Wildcat

WildcatOriginal Broadway Cast, 1961 (RCA) 2 Stars (2 / 5) Why did the star of Wildcat choose to make her Broadway debut in a show with requirements so far afield from her abilities? Lucille Ball had looks and charisma and great comic timing, but this was a musical, and its leading lady couldn’t sing; all those I Love Lucy jokes about her tin-eared vocalizing were not exaggerations. The show itself is all right, sort of a female Music Man of the oil fields with a synthetic book by N. Richard Nash and a bouncy score by composer Cy Coleman and lyricist Carolyn Leigh. “Hey, Look Me Over” was the hit of the score, but “What Takes My Fancy” and some of the other tunes are also nice. The whole company sounds energetic on the disc, and the male lead, Keith Andes, handles his music very well. Although the recording can’t convey the inventiveness of Michael Kidd’s choreography, it does hint at the gusto with which Ball threw herself into her song-and-dance numbers. Wildcat would have run longer on Ball’s name alone had she not become exhausted with the grind of eight performances a week, but the show is not compelling enough to have ever entered the arena of perennial showcase musicals. — Richard Barrios