ON THE RECORD: Bock & Harnick's To Broadway With Love, Plus Wildcat and Take Me Along
PLAYBILL NEWS, February 1, 2009

By Steven Suskin

"Hey, Look Me Over!" Lucille Ball chirruped in Wildcat, the 1960 musical which served as a calling card for the new songwriting team of Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh. The niftily matched pair proved short-lived, due to that old bugaboo personality problems; Leigh more or less self-destructed during the tryout of the team's sophomore effort, Little Me, and wound up with an unfortunately foreshortened Broadway career. Coleman, of course, went on to a string of other musicals with collaborators. The score to Wildcat is not altogether successful, although parts are extremely enjoyable and highly promising. Wildcat the musical, on the other hand, was an unpleasant affair that closed when the star became too ill to go on; the star being the sole backer, she was thus able to pull the plug when she decided that eight performances a week was eight too many.

But that is beside the point. Wildcat the CD gets off to a cannon-burst start; orchestrators Sid Ramin and Red Ginzler, who had burst on the scene six months before with Gypsy, provide an overture with all the sparkle of Gypsy (despite the diminished quality of the music). If the overtures to Gypsy, Tenderloin, and Funny Girl have the most exciting trumpet solos on record, Wildcat seems to have the busiest trumpet section. It is, quite literally, a blast.

Several of Coleman & Leigh's numbers make for infectiously enjoyable listening, such as "Hey, Look Me Over!" (from Ms. Ball and Paula Stewart); "What Takes My Fancy" (from Ms. Ball and Don Tomkins, a character actor who 35 years earlier had helped introduce "The Varsity Drag" in Good News); "Give a Little Whistle" (from Ms. Ball and leading man Keith Andes); and "El Sombero," a mad Mexican hat dance (from star and ensemble). There is also a strong ballad for Mr. Andes, "You've Come Home," and an evocative production number for the male chorus (including Swen Swenson), "Tall Hope." The whole of Wildcat doesn't add up to too much, but show tune fans who haven't been listening to it all these years are likely to be glad to add it to their repertoire.

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