Kritzerland has just announced two new titles today!
A musical version of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita hardly seemed like typical fare for the Broadway stage. Yet Alan Jay Lerner – lyricist-librettist of My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Paint Your Wagon – envisioned just that. Lolita had already been adapted by Nabokov himself for director Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film starring Sue Lyon, James Mason, Shelley Winters, and a scene-stealing Peter Sellers, but the author gave his blessing to Lerner’s ambitious undertaking. “Mr. Lerner is most talented, and an excellent classicist,” he commented. He wasn’t wrong, and Lerner’s adaptation Lolita, My Love was indeed stellar – with one of the musical stage’s finest scores of the 1970s. The composer was John Barry, the Academy Award-winning composer of the James Bond series of films, Born Free, and The Lion in Winter (not to mention the West End musical Passion Flower Hotel). Lerner and Barry crafted a collection of haunting ballads, delicious production numbers, and sophisticated musical montages, all orchestrated with a stylish, contemporary feel by Eddie Sauter (1776, It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman). John Morris provided the dance arrangements. Yet the show never made it to Broadway. Now, Kritzerland is bringing a rare live recording to CD.
“If you have to make a musical of Lolita,” Nabokov opined, “[Lerner] is the one to do it.” Unfortunately, the novelist’s remark was prescient. Audiences weren’t ready for – or accepting of – a musical of his story about a middle-aged professor who embarks upon an affair with a pre-teen girl. With a cast including John Neville as Professor Humbert Humbert, Leonard Frey as Clare Quilty, Dorothy Loudon as Lolita’s mother Charlotte Haze, and 16-year old Annette Ferra as Lolita, the musical opened at Philadelphia’s Shubert Theatre in February, 1971. “I think the story is much more pertinent now than when the film was made,” Lerner told the city’s Inquirer. “Humbert is such a tragic, flawed, misplaced romantic, lost in post-World War II.” Producer Norman Twain enthused to the Camden Courier-Post that the show was “the best thing Alan’s ever done…including My Fair Lady.”
Critics weren’t so kind in their judgment, with many expressing the discomfort shared by the audience at the story itself. After the Philadelphia opening, the show shuttered and Lerner got to rewriting. Director Tito Capobianco was replaced by Noel Willman. Choreographer Danny Daniels, who had replaced Jack Cole in rehearsals, was himself succeeded by Dan Siretta. Annette Ferra left the show, with 13-year old Denise Nickerson of Dark Shadows and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory stepping in as Lolita for the next engagement, at Boston’s Shubert Theatre.
Critical notices there were somewhat stronger but sales weren’t. Facing an uncertain-at-best future in New York, Twain closed Lolita, My Love after nine performances in Boston and pulled the plug on its planned opening at Broadway’s Mark Hellinger Theatre (current home of The Times Square Church). Lerner attempted to revise and revive it under the title Light of My Life, courting Rex Harrison and Hayley Mills to play Humbert and Charlotte. But it never materialized.
Yet the music lived on. Lerner and Barry’s publisher managed to attract some cover versions. Robert Goulet recorded the shattering soliloquy “In the Broken Promise Land of Fifteen.” Shirley Bassey made the wry “Going, Going, Gone” her own. Andre Kostelanetz as well as Barry himself cut pop versions of the beautiful “Lolita.” Jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd adopted both “Lolita” and “Going, Going, Gone.” A soundboard recording from the Boston run crept out on the underground Blue Pear label, revealing Barry’s intricate, melodic score (which melded classic Broadway with a soft rock rhythm) and Lerner’s witty, incisive, and illuminating lyrics. Ben Bagley had Dorothy Loudon reprise her riotously funny “Sur Le Quais” on his Alan Jay Lerner Revisited collection (now available from Kritzerland). Years later, producer Bruce Kimmel recorded Brent Barrett on “Broken Promise Land” and the gorgeously yearning “Tell Me, Tell Me.”
Kritzerland’s 2-CD premiere is not sourced from the familiar Blue Pear tape. The label states, “Back in the 1970s…Kimmel came into possession of a complete soundboard tape in pretty decent sound. And it is from that tape, possibly first generation, from which this CD has been mastered. For this release, all the major songs have separate tracks and all the dialogue has separate tracks. That way, one can program the CD however they like – just the score or hearing it all. Mastering engineer James Nelson has worked his magic, smoothing out the levels and making it all of a piece.”
