No, No, Nanette

NanetteBroadway Cast, 1971 (Columbia/Sony) 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) Pure heaven. This revisal of a nearly forgotten 1925 hit helped kick off the nostalgia craze on Broadway. Burt Shevelove did a good job of adapting Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel’s book, a typical farcical tangle of the period, but the Vincent Youmans-Irving Caesar songs are everything here. And Ralph Burns’ gloriously expansive orchestrations, complete with two pianos, are among the finest ever for a Broadway musical. The entire cast embraces both the silliness and sophistication of the material, and the leads are sublime. Helen Gallagher delivers the eccenttic “Too Many Rings Around Rosie” and the scorching “‘Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone’ Blues.” Jack Gilford and Susan Watson are charming in “I Want to Be Happy,” Bobby Van partners with Gallagher in the amusingly hyperactive “You Can Dance With Any Girl at All,” and Watson and Roger Rathburn offer a fresh rendition of “Tea for Two.” On the original LP release of this recording, Ruby Keeler was only heard singing a bit of “Take a Little One Step” and delivering a few lines of dialogue in the “Finaletto Act II,” but one of the bonus tracks on the CD is “Only a Moment Ago,” a Keeler-Gilford duet that was cut from the show before it opened. The CD also includes quite a bit of material that was dropped from the LP edition due to space, including the Act II opener, “Peach on the Beach.” This cast album, more than most, preserves the electric excitement of a Broadway performance. It’s essential to any collection. — David Barbour

London Cast, 1973 (CBS) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) One of the best London cast albums of an American musical ever released, this recording is commendable first of all for excellent sound quality that does full justice to the fabulous original orchestrations and vocal arrangements respectively crafted by Ralph Burns and Buster Davis for this smash hit revisal, in a performance that’s very well conducted by Grant Hossack. Some key changes notwithstanding, the score is presented here pretty much exactly as it was on the Broadway cast album. Aside from Peter Gale, who brings a rather thin voice with a lamb’s-bleat vibrato to the role of Tom, the performances aurally preserved here are very satisfying: Anne Rogers is vivacious as Lucille, Teddy Green energetic and appealing as Billy, Tony Britton charming as Jimmy. If Barbara Brown can’t match Susan Watson’s gorgeous soprano in Nanette’s songs, she has a lovely, fresh sound that’s perhaps more credible for a very young woman on the cusp of maturity, and it’s a joy to hear the veteran British musical star Anna Neagle as Sue in “Take a Little One Step” and an added vocal bit in “I Want to Be Happy.” The cast’s British accents somehow don’t seem especially incongruous in this material, even if you may sometimes think you’re listening to a recording of The Boy Friend. Fun bit of trivia: In the title song, a reference to a city in New Jersey has been changed from Trenton to Hackensack — presumably because the latter sounds funnier, especially to Brit audiences. — Michael Portantiere