Fascination with "Baker Street, a Musical Adventure of Sherlock Holmes" during the years since the final curtain came down at the Martin Beck Theatre on the night of November 14, 1965 has grown to the point that Decca Broadway has finally released - for the first time on CD - the long out-of-print original cast recording. All of us who share an interest in the history of the American musical should raise a glass of stout and say, "Well done, mates."
I've probably listened to my LP no more than once or twice, but "Baker Street" always has maintained a special place in my memory. It is, after all, one of the two recorded shows that features my all-time favorite actress/singer - and fellow Nebraskan - Inga Swenson. First appearing in "The New Faces of 1956," she went on to win the 1957 Theatre World Award for "The First Gentleman" and understudied Julie Andrews ("Camelot") before receiving her first Tony nomination for "110 in the Shade." ( In spite of its wonderful Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt score and Ms. Swenson's outstanding performance, RCA has had the chutzpah to drop the OC recording from its catalogue. Go figure.)
I must admit that I was disappointed the first time I listened to the CD. For the most part, the score sounded derivative and uninspired. What disappointed me most was the fact that, as wonderful as Ms. Swenson is, the songs she is given to sing can't hold a candle to those in "110 in the Shade." Furthermore, one gets the impression, just from listening, that the creators of this show never really decided what the focus should be. Instead of ending Act I with a dramatic musical spot, it ends with a "Perils of Pauline" ticking time bomb. Additionally, the final number, sung by a band of thieves, falls quite some time before the end of the show, which ends with Holmes disappearing into the fog, presumably on his way to America in romantic pursuit of Irene Adler (Ms. Swenson).
Only after reading the published script (Doubleday & Company) and listening for a second time, did I come to appreciate the way the musical numbers fit into the play. Not only was I able to better appreciate the songs, but now, for the life of me, I can't get "What a Night This Is Going To Be" out of my head!!!
With Oliver Smith's Tony-winning sets, Motley's period costumes and the Bill Baird Marionettes enacting the Diamond Jubilee parade, it must have been a fun show to see. But 1965 was the year of "Man of LaMancha" & "Sweet Charity;" "Hello, Dolly" & "Fiddler on the Roof" were still going strong. "Baker Street" closed after 311 performances, with a loss to its investors.
Recommended, especially because of Inga Swenson. ALSO recommended is "Holmes and Watson Sing," Ken Mandelbaum's expert critique of the "Baker Street" CD and fascinating background of the show. If you buy this recording - and I hope you will - then you must read this article. You can find it at [...]