Wednesday November 21, 2012

KEENE, N.H.

Bloomer Girl -- A most interesting addition to the series of vintage televised musicals on VAI DVDs is "Bloomer Girl." With a score by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg (the team that gave us "The Wizard of Oz" score in 1939), this 1944 tale of Dolly Bloomer and her Bloomer Girls’ fight for women’s rights had a respectable run of 654 performances and shared its plot and theme with the rights of slaves (in the 1861 setting of the play) and of all humans in general.

The choreography of Agnes de Mille, especially her Civil War Ballet, added much to the show. And not only is de Mille the choreographer for the 1956 "Alcoa Hour," but many of her original dancers were recalled to action. The first dance is a bit too 1944-de Mille-cute; but that is the point of reviving old shows in the spirit of their originals.

Of course, the 90-minute format allows only 76 minutes for "Bloomer Girl," but what remains is top notch.

The lovers Jeff and Evelina are sung by Keith Anders and Barbara Cook (who is still going strong, as a New York Times featured article of 10-23-12 proclaims). Carmen Mathews plays Dolly Bloomer and Paul Ford is ... well, Paul Ford as the blustering father of the Applegate Girls. Rawn Spearman as the slave Pompey has a pleasing voice and David Aiken as the auctioneer has a powerful one.

The studio set is large enough to give a convincing main part of a small Northern town called Cicero Falls, while the chorus work is quite good.


Advertisement

This abridged edition of "Bloomer Girl" belongs in any collection next to the VAI DVDs of "Kiss Me, Kate," "Dearest Enemy," "A Connecticut Yankee," "The Chocolate Solider," "The Yeomen of the Guard," "Naughty Marietta," and "The Mikado" (with Groucho Marx in the lead.)

As is the case with the other sets, "Bloomer Girl" was originally telecast in color, but only the black-and-white kinescope remains.

Thank you again, VAI for this new treat!

Putumayo Kids -- Some time ago I reported on some Putumayo Kids CDs from the point of view of how music can relax us. Among them was "African Dreamland," which offered songs from South Africa, the Congo, Cameroon, Mali, and other locations on that continent. Now the PK folk have added to their growing catalogue "World Sing-Along."

I believe it essential that youngsters become aware of other cultures and that music is the best way to begin. "World Sing-Along" holds 11 selections of songs from such diverse locales as Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Trinidad, Switzerland, China (in Mandarin), Jamaica, and Spain. Track 11 goes "around the world." The singers are well known in their own countries and add authenticity to the proceedings.

My problem with this disc is that while the liner notes give interesting facts about each selection, they do not give the words. How a child (or most adults) can "sing along" without them is beyond me. Yes, the songs make great listening. No, I cannot see any English speaker hearing the Mandarin selection and joining in on the second playing. But the songs in English can be "sung along" after a few hearings, especially with adult guidance.

More accessible to listeners of all ages is "Cowboy Playground." Here are 12 selections including "I’m an Old Cowhand," "Back in the Saddle Again," "Pecos Bill," and the joyful "Whoopee Ti Yi Yo," the last of which children will most (I thinik) enjoy singing.

Keep up the good work, you at Putumayo Kids!

Goat Rodeo -- Some time ago, Sony Classical released a CD titled "The Goat Rodeo Sessions." They are now reissuing it in a "deluxe edition" not only with extra tracks but with a DVD showing the players at work and in conversation. They are Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile.

"Goat Rodeo" is an aviator’s term for the 100 things that must go right to ensure a safe landing. The variety of the selections in their concerts and in this recording poses (we are to assume) 100 hurdles to overcome before landing with something worth hearing. I leave it to the reader to judge from the 11 original selections, the five bonus selections, and the comments on the DVD.

I find it at least interesting, at the most invigorating. Certainly worth a try.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.