By Sherry Shaffer
Not having seen this musical, I needed a full synopsis to follow the songs on the album – and I highly recommend any first-time listener do the same. I do not consider this a flaw, however, as Mitty’s fantasies are just that, fantasies. It stands to reason that they would not follow a linear storyline. They disrupt Mitty’s life, and that comes through on the album. Songs like “Drip, Drop, Tapoketa” – tapoketa being a sound effect from the original story – and “Fan the Flame” would throw you for a complete loop if you didn’t know they were daydreams about performing life-saving surgery and watching the lounge singer, Willa de Wisp, perform in the “Folies de Mitty” as a comic French chanteuse.
The music is light and fun, as fits the general theme of the show. All the featured singers handle the material well – it’s not demanding, but they do need to be both funny and feeling in turns. Most of the songs are enjoyable but fairly standard for the time; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you can tell it was written in 1964. It has that early mod era feeling that straddles the square fifties and the loose sixties. I won’t call it dated, as I think one can still relate to wanting to escape a hum-drum life, but it isn’t evergreen material either.
However, two songs – “Don’t Forget” and “Two Little Pussycats” – were real standouts that I went back and listed to a couple of times. “Don’t Forget” is a great comic number that showcases the constant nagging and boredom Mitty endures. Marc London as Mitty, Lorraine Serabian, as Agnes, his wife, and Susan Lehman as Mitty’s mother-in-law do a great job of weaving the nagging of the ladies through Mitty’s distraction and sorrow at growing older. Rue McClanahan and Lette Rehnolds are the “little pussycats” – women seduced by a scoundrel friend of Mitty then dropped – whose song is a jazzy lament of broken promises.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a fun album that is great for a retro evening with martinis and hors d’oeuvres. Top it off with a skinny tie or chandelier earrings and enjoy the rich fantasy life of a very average man.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Original Release Date: February 15, 2011
Label: Masterworks Broadway
Copyright: Originally Released 1964 Sony Music Entertainment
Walter Mitty: Marc London
Mother-in-law: Susan Lehman
Agnes: Lorraine Serabian
Peninnah: Christopher Norris
Willa de Wisp: Cathryn Damon
Irving Kornfeld: Charles Rydell
Fred Gorman: Eugene Roche
Harry: Rudy Tronto
Hazel: Rue McClanahan
Ruthie: Lette Rehnolds
Music by Leon Carr
Lyrics by Earl Shuman
Book by Joe Manchester
Musical Direction: Joe Stecko