By Steven Suskin
06 Apr 2014
Robert Goulet in Kiss Me, Kate and Brigadoon [Masterworks Broadway]
Back in the mid-1960s, at a time when major corporations like Kraft Foods, Bell Telephone and Hallmark still sponsored nationwide television spectaculars, Armstrong — "Manufacturers of Floors, Ceilings, Wall and Floor Care Products" — decided to get into the act with abbreviated telecasts of two classic Broadway musicals starring Robert Goulet. Goulet was approaching the peak of his career, having followed his dynamic Broadway debut — singing "If Ever I Would Leave You" to Julie Andrews in Camelot — with a pop recording career, a budding film career and his own adventure TV series during the 1965-66 season.
Thus, the time seemed right for Goulet to appear in a TV adaptation of a Broadway musical, and Lerner & Loewe's Brigadoon was selected. (Goulet and partner Norman Rosemont, under the name Rogo Productions, had just spent the year co-producing On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with Lerner.) Brigadoon was telecast by Armstrong October 15, 1966 and won an Emmy for best musical program, which seems to have convinced Armstrong to bring back Goulet in Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate March 25, 1968. The latter was taped while Goulet was starring at the Broadway in The Happy Time, for which he would win a Tony Award for Best Actor.
Kiss Me, Kate, which is first on the recording although filmed later, is a strange affair. Goulet makes a likely Fred/Petrucchio, vocally anyway; humor was never his strong point, and a commanding Petrucchio with a full array of musical comedy ammunition is going to get a lot further with the material. (The role was created by Alfred Drake, who matched his brilliant baritone with a lot of ham; the role was patterned after Alfred Lunt, who also knew how to act.) Playing Goulet's shrewish wife was Carol Lawrence, the original Maria in West Side Story and by this point in time real-life wife to Goulet.
Jessica Walter plays Lois, to the Bill of "special guest star" Michael Callan (also from the original West Side Story, where as "Mickey Callan" he played Riff). The two gangsters, who in the course of the proceedings brush up their Shakespeare, were played by stage veteran Jules Munshin and TV-comic Marty Ingels. Completing the West Side Story triangle was choreographer Lee Theodore, who as Lee Becker was the original Anybodys. Paul Bogart directed, with musical direction and arrangements by Jack Elliott.Continued...