The Producers (Oxford)

CD Review: The Cabaret Girl

By • West End
WOS Rating:

<b<The Cabaret Girl<b>.  Albany Records. RRP: £27.99.<br>

Ohio Light Opera Company production, 2008. 2-CD, plus booklet.

Jerome Kern’s elegant New York Princess Theatre musicals, written with P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, shine like gems in the annals of American musical theatre, as anyone can tell you who has ever heard the late John McGlinn’s magical 1990 recording of the 1924 <i>Sitting Pretty<i>. <i>The Cabaret Girl<i> was one of Kern’s London shows, written at the suggestion of actor-producer George Grossmith, Jr., who teamed with Wodehouse to provide the book and lyrics, and also played one of the comic leads. The show opened at London’s Winter Garden in September 1922.  Kudos to the ambitious Ohio Light Opera Company for tackling this delicate territory.

This double-disc CD presents the entire score, complete with dialogue, recorded live at the Ohio Light Opera 2008 Festival, conducted by Michael Borowitz. They give it their all, and we are grateful to have this recording, but ultimately one misses the elegant spirit and musical finesse of McGlinn. A few minor quibbles: The voices of the two actors playing the music publishers Gravvins and Gripps, obviously a parody of the team of Gallagher & Shean in that year’s <i>Ziegfeld Follies<i>, are too similar; it was often difficult to tell them apart. The only time we sense the audience in this live recording is at the very end, when there is a burst of applause which is then rapidly cut short. Were they instructed to keep quiet? It kills the spontaneity, and gives the recording an eerie vacuum-like quality. The booklet includes the full libretto, although the typeface is light and hard to read, and one wishes there were more information about the show and its original 1922 London cast (there is nary a mention of star Dorothy Dickson, or that Gravvins was to have been played by comedian Leslie Henson, who had to pull out at the last minute).

(Note: There are also 5 songs from <i>The Cabaret Girl<i> on the album <i>The First Rose of Summer: Rare Early Theatre Songs by Jerome Kern, 1912-1928<i>, by 42nd Street Moon, a San Francisco group specializing in revivals along the lines of London’s “Lost Musicals”. 42nd Street Moon/Music Box Recordings, 2004. MBR 04003.  Well worth a listen!)
- by Catherine Surowiec

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