The Athenian Touch

Original Off-Broadway Cast, 1964 (Broadway East/AEI) No stars, not recommended. One day, sometime in the 1980s, several boxes of the long-out-of-print LP of The Athenian Touch turned up in a store in midtown Manhattan. Musical theater enthusiasts swarmed the place, and the shop was depleted of copies in one afternoon. Then people got home and actually played the thing, finding to their dismay that this cast album is as bad as they get. In most musicals, the music is usually the “safest” component; even if the book and/or lyrics are poor, there are often at least a couple of tunes with some appeal. That’s not the case here. Not only do these songs have useless lyrics by David Eddy, but further than that, Willard Straight’s music is ugly. And, judging on the basis of what can be gleaned from listening to the album, the book — a love story involving Aristophanes and some whore — is simply not a professional effort. Camp followers may be interested in the recording because it stars Butterfly McQueen and Marion Marlowe, the Arthur Godfrey TV show favorite who also played Elsa in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music, but there’s really no other reason to purchase it. — David Wolf