed lover sails away, and of her marriage to a widower who loves her and craves a child -- is a ticklish compound of sentiment and hard sense, of ruefulness and worldliness, that requires delicately simple treatment. As a play enfolded in music, it could be both piquant and touching. As a grandiose spectacle -- with undersea ballets, waterfront fandangos and full-rigged ships crossing the stage -- the story becomes both sluggish and slapdash. The heaping portion has been substituted for the proper food."
Flare's mastering slightly improves the sound of the LP, providing more detail, especially in the orchestra. I have not heard RCA's CD version, but I assume, since it was issued in 1996, it displays the sharp and edgy, brittle sound of RCA's digital releases of that period. Nor am I familiar with the liner notes from that pressing. Flare's are informative and amusing, although with a minimal synopsis of the plot. (The LP has only thumbnail biographies and pictures of the cast.) For some reason, the first four songs after the overture are in different order from the LP.
At any rate. It's good to have FANNY back. Recommended. "
A Lifelong Treasure
Broadway Fan | 02/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was actually raised on this music as my mom was pregnant with me when my parents saw "Fanny" on Broadway. I didn't know this CD was available until I found it after I thought was an impossible Christmas gift search. My sister screamed when she opened it, then the whole (large)family screamed when they saw it. When the in-laws asked "What?", all of us broke into "The Thought of You" at the top of our lungs. The same sister used "Love Is A Very Light Thing" on a video for her son and I just sang "Welcome Home" for my mom's funeral.
It saddens me that I most likely won't ever see this show on-stage but I am so grateful that I have this beautiful music to listen to. Also, I have the "Fanny" video which brings across the same passion and at least Harold Rome's beautiful music is in the soundtrack.
For "Fanny" lovers, Marcel Pagnol's trilogy is a treat to watch, too."
Harold Rome's musical classic
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 04/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"FANNY is undoubtedly composer Harold Rome's most lush, romantic musical. Based on portions of author Marcel Pagnol's "Marseilles Trilogy", FANNY is the story of a young man, Marius (William Tabbert), who is torn between his desire to become a sailor, and the love of Fanny (Florence Henderson), the pretty young girl who's adored him since they were children.
Rome's score climbs the heights of operetta territory with such soaring pieces as "I Have to Tell You", "Fanny", and "Restless Heart". The casting of classically-trained voices like William Tabbert, Florence Henderson and Ezio Pinza afforded Rome lots of leeway in writing material which bordered on the epic. It's a most fascinating score. The central role of Fanny was originally intended for Mary Martin; when she declined it, the role fell to relative unknown Florence Henderson, who'd first come to the attention of Rome two years earlier in the chorus of his 1952 delight, WISH YOU WERE HERE.
Flare has filled the remainder of the disc with selections from other show albums featuring the FANNY principals (Florence Henderson on the 1955 studio cast of CAROUSEL and a studio album of OKLAHOMA!; and William Tabbert & Ezio Pinza's selections from the 1949 original Broadway cast album of SOUTH PACIFIC) amongst others.
Although Amazon currently lists this title as out-of-print, it's in fact still readily available through the Flare website.
[Flare Records SPEC-1040]"
A Romantic Musical Comedy without sleaze
Cy Reese | Davenport, FL, USA | 12/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another reviewer of "Fanny" was grateful that Harold Rome had written the lyrics for this show rather than Oscar Hammerstein II because he apparently thinks that the latter only writes sugary lyrics like some songs in "The Sound of Music". Is this gentleman aware that Hammerstein is the same guy who years before this musical wrote "Niggers all work on the Mississippi" for "Show Boat", daring audiences to come to grips with discrimination in America? I, for one, would have loved to seen or heard what Hammerstein would have done with the story, but, that said, I do think that Harold Rome composed some beautiful songs for "Fanny", especially the title song, and the entire work can be performed for audiences of all ages which is more than can be said for romance stories of this day and age. If you collect musicals, "Fanny" is a must, especially because of Ezio Pinza in the cast. Congratulations to Flare records and the British for paying tribute to our American theatre by issuing this gem."
Happy 100th Birthday, Harold Rome
Spy Queen | NY USA | 02/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In surfing a few websites, I have discovered that 2008 marks the centennial of the birth of Harold Rome, the man who worte the score for Fanny, Destry Rides Again, Wish You Were Here, and I Can Get It For You Wholesale.
Lest you forget, the last-mentioned musical was an early effort for someone named Barbra Streisand. The rest is history. "