While Adler and Ross’ score for Damn Yankees has a great many items that are almost universally agreed to be absolutely delightful (“Heart”, “A Little Brains, A Little Talent”, “Whatever Lola Wants”, “Those Were the Good Old Days”), the ballads for the real romantic couple, Joe and his wife Meg, have always been regarded as the dull baggage that comes along with the sparkling specialty material. Granted, the two major ballads in their last show, The Pajama Game, were co-authored by an uncredited Frank Loesser (the genius-level composer of Guys and Dolls and Adler and Ross’ mentor), so one would only expected them to be somewhat weaker working entirely on their own. Still, these ballads are so often the subject of complaints that I thought I’d examine them here.
Really, of the three ballads in question, this is the only one that I’d argue more or less deserves its reputation for being dull and uninteresting. The tune is certainly pretty, especially in original leading man Stephen Douglas’ polished baritone, but it has a stilted quality to it that just makes the emotional content of the song ring false. As for the lyrics, they’re so cliched and simplistic that they sound like a parody…it’s hard to imagine how Adler and Ross were allowed to get away with putting them in an actual Broadway show.
The song’s dullness is an especial letdown in the final scene, where it is sung as the counterpoint to the villain’s last-ditch efforts at temptation. Granted, this song is still vastly superior to the one that replaced it in the show’s film version, “There’s Something About an Empty Chair”, but it’s still fatally weak in a score that places it next to classics like the ones mentioned above.
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