The 1924 musical Lady, Be Good is certainly important historically. It is the first musical for which George and Ira Gershwin wrote all the music and lyrics, and the music and lyrics they wrote was the modernistic jazz age music that was sweeping the country. The original production starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele. And it was a hit running on Broadway for 330 performances, helping to initiate what many call the golden age of the Broadway musical. Though while successful in its day, that success hasn’t been repeated. Lady, Be Good, unlike many of the Gershwins’ other musicals, was never revived on Broadway. Neither the book, nor the score, but for two iconic songs, has stood the test of time.
That is until last February when modern audiences had a chance to experience it as the opening show in the New York City Center Encores! Series. And now, due for release from Ghostlight Records, comes the cast recording of that production. Featuring the likes of Tommy Tune, Douglas Sills, Patty Murin, and Colin Donnell along with a 30-piece orchestra under the direction of Rob Fisher, the score, much like the book, adds little to the show’s stature. Lively at times, it is not always memorable.
There are, of course, the two brilliant standards that come from the show: the title tune sung first by Sills and reprised in the second act by Donnell, and “Fascinating Rhythm” is given a star tapping turn by Tune. But other than those, the show is filled with songs with limited appeal. Indeed, in some sense, they suffer by comparison with the two masterpieces. Tune comes back for something called “Little Jazz Bird,” but it’s a hard sell. “So Am I,” a duet for Donnell and Murin, and “Hang on to Me” where Murin is joined by Danny Gardner are fine, but again the material is not what you would call show stopping.
The CD features a 20-page booklet in which Fisher discusses the Gershwins and the writing of the musical and a necessary plot synopsis by Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel.
Lady, Be Good is an album for the musical theater maven—the collector who wants them all.
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