March 2022 at Musical Cyberspace is all about songs with people’s names in the title.
Steeped in the kind of dramatic irony that is provided by the distance of time, “Bobby and Jackie and Jack” is a song written by the characters that appear in Merrily We Roll Along about the USA at the dawn of the 1960s, with obvious references to the Kennedys, as well as other political figures of the time. This show, which flopped big time on Broadway, was created by George Furth and Stephen Sondheim. It famously tells the story of its protagonists in reverse chronology, a puzzle that has engaged directors who want to tackle the show ever since.
Sondheim, although creating a piece that fits in perfectly with the milieu of the show, sounds like he is offering a pastiche of some of his own early work. It’s clever, a novelty song that is – in the context of the show – perhaps cleverer than it is good, which makes it precisely the right kind of song for the moment in the show when it appears.
Taking a song that once again plays best on cast albums rather than in isolation, it’s difficult not to choose the original Broadway cast for the best rendition of the song. The original cast recording of Merrily We Roll Along is one of those definitively great recordings. How lucky we are to have it!
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