No Way to Treat a Lady

No-WayOff-Broadway Cast, 1997 (Varèse Sarabande) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Douglas J. Cohen’s chamber musical No Way to Treat a Lady received the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Richard Rodgers Award and two productions (in 1987 and 1996) by Off-Broadway nonprofits, but it never snagged a commercial New York staging. Fortunately, the musical component of the first-rate 1996 York Theatre production was lovingly preserved on this recording, produced by Bruce Kimmel. The show is an adaptation of a novel by William Goldman about two mamas’ boys: a warm-hearted detective and an erudite serial killer. Despite being adversaries, the two share a yen for the big-time public recognition that their ambitious mothers always wished for them. The well-nigh perfect cast consists of Adam Grupper as the tough detective, Marguerite MacIntyre as the ingenue, Paul Schoeffier as the sinister thrill killer — and the astonishingly good Alix Korey, who plays the cop’s overbearing mother, three murder victims, and the ghost of the murderer’s mom. The musicality of the singers and the six-person combo, conducted by Wendy Bobbitt, is unimpeachable. But the recording’s star is composer-lyricist Cohen, who has an impressive vocabulary that includes jazz, pop, and even funk. The songs and the libretto (also by Cohen) are thoroughly integrated, with stretches of virtuosic material: Korey’s snoopy “I Hear Humming,” for instance, and Grupper’s horny “The First Move.” There are also several examples of wonderful melodic invention, such as “I Need a Life,” “Safer in My Arms,” and “So Far, So Good.” — Charles Wright