Original Broadway Cast – 1957 / Music by David Martin and lyrics by Langston Hughes
Starring: Claudia McNeil, Melvin Stewart, Anna English, Marilyn Berry, John Bouie, Brownie MgGhee, Duke Williams
Rate: 6 (from 1 to 10)
Review: “Based on “Simple Takes a Wife” and other “Simple” stories by poet Lansgton Hughes”, this Negro musical opened Off-Broadway and was then transferred to a Broadway theatre where it played 62 performances.
The jazz and blues score begins with the delightful title song, beautiful sung by Marilyn Berry, and what follows is an enjoyable recording; later Berry delivers the romantic “Gatekeeper of My Castle” with Melvin Stewart. Anna English has a lot of fun with “Let Me Take Your for a Ride”, “Let’s Ball Awhile” and “The Men in My Life”, and surprises me with her rendition of the melodious torch song “Look for the Morning Star”. Claudia McNeil, whose voice reminds me of Pearl Bailey, delivers the best song of the score “Good Old Girl” and has a good time with her duets with John Bouie, “Did You Ever Hear the Blues?” and, specially, “When I’m in a Quiet Mood”. In the leading role of Simple, Melvin Stewart kind of talks through his songs and, for me, his numbers are the less interesting of the score, although in terms of lyrics they are the ones who reflect the issue of race: “Flying Saucer Monologue” and “Mississippi Monologue”.
There's a 2005 London recording of this show, that includes other songs and strangely it cut Simple's monologues; unfortunately, I'm not familiar with that recording. Anyway, I believe you’ll have a good time with this not very famous score and it may even surprise you with some of its simple and unpretentious songs.