Early Jerome Kern musical in the company of great operettas



Cabaret Girl -- There was once a form of entertainment called the Musical Comedy that actually had both delightful music and a good deal of comedy. Of course, the plots were bubble-headed and served mainly as a peg on which to hang the songs. One of the reformers of the genre was Jerome Kern, a disciple of Victor Herbert, whose influence on Kern is very obvious in Kern’s earlier works.

Of course, "Show Boat" dared to introduce a serious plot into the mix and prepared the ground for "Pal Joey," "South Pacific" and later much of what passes for musicals today. But back in 1922, works like Kern’s "The Cabaret Girl" were much in vogue. Most have deservedly vanished, but with Kern composing the music and P.G. Wodehouse and George Grossmith working on dialogue and lyrics, the show was heads above most of the others.

Now cut into the 21st century. The Ohio Light Opera has been producing and recording on CDs a good many American and European operettas, with considerable success, most of which I have reviewed in my columns. Some time ago they released "The Cabaret Girl" on the Albany label, a set I consider one of their finer efforts. Since the recording and program notes include all the dialogue, I will pass over the silly plot, which deals with a young man of the upper-upper who wishes to marry a chorus girl. Oh, my!

What is most impressive is that just about every song makes one feel good! The comedy songs find their sources in past operettas (Gilbert and Sullivan’s influence is most apparent) as well as vaudeville routines, in particular those of Gallagher and Shean.

Conductor Michael Borowitz brings sparkle to a score that demands it; and even the dialogue flows a little faster than it does in some of the past OLO recordings. Compliments to the leads, among whom are Lindsay O’Neil, Stefan Gordon, Julie Wright, Steven Daigle, and too many others to list here.

The running time of the two CDs is 114 minutes, and for once I wish it could have been longer!

So for lovers of old time songs, students of the American musical theatre, and all who want to revel in things as they used to be -- this is a definite Grabbit!

Urban Impressions -- I always look forward to the next ArtHaus DVD in their series 1000 Masterworks. Each disc is devoted to five paintings, all of which are joined together by some historical period (Renaissance), school (Impressionism) or theme (Drama, Legends and Myth in art). The latest is titled "Urban Impressions" and has as its central theme the way in which artists express their views of a cityscape or a particular part of that city.

The five included in this set are "Ansonia" (Richard Estes, 1977), "Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars" (Robert Delaunay, 1911), "View of Dresden under a Full Moon" (Johann Christian Dahl, 1839), "The Brooklyn Bridge" (Joseph Stella, 1939) and "Paris Street Scene in the Rain" (Gustave Caillebotte, 1877).

Interpolation: I grow testy when series such as these repeat parts of earlier discs. In this case, the Caillebotte work is also found in the "Impressionism" disc. With 1000 works to consider, this repetition is utterly unnecessary!

The long distance shot of Dresden is at night, but along the shores of the river there are several day workers. Why? The Eiffel Tower is shown from different perspectives so that at first glance it is difficult to spot the famous landmark. The Brooklyn Bridge is reduced to vertical and curved lines, so the title is quite necessary to guide the viewer. The Paris street in the rain is divided into three vertical areas with an inset on the right, while the umbrellas give a spooky and sterile effect.

Most interesting to me is the view of the Ansonia section of Manhattan, with its precise photographic look at the area. Can what looks like an exact presentation of an urban area be abstract at the same time? Let the viewer decide.

Oh, and the flip-flopped reference to American President "Arthur Chester" has, I hope, been pointed out to the author of the narration -- which can be heard in English, German or French.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays.


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