Just heard the CD of the Bristol Old Vic original cast. Love it! Good songs and you can hear the fun they had singing the show and you can imagine the lovely songs as they sung live. Wish there were some images from the shows too, pity. Mine was a good reproduction. Love Peter Gilmore's voice! Wow, what a powerful instrument that was? Hope he is still singing!
It seems a shame to define the musical 'Follow That Girl' for what it isn't, but since it's now more than fifty years since this London cast brought it to life I imagine most people drawn to this CD will be drawn from a familiarity with other works from writers Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds. The timeless 'Salad Days', of course, is the show most will be aware of - about a newly-graduated couple who are under pressure to get on in life but end up responsible for a piano that causes all around to dance. Others will also have succumbed to the charms of 'Free As Air' - about a girl (newly rich through an inheritance) whose attempts to evade the Press lead her to a remote island. The main thing, for me, that sets `Follow That Girl' apart from these successes is the paper-thin plot. In fact, there are two plots - neither of which amount to much. The main plot, set in Victorian times, concerns a heroine who flees her family home as a result of her father's insistence that she immediately choose between two suitors who have been wooing her - neither of whom she likes. Also ensnared by the chase are an artist and his wife - whose painting of their lost son is stolen by the suitors (who plan to use it in an advertisement for baby soap). And then there's the policeman who, despite never having met the heroine, falls in love with her as soon as sees her. Framing this plot is the tale of its struggling writer. Essentially, his girlfriend's father disapproves of him. The two plots interact - but not to great effect - and both, inevitably, end happily. [Note that I've given the plot more space in my review than the highly-informative booklet does - which, instead, concerns itself with giving context on the state of the British musical at the time the show was made - 1960 - and also provides an accurate critique of the show.]
Without a strong plot, your response to this CD will probably depend on how interested you are in simply hearing more songs by Slade and Reynolds. A few of these are in Victorian style. On the whole, many of the songs are so unspecific in subject matter as to barely belong to the show anyway - even the strident title number fails to move things along.
My ear was taken with two of the quirky pieces though - the insidious 'Life Must Go On' in which the craven suitors, who believe their love has jumped off a bridge to her certain death (when in fact she floated off holding a parasol!), come rather hastily yet entertainingly to the conclusion that they can eschew the majority of the trappings of mourning; and then there's a revue number in the framing plot which offers a scathing (yet somewhat exaggerated) attack on the cons of modern-day public transport - 'Taken for a Ride'. On the more serious side there is at least one shining jewel in the score: the soaring 'Solitary Stranger' in which the artist's wife expresses concern for our suicidal heroine who had been poised to jump from the parapet of the bridge until she intervened. 'Tra La La' is worth an honorary mention too - despite its origins (as an introductory number made up on the spot by the writer and his girlfriend. Could they have come up with a more infuriating idea?) its unashamed generic-ness appeals.
While I wasn't much taken by 'Follow That Girl' there's also a pleasing lush orchestral selection from it on the disc (which shows how good 'Doh, Ray, Me' is without the lyrics). But the main saving grace is the inclusion of a fifteen-minute EP of songs from another Slade and Reynolds show: 'Hooray for Daisy!' Crammed into that running time are no less than 12 tracks as recorded by the Bristol Old Vic cast, including the compelling Annette `One Foot in the Grave' Crosbie. She has a particularly fine number to sing in `I Feel as if I'd Never Been Away'. The plot seems to concern her return to the village of her childhood and the staging of a pantomime. It's clear that 'Hooray for Daisy!' has a much stronger story than 'Follow That Girl' so perhaps the CD of the full London production (Hooray For Daisy! (with bonus tracks)) - alas, without Crosbie - might be a better one to spend money on.