I Had a Ball

I-Had-a-BallOriginal Broadway Cast, 1964 (Mercury/Decca) 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) With Buddy Hackett starring as a Coney Island psychic who screws up his friends’ love lives, it’s safe to say that I Had a Ball doesn’t have a thought in its silly little head. Nobody really liked Jerome Chodorov’s libretto, but the score by Jack Lawrence and Stan Freeman is enjoyable. The songs often seem shoehorned into the plot, yet the melodies are jazzy with an edge of dark sophistication — and with Richard Kiley and Karen Morrow on board, how bad could it be? The flop-plagued Morrow, one of Broadway’s most distinctive voices, delivers thrilling renditions of the title tune and the mordantly cynical “I’ve Got Everything I Want.” Kiley scores with the rueful 11 o’clock number “Fickle Finger of Fate.” Other fun items include the gospel rouser “Faith,” the biting “Neighborhood” (delivered with gusto by Rosetta Le Noire), and the moody quartet “Can It Be Possible?” Hackett is barely present on the disc but, after hearing his big comedy number “Dr. Freud,” we can only be happy about that. Philip J. Lang’s brassy, jazzy orchestrations add to the fun. This is the kind of score that makes show fans treasure flops. Bonus tracks include two studio versions by Morrow of the title tune and the ballad “Almost,” plus instrumental renditions of two cut numbers, “Lament” and “Be a Phony,” by the Lester Lanin Orchestra.  — David Barbour