Inside U.S.A.

Inside-USAOriginal Cast Members, 1948 (SHB-Show-Biz Productions/Sepia) 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) Almost forgotten today but the second-longest-running revue of 1948, this Howard Dietz-Arthur Schwartz opus inspired by John Gunther’s best-seller had a starry cast, yielded two minor hit ballads (“Haunted Heart” and “Rhode Island Is Famous for You”), and displayed some of the old ingenuity that peppered the team’s 1930s revue output. The reconstituted cast album, assembled from scratchy 78s and topping out at 28 minutes, boasts no rediscovered gems but shows off its cast ably; and the opening title number, with a lobotomized-sounding chorus exuding “The USA is gay, uproarious / In a glorious way,” fully evokes mid-century nationalism. Pearl Bailey exudes her patented lazy hauteur in “Protect Me” and “Blue Grass,” while Jack Haley puts over all of the playful “Rhode Island” puns (“Pencils come from Pennsylvania / Vests from Vest Virginia / And tents from Tentassee”). Beatrice Lillie plays a happy convict in “Atlanta,” a deranged choral director in “Come, O Come,” and a jolly reveler in “Mardi Gras.” Billy Williams, not of the original company, somehow landed on the album; he delivers an undistinguished cowboy ballad. The cast of the show also included Jack Cassidy in the chorus and Carl Reiner delivering monologues but, alas, you won’t hear them here. [Note: The Sepia CD release also includes selections from The Band Wagon with Fred and Adele Astaire.] — Marc Miller