REVIEW: Two's Company - Original Cast
Sony’s Masterworks Broadway continues their mission to remaster and rerelease cast albums that have long been out of print, and typically long forgotten. Their most recent release is Two’s Company, a 1952 revue starring Bette Davis. The remastered album features songs mostly by Vernon Duke - Sheldon Harnick contributed a song - with lyrics by Ogden Nash and Sammy Cahn. Jerome Robbins handled the choreography for the original production, which was directed by Jules Dassin.
The show today is perhaps best known - if known at all - for its problematic run. While in out of town previews, Bette Davis collapsed on stage. Further previews in Pittsburgh were met with tepid responses, and its opening on Broadway was delayed because of Davis’s health. The show ran for 90 performances on Broadway; it was not a critical success, but was an audience-pleaser. Davis later required surgery, and it was decided to close the show since she was no longer able to star in it.
Never heard of Two’s Company before? Neither had I. The album itself is pleasant, but not the most memorable. The sensibilities of the early 1950s differ vastly from today, and that’s clear after listening to it. There are dated references and trendy musical styles that don’t hold the same appeal today. Yet it is a nice album for a dreary afternoon, guaranteed to brighten the room a bit.
After a well-orchestrated overture (the album has great charts by Don Walker and Clare Grundman), the show starts with an ensemble number “Theatre Is a Lady.” It’s charming, if mildly offensive by today’s standards (with lines like “The theatre is a lady, and we want her in the mood tonight” and instructions on how to woo her). It’s a typical Broadway revue opening number, talking about the spectacular performance to come.
Just how spectacular remains to be seen; it’s not completely evident on the recording. The ballad “It Just Occurred To Me” is the earwormiest track, with the vibe of a 1930s jazz standard; this song should make a revival in cabaret settings. Other songs show the age of the show: “A Man’s Home” is Harnick’s tribute his new home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; “Esther” draws from the Rumba and Latin music craze from the post-war era; “Purple Rose” is a long parody of a country-western song, with Davis comedically twisting words to fit the rhyme scheme (“no offer of betrayal had been made to this fe-may-l”); “Roll Along, Sadie” is about fictional prostitute Sadie Thompson (created by W. Somerset Maugham, portrayed by Gloria Swanson on the silver screen), a name all but forgotten today.
As for the singing, well, star Bette Davis is not a singer. She admitted as much, telling the New York Times “It’s a funny, weird kind of bass, F above middle C to the one below middle C.” Fortunately, she is not featured on every song. She has that speak-song style of singing, and her raspy voice without seeing her act is a disconnect that is hard to move past. Hiram Sherman sounds good, in a role that won him a Tony award. The ensemble is vibrant, if, again, old-fashioned by today’s standards.
Two’s Company is likely only to find a home on the virtual shelf of the most prolific collector, but we should all be thankful that Sony is rereleasing this album (and others in their vault). They help paint a fuller picture of the Golden Era of Broadway, reminding us that not everything was a smash hit with an innovative, integrated score. Releases such as this are a reminder that not every show is memorable, no matter how enjoyable the score may be and no matter how popular the stars of the show are. It is being released digitally and CD-on-demand, so we know that Sony likely isn’t losing much money on this project. Which is good, because if it were a loss for the company, the project wouldn’t continue, and we would miss out on songs like “It Just Occurred To Me” and other hidden gems.
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Two's Company - 1953 Original Broadway Cast Sammy Cahn Vernon Duke Sheldon Harnick Hiram Sherman Don Walker Jules Dassin Ogden Nash Bette Davis Clare Grundman Jerome Robbins Toggle Additional (8)