Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lisa Kirk - "The Gentleman is a Dope"

The complete studio cast recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1947 musical Allegro came out this week. While I'm waiting for the chance to hear it, I figured I'd tide myself over with Lisa Kirk lending that rich alto to the score's most famous song, "The Gentleman is a Dope."

Allegro, the team's first wholly original musical, was highly experimental in its form and structure as it told an allegorical tale of an everyman who finds success, corruption and ultimately disillusionment in the "Big City." It was met with mixed reaction by the critics and audiences, running a respectable if disappointing 315 performances. The show's original cast album runs a mere 33 minutes, presenting highlights of what is a very unique score. Allegro was revived for a radio broadcast on NBC radio in 1951 starring John Lund and Jane Powell. It was also the second production of the very first season at Encores! back in 1994 (when it was still more of a concert than a concert staging).

The new album from Sony Classics features every note of the vocal score on two discs with the voices of Patrick Wilson, Audra McDonald, Liz Callaway (in the Lisa Kirk role), Laura Benanti, Judy Blazer, Ashley Brown, opera star Nathan Gunn, Maureen Brennan, Norbert Leo Butz, Marni Nixon (who I'm excited to be seeing this weekend in the Encores! production of Music in the Air) and the master himself, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Long overdue, we now have an officially complete recording of one of the most intriguing scores of the 1940s. Now all we have to do is wait for a complete cast recording of Weill & Lerner's Love Life.

As for Kirk, she went onto originate Lois Lane in Kiss Me Kate and would later replace Janis Paige in Here's Love and offered great support in the original Broadway production of that cult favorite Mack and Mabel. Her final appearance on Broadway was in the 1984 revival of Noel Coward's Design for Living as Grace Torrence. Her most noted work in film was as the vocal double for Rosalind Russell in the 1962 film version of Gypsy. Russell stated in her autobiography that she sang every note heard in the film, which is quite far from the truth. The recent soundtrack album release included the original tracks that Russell laid down in the studio before they decided to bring in Kirk, who sang the score in the lowest keys I've ever heard it sung. Rumor has it that after Ethel Merman died, recordings of Russell's performances of the Gypsy numbers were found in her apartment. One can only imagine...

1 comment:

SarahB said...

By bar, the BEST version of "The Gentleman is a Dope" is Bernadette's!