LP0210. ST. LOUIS WOMAN, Original 1967 Cast, w.Pearl Bailey, Harold Nicholas, Ruby Hill, June Hawkins, Robert Pope. Capitol rainbow label Duophonic DW-2742. Pristine copy has very nearly reinforced spine.
“ST. LOUIS WOMAN is a musical by Harold Arlen (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics). The musical opened at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York on March 30, 1946 and ran for 113 performances. The original cast included Robert Pope (Badfoot), Harold Nicholas (Little Augie), Fayard Nicholas (Barney), June Hawkins (Lilli), Pearl Bailey (Butterfly), Ruby Hill (Della Green), Rex Ingram (Biglow Brown), and Milton J. Williams (Mississippi). It is based upon the novel God Sends Sunday by African-American writer Arna Bontemps.
Although Arlen and Mercer created what some consider to be their best score, the musical suffered from many misfortunes during production. First, the book suffered several serious problems. The show was not really a comedy and did not lend itself to standard Broadway musical treatment of its themes. Throughout the drama, any happiness the characters attain is offset by the deepest feeling of gloom. The correct balance for a musical comedy was never achieved, and a book that could have become an opera was treated neither humorously nor dramatically. These problems were compounded by the fact that Cullen died before rehearsals even began, and Ayers and Rouben Mamoulian, who came in after to work on the show's narrative, could not fix the show's sprawling plot. Second, the N.A.A.C.P. criticised the musical for ‘offering roles that detract from the dignity of our race’. Lena Horne agreed with this assessment and refused to star in the show saying she had no intention of portraying ‘a flashy lady of easy virtue’. When the show eventually opened there were several protests by African-Americans outside the theatre, which negatively affected sales. Finally, the show suffered several staffing problems. The choreographer was replaced midway through production and the show's leading lady, Ruby Hill, was replaced after its pre-Broadway tryout in Boston. Hill returned to the show after only three performances in New York at the insistence of the show's cast, in particular Pearl Bailey. The show opened at the Martin Beck Theater on March 30, 1946, and lasted for 113 performances.
“Capitol Records made their first original cast album of this 1946 show by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. The album was issued as a set of five 10-inch 78 RPM records and in the early 1950s was briefly released as a 10-inch LP. In the late 1960s Capitol re-released it on a 12-inch record in ‘fake’ stereo. None of these editions stayed in the catalogue long.”
- Mark Andrew Lawrence, 8 March, 2004