The Gay Life

Gay-LifeOriginal Broadway Cast, 1961 (Capitol/Angel) 3 Stars (3 / 5) After the film Gigi, nobody was interested in another musical tale of a virgin and a rake in beIle epoque Europe, but Fay and Michael Kanin went ahead and adapted Arthur Schnitzler’s The Affairs of Anatol anyway. Even with Barbara Cook singing a score by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, The Gay Life ran only 113 performances, yet this is one of those flops that shines on disc. Cook is Liesl, a respectable girl who was raised to make a good marriage but who prefers the rakish Anatol (Walter Chiari). As Liesl’s brother, Max, Jules Munshin offers wry commentary on mating rituals in “Bring Your Darling Daughter” (“Who knows how many bows she will have upon her string? / She may annex a sexy sauerbraten king!”). Chiari, with his mush-mouthed diction, can be hard to take. But Cook is at her peak in delivering such thoughtful ballads as “Magic Moment” and “Something You Never Had Before,” and she’s a spitfire in “I Wouldn’t Marry You” and “The Label on the Bottle.” Thanks to her superb work and the first-class songs, Liesl is no standard-issue ingenue; she’s a fascinating young woman. The sumptuous, worldly score wittily analyzes the characters’ hypocrisies even as it brims with emotion. Don Walker’s orchestrations add an extra level of plush enjoyment. This is a rarity worth seeking out.  — David Barbour