BWW CD Reviews: Masterworks Broadway's ANDROCLES AND THE LION (Original Television Cast Recording) is Ebullient and Glee Inducing

BWW CD Reviews: Masterworks Broadway's ANDROCLES AND THE LION (Original Television Cast Recording) is Ebullient and Glee Inducing
Cover art courtesy of Masterworks Broadway.

Born in 1985, I had never heard of the television musical ANDROCLES AND THE LION, based on George Bernard Shaw's play of the same title, until Masterworks Broadway announced they'd be releasing the cast recording. NBC originally aired the star-studded broadcast on November 16, 1967, and it was met with mixed, at best, reviews. Shortly thereafter, the show quietly vanished along with the studio recorded LP that quickly went out of print. Additionally, the Shaw estate made no moves to see the musical adapted for the stage. Now, with Masterworks Broadway recent release, this entirely forgotten gem is seeing the light of day again.

Richard Rodgers composed the score and lyrics for ANDROCLES AND THE LION, and the sprightly little musical features orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett. In true Richard Rodgers fashion, the music for ANDROCLES AND THE LION is sumptuous and full of heart. Every song is mirthful and glee inducing, leaving listeners thoroughly intoxicated by the whimsy of a bygone era of musical composition. To call the album anything other than ebullient would be a disservice, as it presents the listeners with boundless cheer and warmth from beginning to end.

Norman Wisdom stars as the titular Androcles, singing with tangible joy on catchy numbers like "Velvet Paws." He also charms with his witty counterparts on "Strength Is My Weakness." Ed Ames utilizes a decadent and impressive baritone/bass instrument as the muscle-bound star gladiator Ferrovius, standing out on numbers like "A Fine Young Man" and "Strength Is My Weakness." Noël Coward delights as Caesar on the wryly comedic "The Emperor's Thumb." Inga Swenson sweetly sings as Lavinia on numbers like "Strangers" (easily the best song of the score) and "No More Waiting" and its reprise. John Cullum is beguiling as Captain on "Strangers" and "No More Waiting" as well. And while she doesn't sing on the album, Patricia Routledge, who we remember as Hyacinth Bucket on Keeping Up Appearances, is fantastically comical as the henpecking Megaera, Androcles' wife.

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

Photo by Greg Salvatori.