Greenwillow

GreenwillowOriginal Broadway Cast, 1960 (RCA/DRG) 4 Stars (4 / 5) Composer-lyricist Frank Loesser was determined never to repeat himself in his musicals. In between his operatic The Most Happy Fella and his satirical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he created a bucolic, whimsical score for a show set in the village of Greenwillow — -perhaps located a few miles due east of the equally mythical Brigadoon. The show seemed to perplex and confuse people, its charms eluding both critics and audiences. As a result, it lingered on Broadway for just under 100 performances. We should be grateful that it opened at a time when most Broadway musicals were recorded on the first Sunday after opening, before it was known if the show would have a successful run. The album begins with church chimes and then, after a lovely prelude, moves into the syncopated opening number “A Day Borrowed From Heaven.” This sequence introduces the villagers and, eventually, the central character Gideon Briggs, played by Anthony Perkins in his first and last Broadway musical. His is not a legit musical theater voice but, having made some pop albums for RCA prior to Greenwillow, Perkins was quite secure in his singing. He combines that talent with powerful acting to excellent effect in the ebullient “Summertime Love” and the dramatic “Never Will I Marry.” Pert Kelton and Lee Cass practically steal the recording with the uproarious “Could Have Been a Ring,” in which they sing about the relationship they never had with each other. The ingenue, Ellen McCown, sounds fine in the haunting ballads “Walking Away Whistling” and “Faraway Boy,” while Cecil Kellaway and William Chapman do fine work as two very different clergymen. There is also a Frank Loesser Christmas Carol (“Greenwillow Christmas”) and a glorious song celebrating “The Music of Home.” One can forgive the occasional clunkers (such as “Clang Dang the Bell,” in which a cow gets baptized) because they are surrounded by so much good material from one of Broadway’s greatest composer-lyricists. This is a recording you are likely to love.  — Jeffrey Dunn