Principal cast includes Phil Silvers (Jerry Biffle); Rose Marie (Betty Dillon); Jack Albertson (Vic Davis); Judy Lynn (Sally Peters).
Originally released on Capitol (308).
Lyricist: Johnny Mercer.
Personnel: Phil Silvers (vocals); Rod Fletcher (dancer).
Audio Remasterer: Bob Norberg.
Liner Note Authors: Rose Marie ; David Foil.
Director: Hugh Martin.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Johnny Trama; Danny Scholl; Bill Callahan.
Top Banana, which opened at the Winter Garden on Broadway November 1, 1951, was a musical that took as its setting a variety television series not unlike The Milton Berle Show. The comic Phil Silvers, who, ironically, would go on to earn his most widespread fame for his own television series, The Phil Silvers Show (1955-1959), on which he immortalized the character of Sgt. Bilko, played Jerry Biffle, the Berle-like "top banana," an egotistical vaudevillian struggling to find romance and please his sponsor, Blendo Soap. Rose Marie (later of The Dick Van Dyke Show) also played a comic role. The clowns entirely overshadowed the inevitable romantic couple (Lindy Doherty and Judy Lynn), and they also got the best songs in Johnny Mercer's excellent score. Mercer, always better known in Hollywood and on Tin Pan Alley than on Broadway, was nevertheless writing his fourth stage musical, and the first for which he wrote the music as well as the words. The music was fine, but the words were terrific. Mercer had fun sending up the advertising/television culture that was just being born in the early '50s, but his gift for wordplay was best expressed in "A Word a Day," a Phil Silvers/Rose Marie duet in which the meanings of lots of big words were hilariously mangled, though the extended metaphor between boxing and lovemaking that is "I Fought Every Step of the Way" runs a close second. The show played ten months all told, which was about as long as the principals were willing to stick with it, and that wasn't enough to turn a profit. It was such a star vehicle that it had little life beyond the Broadway production, though there was, interestingly, a film actually shot on-stage during the run. ~ William Ruhlmann
TOP BANANA is a cute little Broadway show from 1951, with a good score by Johnny Mercer. It features Phil Silvers and Rose Marie in the leads, with fine support from Linda Doherty, Jack Albertson, Bob Scheerer and Ted (Sport) Morgan.
TOP BANANA opened at the Winter Garden Theatre in November of 1951, closing in August of 1952 due to a vacationing Phil Silvers. It reopened a few weeks later before closing in September after 350 performances.
The score features a few gems including Rose Marie's infectious "Sans Souci", as well as "You're So Beautiful That...", "I Fought Every Step of the Way", "Only If You're in Love" and "A Word a Day", which became the show's hit song.
For Broadway collectors, this album is a real gem.