The Nervous Set

Nervous-SetOriginal Broadway Cast, 1959 (ColumbialDRG) 2 Stars (2 / 5) This investigation of beatnik culture ran for only 23 performances, and you’ll know why when you hear the cast album. With a jazz quartet instead of an orchestra for instrumental accompaniment, and with song titles like “Man, We’re Beat,” The Nervous Set comes across more like a faded topical revue than a book musical about love among Greenwich Villagers. The libretto is by Jay Landesman and Theodore J. Flicker. The score, by Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman, did yield a couple of attractive numbers in “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” and “Fun Life” (“Shakespeare was a hack / So we read Kerouac!”). There’s also a charming counterpoint duet, “What’s to Lose/Stars Have Blown My Way,” and the introspective “Laugh, I Thought I’d Die.” But the comedy numbers are painful, especially the kinky “How Do You Like Your Love?” and the repetitive “Party Song.” The cast isn’t loaded with distinctive voices, although ingenue Tani Seitz’s singing has a sweet, sad quality. A very young Larry Hagman gets a country-western hoedown, “Travel the Road of Love,” but the song is only one curio in an album filled with them. — David Barbour