Sail away with Elaine Stritch...
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 11/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a story Elaine Stritch loves to tell. In 1957, during the run of the disastrous Broadway musical "Goldilocks", Stritch was visited backstage by the one and only Noel Coward, who assured her that the problems in "Goldilocks" had absolutely nothing to do with her, and promised that the next musical she'd star in would be written by him - and it would be a hit.
Three years later, Noel Coward made good on that promise, and Elaine wowed the critics and audiences as Mimi Paragon in SAIL AWAY, which boasts a fantastic score that has now been reissued on compact disc by DRG. There are several bonafide gems in this score, most notably the tour-de-force "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?", but even better in my opinion is the aching 11 o'clocker "Something Very Strange", easily one of my all-time favourite Coward songs.
While Coward originally intended the musical for two co-starring leading ladies (operatic soprano Jean Fenn starred alongside Stritch for the out-of-town tryouts); producers decided the show simply would not work that way; and Fenn was quietly dismissed after the Philadelphia previews.
Stritch subsequently starred in the London production (cast album available on the Fynsworth Alley label), where the reception for the show was even more rapturous than in New York. SAIL AWAY was written by Coward with Stritch in mind, so it's hard to imagine a production without her, simply because the role of Mimi is so perfectly tailored to Stritch in voice, manner and personality.
This reissue of SAIL AWAY comes with a bonus disc of Noel Coward performing the songs from the show.
NOEL COWARD & ELAINE STRITCH. NEED I SAY ANYTHING MORE?
J. T Waldmann | Carmel, IN, home to the fabulous new Regional Perf | 05/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This show belongs to Elaine Stritch, all the way, and it's great to have the original Broadway cast recording of SAIL AWAY - finally - on CD. I can't think of anyone who could deliver Noel Coward's witty and urbane lyrics better than Miss Stritch, except perhaps for Mr. Coward himself. And this he does, on the companion CD "Noel Coward Sings His Broadway Hit SAIL AWAY." At two for the price of one, this offering can't be beat. (As an additional bonus, Mr. Coward & Joe Layton also perform two songs -- "This Is a Night for Lovers" and "Bronxville Darby and Joan" -- which were cut from the Broadway production.)
Not that every song is a masterpiece. "Later Than Spring" might sound more comfortable in Coward's 1930 operetta BITTER SWEET than in a 1962 musical comedy. And nothing, not even Miss Stritch's peerless delivery, can save a lyric as wretched as this one from "Something Very Strange": "All the sounds I hear/the buses changing gear/suddenly appear to be beguiling." And: "Every cat I see/seems to be purring. I can clearly tell/in every clanging bell/some forgotten melody recurring." Perhaps the song should have been cut in Philadelphia, but it is, after all, the star's only ballad.
It's the ballads that don't fare too well, but thank goodness there aren't that many of them. Charles Braswell and the Stewards show their contempt for their charges with "The Passenger's Always Right;" Patricia Harty & Grover Dale make literary references during their two numbers, "Beatnik Love Affair" and "When You Want Me;" and the formidable Elaine Stritch brings down the house with "Come To Me," "You're a Long Way from America," The Little Ones ABC," and "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" (I've not decided yet if I'm offended or not with Mr. Coward's contempt for the citizens of Omaha. Political correctness obviously was not uppermost on the author's agenda.)
Thanks to record companies like DRG, Sepia, Fynsworth Alley, PS Classic, AEI and others, important - and some not-so-important -- musicals from the past are being preserved for us old fogies and for generations to come. It was an era when singers could project above the pit band and didn't have to rely on amplification. It's so gratifying to hear real "voices" like James Hurst on this recording or Georgio Tozzi, Jean Fenn and Frank Porretta on the wonderful DRG release of THE GREAT WALTZ. And with this recording, we have a splendid record of both the great Noel Coward and the fabulous Elaine Stritch.
". . . it's a marvelous document of Stritch hitting her stride. . . is there anyone else who can put their interpretive stamp on a song the way she does? Much like the late, great Dolores Gray, when Elaine Stritch interprets a song, every other singer in the world might as well forget about ever trying it. Stritch puts her definitive stamp on everything she touches. Yes, a trilly songbird like Julie Andrews makes a song sound wonderful, but with Stritch you hear the words, their meaning, and the song `feels' wonderful." - (excerpted from an amazon.com review of the London recording)
Although Miss Stritch was nominated for a Best Actress in a Musical, the 1962 Tony went to (tie) - Anna Maria Alberghetti (CARNIVAL) and Diahann Carroll for NO STRINGS, another outstanding DRG release.
SAIL AWAY is very highly recommended, especially if you're partial to sophisticated, witty lyrics. Add the bonus Noel Coward CD and you've got a winner any way you look at it.
P.S. If you want a REAL review of this CD, click on www.broadway.com and look for "ETCETERA: John Simon Explains Why Two CDs Are Better Than One for Noel Coward's SAIL AWAY." Simon was the long-time critic for NEW YORK MAGAZINE. (5/12/06)"
NOTHING COWARDLY ABOUT THIS NOEL COWARD GEM
Alan W. Petrucelli | THE ENTERTAINMENT REPORT (ALAN W. PETRUCELLI) | 05/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Noel Coward conquered movies, TV, cabaret, the stages of the West End and Broadway. He published a novel, several volumes of short stories and composed a ballet. He wrote, he directed, he starred, but, mostly he twinkled like some Olympian wit, and chased his talent to amuse all of his life. Late in his career, he wrote and directed and cast his only completely American work, Sail Away. (He even designed the show's poster!)
DRG has finally reissued the cast album to the 1961 musical, along with a companion disc of Coward himself singing the material. Although the cast is strewn with popular performers of the day, the only one remembered nowadays is the indestructible Elaine Stritch in this, her second Broadway musical.
There are some nifty songs here--none ever reached the hit parade, but the ballads "Later Than Spring" and "Something Very Strange" are quite moving, and Stritch is hysterical in the novelty numbers, especially "Useful Phrases" (combining phrases from a Berliz Book with very funny, very obscene results) and "Why Do the Wrong People Travel (When the Right People Stay Back Home?)," pretty much a searing indictment of American tourists. A perfect companion for a relaxing cruise!"