“I to the World” from Oh, Brother! (Original Broadway Cast)
music, Michael Velenti. words, Donald Driver.
performed by David Carroll (credited as David-James Caroll in those days), Harry Groener, Joe Morton, and Alan Weeks
This number is a breezy delight that I’ve been playing on loop for the past 24 hours. A wistful ballad for four men—how many of those even exist? And what a cast! Both sets of twins are seen, in their respective parts of the world, searching for their other halves. I love the tone and vocal arrangement. The lyric is another story. It starts of innocently enough—perhaps a bit earnest, but serviceable. But the end of the refrain (which is sung about 3 times in the song) is
indecipherable nonsense almost a direct quote from Shakespeare that scans REALLY poorly, obscuring the meaning. Does anyone care to take a stab at decoding the following?:
So I to find another
(So I to find my brother)
In the search for him unhappy lose myself
I found this album a few years ago at Academy Records in NYC (on 18th St btw 5th and 6th Aves—GO! Their cast recording selection is finite but always revolving and always includes one or two discoveries or unbelievable bargains). Prior to that I had only read what Ken Mandlebaum has to say about it in Not Since Carrie. I wasn’t even aware a cast recording was made—but I think I can safely say I’m glad one was.
The show (with Book direction and lyrics by Donald Driver, who had a big success with contemporizing Shakespeare as the librettist for Your Own Thing) is a musical version of Comedy of Errors, set during “a revolution in an oil rich Middle Eastern country on the Persian Gulf.” Hell, the liner notes are short, so I’ll just past them below:
The middle east here is depicted with a complete and utter lack of understanding about the culture and customs. This was a bit before American political involvement in that area, so I think the creators figures they could treat their location like an updated Ali Baba setting. And most of the songs are more rooted in the Shakespearean situation, using the locale more as a musical palette than anything else. The writers really get into trouble when they try to add social commentary—not realizing how loaded a battle-of-the-sexes song like “It’s a Man’s World” is when you set it in Iraq. They number they provide is great fun and sung by no less than Judy Kaye, Alyson Reed and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (the later credited without her middle name), but would seem quaint and dated even if it weren’t set in a part of the world whose gender politics are one of the great socio-policial battles of our generation.
Because of numbers like “It’s a Man’s World” and “Revolution” (as well as that plot point involving a terrorist hijacking a plane and taking it to Iraq), I think we can safely assume that this show will never see the light of day again.