Miss Liberty

Miss-LibertyOriginal Broadway Cast, 1949 (Columbia/Sony) 2 Stars (2 / 5) Irving Berlin’s highly anticipated follow-up to Annie Get Your Gun was one of those can’t-miss packages that missed. It had thick postwar nostalgia, Jerome Robbins choreography, direction by Moss Hart, sets by Oliver Smith, and a book by the distinguished playwright Robert E. Sherwood. The plot is slight: Reporter travels to 1885 Paris to interview Bartholdi’s model for the Statue of Liberty, bags the wrong girl, and hilarious complications ensue. Apparently, one of the show’s problems was that audiences rooted for the reporter to end up with his American girlfriend, not the jeune fllle who ultimately lands him. But the real trouble may have been the unexciting principals and Berlin’s lackluster score. Eddie Albert, a Broadway pro by 1949, was capable but hardly one to set a stage ablaze. The girls fighting for his affections, Allyn Ann McLerie and Mary McCarty, were promising young talents, the former more a dancer than a singer (Exhibit A: her high notes in “Just One Way to Say I Love You”) and the latter an ideal best-pal sort overselling middling material. Berlin packs some good foreign-relations jabs into “Only for Americans,” and the show’s finale, “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” has the required dignity, although McLerie’s thin soprano undercuts it somewhat. Otherwise, the album is interesting as a document of how deeply ingrained sexism was in 1949. In “Homework,” career gal McCarty admits that her real dream is “Staying / At home and crocheting / And meekly obeying / The guy who comes home.” In “You Can Have Him,” she says that her greatest desire is to “give him babies, one for every year.” Sheesh! — Marc Miller