Prettybelle

PrettybelleOriginal Cast, 1971 (Original Cast Records/Varèse Sarabande) 4 Stars (4 / 5) A woman who lives in the Deep South wants to repent for her husband’s deplorable hostilities toward minorities — so she beds black and Hispanic men. With such a contrived plot, it’s no surprise that Prettybelle folded quickly in Boston, but a tuneful, Southern-tinged score by the great composer Jule Styne survives and was recorded years after the show closed. From the lazy waltz of the title tune to a rollicking Dixieland march, Styne’s music, joined to wonderfully evocative lyrics by Bob Merrill, is performed by one of Broadway’s greatest leading ladies, Angela Lansbury. She’s absolutely brilliant in the plaintive “To a Small Degree,” wherein Prettybelle describes her marriage. Her angry delivery of “How Could I Know?” reveals the character’s devastating discovery of her husband’s vileness, and Lansbury really socks it to us with “When I’m Drunk, I’m Beautiful,” the 11-o’clock blockbuster. — Peter Filichia