WITH THE Goodspeed Opera House revival of the George and Ira Gershwin musical "Lady, Be Good" pulling into the Kennedy Center this week, it seems a good time to listen to the Smithsonian's fascinating 1977 archival recreation of the original 1924 production.
Because of its jazz-influenced score, which clearly distinguished the musical comedy from operetta, "Lady, Be Good" is considered one of the important early Broadway tuners. But this was before the days of Original Cast Recordings, so no record exists of the entire show. The researchers at the Smithsonian raided the attics for surviving sources, and pieced together this entertaining album, considerately cleaning up the Jazz Age tracks for us.
The record features performances by original stars Fred and Adele Astaire, who duet sweetly on "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Swiss Miss"; and Ukelele Ike, a "specialty performer" who interpolated his own sassy "Insufficient Sweetie" into the second act. It's a delight to hear George Gershwin himself at the piano, accompanying Fred Astaire on "Half Of It Dearie Blues" (Astaire trades syncopated tap lines with Gershwin's jaunty piano riffs) and playing solo versions of "The Man I Love" (which was dropped from the show during its tryout -- this version was salvaged from a 1934 radio broadcast) and "So Am I" (in a surprisingly nuanced performance taken from a 1924 Duo-Art piano roll).
LADY, BE GOOD -- (The Smithsonian Collection R 008). The Goodspeed Opera House revival of "Lady, Be Good" is at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater through November 28.