By anyone’s estimation, Julie Andrews was one of Columbia Records’ leading lights by 1962. Her Tony-nominated performances onstage in My Fair Lady and Camelot had both led to chart-topping, record-breaking original cast recordings on the Columbia label; in fact, it was under the leadership of president Goddard Lieberson that the record label underwrote the original Broadway production cost of My Fair Lady – an investment that, needless to say, paid off many times over! So it was unsurprising that Columbia signed Andrews as a solo artist. (She had previously recorded at RCA Victor for albums including The Lass with the Delicate Air and Julie Andrews Sings.) She released three albums on Columbia in 1962 – the soundtrack to the television special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, co-starring her friend Ms. Burnett – and a pair of very different albums that have just been reissued on Cherry Red’s él label: Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight and Broadway’s Fair Julie. Both albums have been released on CD before, in a two-fer from Sony’s Spanish arm. As that edition is long out-of-print, however, this release is a particularly welcome one.
For Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight, Andrews’ second solo album of 1962 but the one which appears first on this new disc, the loverly soprano was paired with arranger and conductor Robert Mersey. His C.V. at Columbia includes work with Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, and Aretha Franklin; his versatility proved a great asset to Lion’s Cage. The LP, produced by James Foglesong, lived up to its billing as a collection of “Heartbreaking Ballads and Raucous Ditties,” with tongue planted firmly in cheek especially with respect to the former! Its twelve tracks feature songs originally written between the 1890s and 1910s with an emphasis on fare from the British music hall era in which the young Andrews first made her mark in entertainment. That said, the album isn’t exclusively the work of British composers despite its theme.
An old-time treat, Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight revealed the future Dame Julie’s earthy, playful side while still showcasing her crisp diction, precise tone and crystalline soprano – not to mention an actress’ well-honed sense of musical timing and phrasing. Upping the nostalgia quotient, a barbershop-style quartet even joined the singer on more than half of the LP’s tracks.
Andrews, Mersey and the vocal quartet bring cheeky humor to the 1909 standard “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” as well as to the “heartrending ballads” such as “She is More to Be Pitied Than Censured,” a tale of a downtrodden girl “who had fallen to shame.” (“A man was the cause of it all,” of course!) A lightly humorous air lends the album its buoyant air, whether via Mersey’s woozy brass on “The Honeysuckle and the Bee,” a 1901 showtune from the London stage’s Bluebell in Fairyland, or Andrews’s exaggeratedly haughty tones on “Mother Was a Lady.” The 1896 tune, popularized by “Irish” comedienne Lottie Gilson in vaudeville, finds Andrews spoofing the “good-girl” song style. Mersey provided a carnival-esque backdrop that all but begs for a soft shoe!
The 1898 novelty “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?” is certainly not politically correct with its reference to “the mick that threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder…,” but it’s a heck of a lot of fun in Andrews’ sing-along rendition. She adopts an Eliza Doolittle-esque cockney accent for “Waiting at the Church,” Fred Leigh and Henry Pether’s music-hall ditty written for comedienne Vesta Victoria (who made a career out of cockney despite her Yorkshire origins). The jaunty melody is sung in the character of a bride-to-be who has given her fiancé Obadiah Binks, all her money to buy a ring or a house – only to be left “waiting at the church” as Obadiah isn’t quite what he seems! Andrews “plays” a schoolgirl on the 1908 “Smarty” (“You’re nothing but a smarty cat!”) and deliciously relishes the tale of “Burlington Bertie from Bow,” about an impoverished “swell.” From the pen of prolific music hall composer William Hargreaves, it was itself a parody of Harry B. Norris’ 1900 music hall song “Burlington Bertie.” It’s familiar to Andrews’ fans, of course, not just from this album but from her film Star! in which she performed it as Gertrude Lawrence. A pair of tunes, the rollicking “Everybody’s Doin’ It Now” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” were written by one of the most quintessentially American composers, Irving Berlin (despite his Russian birth). On the latter, Julie gives one of her most purely winsome performances on the LP, backed by Mersey’s delightfully brassy chart.
