Arms and the Girl

Original Broadway Cast, 1948 (Decca) 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) The Theatre Guild was riding the success of the still-running Oklahoma! when Armina Marshall Langner suggested that The Pursuit of Happiness, a play she had written with her husband, Lawrence Langner, would make a good musical.  Rouben Mamoulian, who had directed the Guild’s earlier successes (including Porgy and Bess, Oklahoma!, and Carousel), was brought in to helm Arms and the Girl. Morton Gould and Dorothy Fields wrote the score, their only Broadway collaboration. Judging from the cast album, the show was distinguished primarily by its three leading performers: Georges Guetary (a French musical theater star), Nanette Fabray, and Pearl Bailey. For Fabray, this was another unsuccessful vehicle that would keep her from achieving major Broadway stardom on a par with Ethel Merman and Mary Martin. Still, her work here is colorful and exciting in “Girl With a Flame” and “That’s My Fella.” She’s great in her duets with Guetary, who does also does well with the charming if corny “A Cow and a Plow and a Frau.”  But the big news of the show was Pearl Bailey in a scene-stealing role. She played a slave who changes her name according to where she is geographically — so, as “Connecticut,” she sings the bawdily humorous “There Must Be Something Better than Love” and the lesser “Nothin’ for Nothin’.” Note: The CD edition of this album also includes cast recordings of Up in Central Park; both albums have been meticulously remastered, and they sound as good as any recordings of the period could be expected to. The disc filled an important gap in the catalogue, so we should be grateful to Decca Broadway for its release. — Jeffrey Dunn