The Most Happy Fella

Is this 1956 musical by Guys and Dolls creator Frank Loesser some kind of forgotten masterpiece? Judging by the attention it’s been getting lately, a lot of people evidently think so. Last year the show had two major revivals, one by the New York City Opera, and one (which moved to Broadway on Feb. 13) by Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House — not to mention this nicely enhanced reissue of the original-cast album, which (released on three LPs) was the first ever to include virtually every moment of a show. The Most Happy Fella is a good musical, telling the story of the middle-aged Italian owner of a grape ranch in Napa Valley who writes to a young San Francisco waitress and induces her to come and marry him; the rich, operatically scaled score even includes a couple of songs that became pop hits (”Standing on the Corner,” ”Joey, Joey, Joey”). The performance here — none of the leads is a big name today — is a pleasant reminder of the old unamplified days when singers just belted their tunes and managed to be believable characters without a lot of stylized, thespian fuss. But is the work a masterpiece? No. Compared with what’s currently on Broadway, however — the cynical ”product” of a Will Rogers Follies or a Miss Saigon — it seems a model of sincerity, humor, and musical skill. B

The Most Happy Fella
  • Music