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Music Review

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Original Broadway Cast Recording


Music: Johnny Burke
Lyrics: Johnny Burke
Book: Robert E. McEnroe
Performed by: Eddie Foy Jr., Art Lund, Joan Fagan, Susan Johnson and Philip Bosco
Label: Stage Door Records
RRP: £7.99
STAGE 9054
5 055122 190547
Release Date: 26 January 2018

I’ve recently moved house, and as part of the huge downsizing I’ve done, I’ve finally got to go through my record collection and get rid of a lot of items that have now been released on CD. A label that’s helped immensely with this is Stage Door, who are becoming the definitive label for releasing cast recordings (and vocal recordings) not previously available on CD or digital. Their latest addition to their catalogue (and latest removal from my LP stash) is Donnybrook!

Donnybrook! was a musical based on the 1933 Maurice Walsh story The Quiet Man and featured music and lyrics by Academy Award winning composer Johnny Burke and book by Robert E. McEnroe. The production was directed and choreographed by Jack Cole and featured an all-star cast led by Eddie Foy Jr., Art Lund, Joan Fagan, Susan Johnson and Philip Bosco.

The story of Donnybrook! centres on John Enright, an Irish-American ex-prize fighter, who, having accidentally killed a man in the ring, returns home to Ireland to lead a quiet life. Settling in the small town of Innesfree, Enright falls in love with Ellen Roe, however to win Ellen's heart, he is forced to participate in a wild brawl and thus prove his courage.

Donnybrook! opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on 18 May 1961 to generally mixed reviews. Despite an enchanting score by Johnny Burke (described in Billboard as "highly listenable") and a first rate cast and creative team, the show closed after just 68 performances. In the week the show opened on Broadway, the original cast album of Donnybrook! was recorded, produced by David Kapp for Kapp Records (Kapp was also co-producer on the show). Also included on this new album release are several bonus tracks, from a highly collectable album of instrumental selections from Johnny Burke's score, performed by the Pete King Orchestra.

Although I had the LP for many years (dragged back from New York from the long-gone Footlight store), I had never listened to it, and had only heard bits from it in the past from other sources and not-so-good transfers. Listening to it now, in its full audio glory, thanks to Stage Door's transfer process, I’m surprised that this hasn’t had a proper release before. This has been mastered from the LP it seems (I’m guessing the master tapes weren’t available), and whilst it’s perhaps not as stunning as some of their releases, it’s certainly more than listenable.

It’s a solid score, and Ginzler’s excellent orchestrations make this an enjoyable listen. I don’t think there’s any hits here - which is perhaps due to the score being written by Burke - better known as the lyric writing partner to the legendary Jimmy Van Heusen. I think had Van Heusen written the music, then this show would have had more success than it perhaps had. There are some good numbers nevertheless. I enjoyed the opening number ‘Set I’ giving several characters the chance to shine, including the chorus. Susan Johnson, a long time favourite of mine gives a great performance on the recording, and I liked her version of ‘Sad Was The Day’ very much.

The surprise of the recording for me were the bonus tracks from The Pete King Orchestra. These are extremely well orchestrated tracks, and we get the full LP here. A very enjoyable listen, and a worthy addition to this release - and something I would have gladly paid extra to have included.

Well done to Stage Door on another interesting release, and thanks for freeing up some more space on my LP rack!


Ian Gude

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