Michael McGrath, Debbie Gravitte, Rebecca Luker, Davis Gaines, Malcolm Gets
  • Overture
  • Prologue
  • I Had Twins Lyrics
  • Dear Old Syracuse
  • What Can You Do With A Man?
  • Falling in love with love Lyrics
  • The Shortest Day Of The Year
  • This Can't Be Love Lyrics
  • Reprise: This Can't Be Love Lyrics
  • Reprise: The Shortest Day of the Year
  • Finale Act I: Let Antipholus In
  • Ladies of the Evening
  • He and She
  • You Have Cast Your Shadow On The Sea
  • Come With Me
  • Big Brother
  • Twins Ballet
  • Sing For Your Supper Lyrics
  • Oh, Diogenes Lyrics
  • Finale Act II: "This Can't Be Love Lyrics"
Label: DRG #94767 - Original Release Date: September 16, 1997

33" nowrap>  Reviews:    1938 saw the creation of one of Rodgers and Hart's most successful musicals, The Boys from Syracuse. The basic plot was taken from Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors, a tale of mistaken identity and misplaced twin brothers. Lorenzo Hart's younger brother, a comedian named Teddy, was featured in a prominent role as one of the servants (both named Dromio). Highlights in the score include "Falling in Love with Love," "What Can You Do with a Man?" and "Sing For Your Supper."

Sarah Erlewine

The Boys from Syracuse was the first musical to be based on a play by William Shakespeare, and it is still one of the best. Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, and George Abbott used The Comedy of Errors as a springboard to show off their own genius. They came up with a youthful, hilarious show, well represented on this recording of the 1997 Encores! concert production.

The Show

The Comedy of Errors may have been Shakespeare's first play, and it is based on The Menaechmi by the Roman playwright Plautus. Plautus' play is about the confusion caused by a set of identical twins separated in infancy. Shakespeare doubled the confusion by adding an additional set of twins who act as servants to the first set. This plot is, of course, familiar to moviegoers from movies like Big Business or the hilarious Start the Revolution Without Me.

The Boys from Syracuse stays fairly close to Shakespeare's play. The twins' father is brought before the Duke of Ephesus. He is looking for his son, Antipholus, who is looking for his brother, also named Antipholus. Since the old man is from Syracuse, he is sentenced to death. Elsewhere, Antipholus of Syracuse is disgusted with Ephesus and wants to go home. Of course, he is mistaken for his brother, Antipholus of Ephesus. Of course, his servant, Dromio, is mistaken for his twin brother, Dromio. Of course, all ends happily after much running around and confusion.

The idea for this show originated with Rodgers, who suggested to Hart that they do a musical based on Shakespeare. Part of Hart's enthusiasm for the idea came from brotherly affection: his brother Teddy was a comedian who was often confused with another comedian: the Dromio's would be perfect roles for them. George Abbott directed the show and wrote the book, and it was a modest hit.

The Score

Although Pal Joey is often regarded as the best score written by Rodgers and Hart, I like this one better. Rodgers was a great musical genius of the integrated, unconventional musical, but his best work in that vein was done with Oscar Hammerstein: interesting as Joey is, he can't touch Billy Bigelow as a musical theater anti-hero.

But for the sort of fanciful yet totally adult sort of song written for The Boys from Syracuse, Rodgers and Hart have never been surpassed. Hart's playfulness never becomes precious. His skill never keeps him from breaking a rule to find a delightful turn of phrase: "I shook the tree of life one day/ and got a cold potato." Rodgers matches him with lovely, unexpected melodies.

The score is full of standards: "Falling in Love With Love," "This Can't Be Love ," and "Sing For Your Supper" are the best known songs. The last of these is one of the most often imitated songs from a musical, due largely to choreographer George Balanchine, who staged it in the style of the Boswell Sisters.

The Recording

Although this is not my favorite recording of the show, it is probably the best one to get. My favorite is the 1963 Off-Broadway cast, which features a brilliant performance from Karen Morrow as Luce. Her two duets on that album are among the best renditions of comic songs on any cast recording.

For authenticity and completeness, though, the Encores! recording is the best choice. This one uses the original Hans Spialek orchestrations rather than the ones Ralph Burns did for the revival. Both sets are good, but these are obviously give a better sense of the score as Rodgers intended it to be heard and have a wonderful period flavor. This recording also features songs not on the 1963 album, most notably Michael McGrath's lovely "Big Brother" and the overture, one of the most exciting and theatrical I've ever heard.

The cast is good, and Debbie Gravitte is a fun Luce, if not in Morrow's league. Davis Gaines sings beautifully on his duets with Sarah Uriarte Berry, "You Have Cast Your Shadow on the Sea" and "This Can't Be Love [Lyrics]." He does not do as well with "Dear Old Syracuse," a song and dance number that requires a rakish ease. Rebecca Luker does her usual lovely, unexciting work (which I prefer to Ellen Hanley's lovely, unexciting work on the 1963 recording). Malcom Gets of television's Caroline in the City has a fine voice, and it would have been nice to hear more from him.

The booklet is very stylishly designed and includes both photographs and a series of Hirschfeld drawings. The notes by Bert Fink and Theodore S. Chapin give a good sense of the history and artistry of the show. What they do not give, however, is a synopsis of the plot. That's a particular problem with The Boys from Syracuse because the score is closely tied to the plot but does not really give the listener enough information to understand what is going on.