Sweet Little Devil: Album Reviews

The second Gershwin CD that PS Classics released last week is the world premiere recording of the 1924 musical Sweet Little Devil. The creative team includes Frank Mandel and Laurence Schwab (book), Buddy DeSylva (lyrics), George Gershwin (music), Robert Russell Bennett (orchestration), David Loud (vocal arrangements), and Sam Davis (conductor). The studio cast includes Beth Austin, Danny Burstein, Philip Chaffin, Sara Jean Ford, Jason Graae, Rebecca Luker, and Sally Wilfert.

Andy Propst (Theater Mania): At the other end of the musical and emotional spectrum is the utterly delightful Sweet Little Devil, featuring music by Gershwin and some laugh-out-loud funny lyrics by B.G. “Buddy” DeSylva. This 1920s gem, which opened on Broadway just a scant month before Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premiered, couldn’t have a wackier plotline (oh-so-easy to grasp from the recording alone). … The disc is filled not only with some lighter-than-air and instantly infectious melodies, but also a host of flavorsome performances starting with Rebecca Luker, who has a vocally shimmering quality as the pertly wise, yet utterly sweet Joyce. Her delectably smooth vocals are beautifully complemented by Danny Burstein (Luker’s real-life husband), who plays Joyce’s beau. … Robert Russell Bennett’s orchestrations are a buoyant joy, particularly those for “The Jijibo,” a jubilant syncopated ragtime tune.

Joe Stead (Chicago Stage Style): A forgotten little gem from 1924, Sweet Little Devil is what I would call a charm score. In fact, if you’re in a nostalgic mood, there is charm galore in this delightful little trifle. The earliest of the composer’s scores to survive, Gershwin’s music is frothy and loaded with vintage Twenties style. And the lyrics by B.G. DeSylva are at once wickedly amusing and, for their day and era, surprisingly clever and biting. … Droll satire abounds in both the lyrics and the sprinkling of spoken dialogue (again a PS Classics signature). … Producer Tommy Krasker has assembled his customary first-class company of stage-honed talent, including the golden-throated Rebecca Luker and Jason Graae, the dryly sardonic Danny Burstein, and bell-toned Sara Jean Ford. … Perhaps the most distinctive sound belongs to character actress Bethe Austin … with a hilarious Betty Boop sound that almost begs for more material. Adding considerably to the satirical merriment are the orchestrations of the great Robert Russell Bennett, which for their historical significance alone make this a must-have disc.

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