This is, quite simply, one of my favorite show albums. Not one of my favorite flop show albums, but all show albums. It is a gorgeous score, with every single song coming from the top drawer of both Schwartz and Dietz, and in some cases sounding too good to have been written by those men (I love Schwartz and Dietz, but none of their other scores ever approached the brilliance of "Something You've Never Had Before" or "You're Not The Type.")
The other reviewer gives some detail about the show, so I won't repeat what he said. I do want to correct one thing: Barbara Cook did NOT play all the female characters in Anatole's life. The authors fiddled with that notion on the road, but eventually decided it would be impossible. She only plays Liesel. And, at least on disc, Walter Chiari is charming and funny, and in pictures, he certainly looks the part.
The show opens with "What A Charming Couple," which could've been just another easily-forgotten opening chorus. But Dietz and Schwartz pull the rug out from under us - what seems to start as a hymn sung on a wedding day suddenly becomes a merry gossip number as the townspeople chuckle that "the outcome [of the marriage] certainly looks dim!" An unusual start, but it only gets better. Some songs are simply trifles, albeit trifles with melodies better than any found in some current hit shows, like "Who Can? You Can!" and "Why Go Anywhere At All?" But Dietz and Schwartz really take off when dissecting male-female relationships. They take humorous views of womanizing ("The Bloom is Off the Rose" and "I'm Glad I'm Single") and marriage from a man's perspective ("I'm Ready For a Frau" and "I Never Had A Chance.") But at the same time, they skewer the same subjects from Liesel's much more serious and earnest perspective. It really is Barbara Cook's show, as Liesel's growth from naive girl ("Magic Moment") to saucy soubrette ("The Label on the Bottle") to mature woman ("Something You've Never Had Before.")
I'd like to speak more in-depth about that last song for a second. It is musical theatre writing at its finest. The song clearly lays out an arc for Liesel and an inner monologue to keep her transitioning from moment to moment. She starts out singing the A strain of the song; slow, romantic, pining music in which she paints a picture of the kind of love Anatol's never experienced. She then goes into a B strain where she catalogues the shallow types of love he has experienced. The music becomes far more frivolous and lilting, as if mocking these kinds of loves. She then moves on to a C strain, singing all of her own wonderful qualities and what she has to offer him; the music speeds to a patter section here. But when she questions whether or not she'll be able to please him in the bedroom, the music stops for a second, and then swells back into the A strain - a glorious release, as if the music was reassuring her that she alone had the kind of love that could conquer Anatol. She sings the last bit of the A strain, finally convinced that she is going to have Anatol for the first time in the show.
Apparently the book of this show isn't great. But I can't recommend this score highly enough. It is fabulous and deserves far more recognition than it recieves.