Last year, Lolita, My Love made it to New York with a limited-run revival at The York Theatre Company as deftly adapted from Lerner’s various drafts by Erik Haagensen. This small-scale revival showed that the musical isn’t incompatible with modern sensibilities, and deserves a future life. Maybe this provocative musical’s time has finally come. The 2-CD set is limited to 500 copies. It will ship by the third week of December but pre-orders placed directly through Kritzerland typically arrive three to five weeks early.
Lolita, My Love is joined in December by the reissue of Ben Bagley’s Irving Berlin Revisited. While Berlin’s cache of unrecorded songs wasn’t available to Bagley in 1967 (when the album was first released on MGM Records), he nonetheless selected a baker’s dozen of gems from the already-legendary composer of Annie Get Your Gun, Call Me Madam, and As Thousands Cheer. To perform them, Bagley assembled a typically top-tier, diverse cast of singers featuring cabaret icon Bobby Short, jazz vocal great Blossom Dearie, television star Richard Chamberlain, and future Lolita, My Love and Annie star Dorothy Loudon. Norman Paris was musical director. Songs from this Revisited volume that have since become familiar include “I’d Rather Lead a Band,” “Mr. Monotony,” and “Louisiana Purchase.”
When Bagley reissued Irving Berlin Revisited on his Painted Smiles label, he added songs performed by Ann Hampton Callaway, Arthur Siegel, Sandy Stewart, and others. All of those bonuses have been retained for Kritzerland’s new reissue which is adorned with Harvey Schmidt’s original cover artwork. James Nelson has remastered. This edition is due the third week of December, with pre-orders expected to ship early. It, too, is limited to just 500 units.
You can peruse the track listings and pre-order links for both titles below!
Alan Jay Lerner and John Barry, Lolita, My Love: Original Cast Live Recording (Kritzerland, 2020)
- Going, Going Gone
- The Same Old Song
- In the Broken Promise Land of 15
- The Same Old Song (reprise)
- Dante, Petrarch, and Poe
- Sur Le Quais
- Charlotte’s Letter
- Farewell, Little Dream
- At the Bed-D By Motel
- Tell Me, Tell Me
- Tell Me, Tell Me (reprise)
- Buckin’ for Beardsley/Beardsley School for Girls
- March Out of My Life
- The Same Old Song (reprise)
- All You Can Do is Tell Me You Love Me
- How Far is it to the Next Town? (includes Tell Me, Tell Me and At the Bed-D By Motel)
Various Artists, Irving Berlin Revisited (MGM LP SE-4435, 1967 – reissued Kritzerland, 2020)
- Beautiful Faces/Sadie Salome Go Home – Bobby Short, William H. Elliott, Miles Kreuger, Dorothy Loudon
- Lonely Heart – Richard Chamberlain
- It’ll Come to You – Blossom Dearie, Bobby Short
- Mr. Monotony – Dorothy Loudon
- Fools Fall in Love – Richard Chamberlain
- Dance and Grow Thin/Back to Back/The Yam – Blossom Dearie, Bobby Short, Dorothy Loudon
- Louisiana Purchase – Dorothy Loudon, Bobby Short, William H. Elliott
- How’s Chances – Richard Chamberlain
- Harlem on My Mind – Bobby Short
- Wild About You – Blossom Dearie
- Waiting at the End of the Road Dorothy Loudon, Bobby Short
- I’m Getting Tired So I Can Sleep – Richard Chamberlain
- I’d Rather Lead a Band – Bobby Short, Dorothy Loudon, Blossom Dearie
- When I Lost You – Ann Hampton Callaway
- Rag Picker – Arthur Siegel
- Listening – Sandy Stewart
- Sex Marches On – Ann Hampton Callaway, Rhonda Mae Callaway
- Sorry for Myself – Arthur Siegel
- You’re Laughing at Me – Ann Hampton Callaway Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars – William Cantor
- Lead Me to Love – Sandy Stewart, Arthur Siegel
- It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow – Ann Hampton Callaway