Julie is a bit more refined on the second album in this collection: Broadway’s Fair Julie – a title which describes the legendary performer, then and now. This 12-song set, on which she’s joined by Henri Rene’s orchestra, presents her elegantly-sung takes on theatre songs, both familiar and slightly less so, from the undisputed masters of the form. The album gave Andrews the chance to sing a number of showtunes on record that she would never, or could never, essay on stage.
If she could never have portrayed Puerto Rican Maria in a production of West Side Story, her rendition of “I Feel Pretty” from the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim score is a wholly joyful treat – plummy British accent and all! If lyricist Sondheim has long felt that “it’s alarming how charming I feel” sounds inappropriate for Maria, it sounds perfect for Andrews! “I Feel Pretty” is joined by luminous readings of standards like “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” from Kismet, “How Are Things in Glocca Mora” from Finian’s Rainbow, and near-standards like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “A Fellow Needs a Girl” (also recorded by Perry Como, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and others) from Allegro. Richard Rodgers, an early champion of Andrews’ who cast her in 1957’s television musical Cinderella following her My Fair Lady triumph, is also represented by a dreamy “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” from his collaboration with Lorenz Hart on Too Many Girls.
Julie, in ingénue mode, captivatingly conveys the innocent emotion and youthful confusion of Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s yearning “A Little Bit in Love” with abundant heart; the same goes for Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s “This is New.” Rene infuses the latter with some lightly Latin instrumentation, veering from the generally straightforward approach to the orchestrations. Ira Gershwin’s lyrics are heard twice more, too, on collaborations with his brother George – on the opening “Looking for a Boy” from Tip-Toes and on “How Long Has This Been Going On.” The torch song style of the latter isn’t the most natural match for Andrews’ style, but she effortlessly and gracefully captures the beauty of the melody and lyrics.
Andrews, of course, triumphed onstage in two Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe musicals; here, she travels back to the duo’s Paint Your Wagon for a buoyant reading of “How Can I Wait.” There’s one British tune on Broadway’s Fair Julie – “If Love Were All,” from Noel Coward’s Bitter Sweet – and one from Harold Arlen, whose repertoire would become closely identified with another Columbia artist: Barbra Streisand. “A Sleepin’ Bee” was introduced by Diahann Carroll as West Indian prostitute Ottilie in 1954’s House of Flowers, with lyrics by Truman Capote. Andrews, naturally, ditches the dialect in which Capote’s lyrics were written, and if the blues-art song is the least expected track here, she sings it flawlessly as well as delicately.
The team at él has added four bonus cuts – three from RCA Victor’s 1954 Broadway cast album of Andrews’ Broadway debut, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend, and one from the original Broadway recording of My Fair Lady. The 12-page booklet includes credits as well the albums’ original liner notes and a selection of quotes from Andrews about her career. Note that this release is made possible through current U.K. public domain laws.
More than sixty years after her debut on the Great White Way and over 50 years after her iconic performances in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews is still royalty on stage and screen. The pairing of Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight and Broadway’s Fair Julie pays tribute to her incandescent talent.
- I Don’t Care
- The Honeysuckle and the Bee
- Mother Was a Lady and If Jack Were Only Here
- Who Threw the Overalls in Mistress Murphy’s Chowder?
- Everybody’s Doin’ It Now
- Waiting at the Church (My Wife Won’t Let Me)
- Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight
- Burlington Bertie from Bow
- Alexander’s Ragtime Band
- By the Light of the Silvery Moon
- She is More to Be Pitied Than Censured
- Looking for a Boy
- How Long Has This Been Going On?
- I Feel Pretty
- A Sleepin’ Bee
- Baubles, Bangles and Beads
- How Are Things in Glocca Mora?
- A Little Bit in Love
- This is New
- A Fellow Needs a Girl
- How Can I Wait
- I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
- If Love Were All
- The Boy Friend
- I Could Be Happy with You
- A Room in Bloomsbury
- Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?
Tracks 1-12 from Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight, Columbia CS 8686, 1962
Tracks 13-24 from Broadway’s Fair Julie, Columbia CS 8512, 1962
Tracks 25-27 from The Boy Friend: Original Broadway Cast Recording, RCA Victor LOC 1018, 1954
Track 28 from My Fair Lady: Original Broadway Cast Recording, Columbia OL 5090, 1956