Archy & Mehitabel: A Back Alley Opera (Columbia ML-4963; 1954)
This 1954 Columbia LP is a studio reworking of a stage production presented three years before by writer Joe Darion and composer George Kleinsinger at New York's Town Hall. The original performers were tenor Jonathan Anderson and soprano Mignon Dunn as New York Evening Sun columnist Don Marquis' blank-verse-typing cockroach Archy and his devil-may-care feline friend Mehitabel, but for the LP they amped up the star power with Preston Sturges stock company favourite Eddie Bracken, who did more stage than screen work in the '50s, and Carol Channing, who'd recently made her mark on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Darion and Kleinsinger would later rework Archy & Mehitabel: A Back Alley Opera into the musical Shinbone Alley with the help of comedy writer Mel Brooks, and although Bracken returned to the role of Archy and Eartha Kitt ably took over for Channing (adding the song Toujours Gai to her permanent repertoire) the 1957 show was a flop, running for only 49 performances, but made enough impact to become a regional theatre staple and, in 1971, an animated feature with Bracken and, once again, Channing.
Unfortunately, the cartoon's artwork doesn't contain much of the charm of the original Archy & Mehitabel drawings by Krazy Kat creator George Herriman, which illustrate the cover of this Columbia LP on the front and back and, unusually for this period, a unique cardboard inner sleeve which also includes liner notes by E.B. White.
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