COLE PORTER “A Musical Comedy Tour of Paris in Concert”
Orchestra New England, Evans Haile; Howard McGillin, Kim Criswell, Kay McClelland, Susan Powell, Karen ZiÃ¦mba, Jason Graae, James Harder, Scott Waara, JQ and the Bandits, Peggy Cass, Jean LeClerc
When Fifty Million Frenchmen, “a musical comedy tour of Paris,” opened in New York City on Thanksgiving Eve, 1929, it instantly became one of Broadway’s biggest hits. Robert Garland in The Telegram found it “rich, rowdy, and resourceful,” while Brooks Atkinson in The Times pronounced it “brisk, crack-brained, smartly accoutred and modishly salacious.” To critic Gilbert W. Gabriel, it was “just the best thing of its sort in seven or so years.”
Fifty Million Frenchmen achieved a run of 254 performances on Broadway and was filmed twice, first in 1931 as a nonmusical feature and again in 1934 as a musical two-reeler starring Bob Hope. Yet possibly because of the size of the original production (in addition to its twenty-three speaking roles, there were seventy-five in the chorus-plus several specialty acts), the show was never acquired by a theatrical rental library to be made available to stock and amateur companies. Through the years, most of the original Fifty Million Frenchmen materials were thought lost until the orchestrations surfaced in 1987 at the Tams-Witmark Music Library in New York City.
This discovery prompted a renewed interest in the show that culminated in a concert at the French Institute/Alliance Francaise in the spring of 1991. The concert included not only the songs performed on Broadway, but also many that were dropped in rehearsal and out of town. A script was pieced together from several drafts of Fields’ libretto, preserving the original plot and dialogue while presenting Porter’s score in its most complete New York showcase. This new adaptation, featured on this recording, downplays the original’s lavish production values and emphasizes instead its remarkable score, which, as one critic noted in 1929, is indeed “a Cole Porter field day.”