Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kitty's Kisses

Lovers of old musicals will be thrilled with Kitty’s Kisses, a studio cast, world premiere recording of the 1926 Broadway musical, the latest in PS Classics’ forgotten musicals series. The jolly Roaring 20s score by Con Conrad (music) and Gus Kahn (lyrics) is sung by some of Broadway's finest, including the sublime Kate Baldwin, the It Girl of the moment thanks to her winning performance in the Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow and her sensational CD, Let’s See What Happens.

The recording, conducted by Sam Davis, also features Andréa Burns, Danny Burstein, Philip Chaffin, Victoria Clark, Christopher Fitzgerald, Malcolm Gets, Rebecca Luker, Jim Stanek and Sally Wilfert.

The songs are ballads and lively dance tunes -- think Charleston! -- and can be a bit corny, but they’re so cute I don’t mind. I particularly like “Choo Choo Love,” the train porter’s take on the romances he observes. “Goo-goo eyes, choo choo lies. Maybe he has a she. Maybe she has a he. What’s the difference? That’s choo choo love.” The love songs are sweet -- “Kitty’s Kisses” and “I’m in Love” are jaunty and pleasantly old-fashioned.

The plot sounds like perfect musical comedy farce, with a hotel full of guests, relationships pining, popping and fizzing, and lots of dancing. And, of course, a happy ending as the two who were always meant to be together finally connect.

Kitty’s Kisses received strong reviews and ran for 170 performances in the summer of 1926. That seems like a short run to us in this era of mega-musicals that play for a decade or more and tour extensively, but back then it was normal. The 1925-26 season saw 46 musicals on the Great White Way. Shows came and went and, for the most part, were lost to history. How commendable it is, then, that PS Classics has brought one of them back to life, at least to disk. And who knows what will come of it? The delightful whimsy of this recording proves that Kitty’s Kisses would be a fun musical to stage -- I can imagine the York Theatre doing a great job with it -- or to be given a go by City Center’s Encore! series of staged musical concerts.

As for Kate Baldwin, I’m looking forward to hearing her sing for my luncheon group, the Dutch Treat Club, on Tuesday at the National Arts Club. I love her voice, and I’m glad I’ll be able to tell her that in person.

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