Destry Rides Again

Destry-OBCOriginal Broadway Cast, 1958 (Decca) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Harold Rome’s whip-cracking western musical comes complete with good guys, bad guys, saloon girls, respectable prostitutes, and gun fights. The atmospheric Decca cast recording stars Andy Griffith in his only Broadway musical role and Dolores Grey as saloon singer Frenchy, the latter belting up such a storm that it’s a wonder she managed to get through eight performances a week. On CD, from the first notes of the rousing overture, there’s an added crispness that was always lacking on the LP. This only adds to the pleasure of hearing Griffith’s “Tomorrow Morning” (with some great sound effects) and his comedic, double-talking “Only Time Will Tell.” But the album is dominated by Grey’s songs, most notably the sinuous “I Know Your Kind,” the soul-searching ballad “I Say Helio,” and one of the more thrilling examples of this singer’s style: “Fair Warning.” The two leads duet effectively in “Anyone Would Love You” and the plot-motivated reprise of “Once Knew a Fella.” The production number “Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?” is effective even without its brilliant Michael Kidd choreography; “Respectability” is a charming musicalization of what it means to work in a bordello; and “That Ring on the Finger” gives Grey, Rosetta LeNoire (as her spunky maid), and the “working girls” a chance to let go joyously at the prospect of Frenchy getting married. Almost every song on this lively cast album is a winner. — Jeffrey Dunn

Destry-LondonOriginal London Cast, 1982 (JAY) No stars; not recommended. It took Destry Rides Again almost a quarter-century to get from Broadway to London. In the interim, the musical theater had changed greatly on both sides of the Atlantic, so it’s not surprising that what used to be a show with lots of dancing girls, prostitutes, and cowboys was downsized. The London cast of 19 had only three women, which meant the deletion of “Respectability. ” Almost all cast members doubled as the show’s band; the orchestration is reduced to what sounds mainly like guitars and violins with a bass, harmonica, trombone, and a barely audible piano. This approach has a calamitous effect on the score, and musical director Chris Walker must take at least some of the blame for it. Alfred Molina is low-keyed and ineffective as Destry, while Jill Gascoine sounds pained as Frenchy; her singing grates on the ear, and she only partly compensates with her acting. Harold Rome wrote a wonderfully tuneful score for this show, but this recording manages to disguise that fact.  — J.D.