By 1953, RCA Victor already boasted a considerable number of Broadway classics in its catalogue – from original cast recordings of Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon to studio cast renditions of South Pacific and Finian’s Rainbow. But the label was eager to build up its musical theatre repertoire and compete with the likes of Columbia and Decca. To that end, the Show Time series was launched – a collection of 16 EPs, each dedicated to four songs from a beloved musical or operetta. The EPs were also released as eight 10-inch LPs, with two shows per record (one on each side). Despite featuring top-tier artists (many of whom starred in the shows on Broadway and elsewhere) and musical directors, most of these recordings have languished in obscurity throughout the CD and digital era. Now, the U.K.’s Stage Door Records label has come to the rescue with a complete reissue of the Show Time series on CD.
Following the March 19 release of The Show Time Series EP Collection Volume One, Stage Door Records has announced that the second volume will arrive in stores on June 25. This time, the single-CD 20-track release features five musicals rather than six. Unlike the first volume which featured Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Show Boat, these musicals aren’t household names. But that doesn’t make them any less fascinating to explore. The five titles encompass one better known as an MGM film musical of the same name, two operettas, and two that showcase the contributions of African-American artists to Broadway. They are:
- Mademoiselle Modiste (Victor Herbert/Henry Blossom);
- Naughty Marietta (Victor Herbert/Rida Johnson Young);
- Shuffle Along (Eubie Blake/Noble Sissle);
- Blackbirds of 1928 (Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields); and
- The Band Wagon (Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz).
The 1905 “comic opera” Mademoiselle Modiste, about a young woman working in a hat shop who yearns to be an opera singer, hasn’t been revived often. But its score has lived on; in fact, its most recent recording was released in 2009. RCA’s Show Time recording played a key role in keeping its music alive. Doretta Morrow (The King and I, Kismet) starred as Fifi opposite Felix Knight (best remembered for Laurel and Hardy’s 1934 movie of another Victor Herbert operetta, Babes in Toyland) as Capt. Etienne de Bouvray and Edward Roecker as Henri de Bouvray. RCA also put Morrow and Knight together for Herbert’s most successful operetta, Naughty Marietta. Knight sang the role of Captain Dick Warrington (who vows to capture a notorious pirate) while Morrow performed as both Marietta and Adah. The duet “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” has gone on to have a greater life than arguably the operetta itself, famously appearing in films (Young Frankenstein), television shows (I Love Lucy, All in the Family) and even other musicals (Thoroughly Modern Millie).
Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle’s groundbreaking 1921 revue Shuffle Along, written and produced by African-American artists, got a new lease on life in 2016 with writer-director George C. Wolfe’s “musical within a musical” about the bumpy road to its Broadway triumph. Thelma Carpenter (Hello, Dolly!, The Wiz), Avon Long (Porgy and Bess), Louise Woods, and Laurence Watson comprised the cast for the Show Time EP which included the show’s breakout standard, “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” Carpenter joined the legendary Cab Calloway to present four tunes from Blackbirds of 1928. While the musical’s songs were written by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields (the first Broadway show for both), it starred an African-American cast including Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Adelaide Hall. Blackbirds was so successful that it transferred to the Moulin Rouge in Paris and toured throughout America. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Diga-Diga Doo” were among its Fields/McHugh delights.
The final show on Show Time Volume Two is the 1931 revue The Band Wagon. Fred Astaire, his sister Adele, and Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz) starred in the original production. RCA clearly selected it for inclusion in the series to coincide with the 1953 release of MGM’s splashy film version directed by Vincente Minnelli which also starred Astaire. Betty Comden and Adolph Green were tapped by the studio to craft the new story incorporating some of the revue’s classic songs. Opera singer George Britton, comedienne-actress-singer Edie Adams, and Harold Lang (Pal Joey) sang four of those memorable melodies heard in both the original show and the film: “Dancing in the Dark,” “High and Low,” “I Love Louisa,” and “New Sun in the Sky.”
The Show Time Series EP Collection Volume Two is limited to 500 units only and is made available via current U.K. public domain laws. This release features an illustrated booklet with detailed liner notes by George Dansker as well as a sessionography of recording dates. The release date is June 25, but pre-orders placed directly through Stage Door typically arrive much earlier. See below for pre-order links and the full track listing for this essential addition to any musical theatre library.
Various Artists, The Show Time Series EP Collection Volume Two (Stage Door STAGE 9084, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Stage Door)
Mademoiselle Modiste (EPA 480)
- Kiss Me Again – Doretta Morrow
- I Want What I Want When I Want It – Edward Roecker
- The Time, The Place, and The Girl – Felix Knight
- Mascot of the Troop – Doretta Morrow
Naughty Marietta (EPA 481)
- Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life – Felix Knight and Doretta Morrow
- Italian Street Song – Doretta Morrow
- I’m Falling in Love with Someone – Felix Knight
- ‘Neath the Southern Moon – Doretta Morrow
Shuffle Along (EPA 482)
- Love Will Find a Way – Louise Woods and Laurence Watson
- I’m Just Wild About Harry – Thelma Carpenter and Avon Long
- Bandana Days – Avon Long
- Gypsy Blues – Thelma Carpenter and Avon Long
Blackbirds of 1928 (EPA 483)
- I Can’t Give You Anything But Love – Cab Calloway
- Diga-Diga Doo – Thelma Carpenter and Chorus
- I Must Have That Man – Thelma Carpenter
- Doing the New Low Down – Thelma Carpenter
The Band Wagon (EPA 484)
- Dancing in the Dark – George Britton
- High and Low – Edith Adams and George Britton
- I Love Louisa – Harold Lang
- New Sun in the Sky – Harold Lang