Operetta Research Center
3 June, 2021
After 1945, Decca and American Columbia developed the 33 rpm LP vinyl record to replace the 78 rpm shellac disc. At the same time, RCA were working on what became known as the “single”, a 7 inch 45 rpm disc with the same playing time as a 10 inch 78 rpm record.
In order to try to cope with the competition from the LP, RCA introduced the “EP” or Extended Play 7 inch in 1953, giving a playing time of up to 8 minutes per side and which sold for about $1.47.
Under the advertising slogan “More Music for Less Money”, RCA also introduced the ‘Victrola 45′, a record player incorporating an auto-changer, so that you could pile up the EPs/singles you wanted to play on a spindle whilst dancing the night away. This sold for $34.95.
Then RCA had difficulty in deciding on what to record for these EPs, so came up with a series of 16 Showtime Albums, each of which featured four songs from a well-known operetta or musical, using Broadway singers of the time, full orchestrations and conductors such as Lehman Engel and Jay Blackton.
11 of these have now been superbly transferred to two CDs by the British firm Stage Door Records, with the third CD to follow. I thought I would write about the first two now as the print run is limited to 500 and will not be repeated!!
Four songs each from Victor Herbert’s operettas Mademoiselle Modiste and Naughty Marietta are superbly sung by Doretta Morrow, Felix Knight and Edward Roecker. Ms Morrow had already starred in Where’s Charley?, The King and I and Kismet, and Felix Knight had appeared at The Met, as well as on Broadway in now forgotten shows. He’s also the tenor soloist on Emmerich Kalman’s 1940 New York concert, conducted by the composer himself and with Gitta Alpar as the other vocalist. (For more information on that recording, click here.)
As well as well-known musicals such as Oklahoma, featuring a superb John Raitt, Carousel, again with Doretta Morrow, and Showboat, much less well-known shows (today) are included such as Jerome Kern’s The Cat and The Fiddle with Stephen Douglas (110 in the Shade) and Patricia Neway, Rodgers and Hart’s Jumbo with Jack Cassidy, Eubie Blake’s Shuffle Along conducted by the composer, sung by Avon Long and Lawrence Winters and including the standard “I’m just wild about Harry”, and Jimmy McHugh’s Blackbirds of 1928 with Cab Calloway (“I can’t give you anything but love”).
The third and final CD will include Anything Goes, Kiss Me Kate, Porgy and Bess, Girl Crazy and The Little Shows.
If you are at all interested, the least expensive way (about £10 including UK postage) to purchase these most enjoyable recordings is direct from Stage Door’s website, where you will also discover other historic show recordings.
Lastly, for those Victor Herbert completists, a recent 2CD issue on the Australian Eloquence label includes, besides both cello concertos, an “Operetta Spectacular” in which Camarata conducts the Kingsway Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in more than eleven overblown choral arrangements of songs from Orange Blossom, The Red Mill, Sweethearts etc. And: Kiri Te Kanawa sings “Art is Calling Me” from The Enchantress, which was one of the diva’s standard encore numbers. They were issued on Decca’s Phase Four Stereo label in 1975 and need to be heard – once!