Originally published on CastAlbums.org.
As they were making final tweaks to She Loves Me prior to its initial Broadway bow in 1963, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick had another show on the main stem just a couple block away. The songwriting team, who already had a Best Musical Tony and a Pulitzer Prize to their name, lent their talents to a Broadway puppet show created by Bill and Cora Baird, perhaps the best-known puppeteers of the pre-Henson age. (Even if you don’t recognize their names, their work will surely look familiar even today, if only from the “Lonely Goatherd” number in the film version of The Sound of Music.)
The Man in the Moon formed the first act of a special, limited production presented by the Bairds at the Biltmore for 22 performances. Golden Records, purveyor of children’s records, released an original cast recording featuring dialogue, narration, and songs, capturing the voice performances of the Bairds along with a cast including Frank Sullivan, Franz Fazakas, Margery Gray, Gerald Freedman, Eric Carlson, and Rose Marie Jun. Although fondly remembered by those young enough to have been in the target audience for the album’s initial release, it has otherwise largely been forgotten.
Stage Door Records is doing its part to reverse that with their latest Collector’s Series release of the album, supplemented by demo recordings of all five songs performed by Bock & Harnick. While hardly an essential album, it should bring a smile to those who appreciate great songwriting as well as those with a nostalgic memory of the original. The 1960’s idea of “space-age” at the heart of the story may require a bit of context-setting for those who wish to share the album with their little ones today, but the message at its heart – we (specifically, people and aliens) are more alike than different and crime doesn’t pay – is just as relevant today as it was in 1963.
As to the score, while there isn’t a lost “Vanilla Ice Cream” or “Sunrise, Sunset” hiding in the tunestack, all five songs are charming and clever. There’s an opening number (“Look Where I Am”), a charm song for the villain (“Itch to be Rich”), a love song (“World Apart”) a confrontation (“You Treacherous Men”), and a comedy number (“Ain’t You Never Been Afraid”) – a veritable BMI workshop of well-constructed types. There’s even an overture! The cast performances are lovely, but for my money, it’s the demos performed by the songwriters that really delight.
As with all releases in Stagedoor’s Collector’s Series, the release is limited to 500 units, so if you want this one, don’t delay!