Drumbeats and Song has come a long way from the production that first carried that name in 1950. Physically the format has been changed so that the Harvard Band now precedes the Radcliffe section of the show instead of sandwiching it. This I would say, is an improvement, for in the past the final band numbers had been greeted by a restless audience.
But the greatest change has come in the song and dance section. Where the earlier interludes were pleasant, tuneful, naive revue-type musicals, the current production makes a noble stab at sophistication with an abbreviated musical comedy approach.
To be sure, the plot is slight. There is little follow through on the group of Martians that land on the Radcliffe campus, and the interest still lies in the individual numbers rather than the resolution of the story line. But for the first time there is a thoughtful integration of dialogue and music. Were it not for the excellent lyrics composed by John Benedict, Robert Schwarz, and Tom Whedon, their clever lines might very well have stolen the show.
Because of this smooth integration the music does not have the standout qualities of previous productions. This is certainly a compliment to composer Harry Flynn who has supplied the cast with a varied and original score. Of the eight songs, I felt that Economy and Meet Me at the Coop were freshest, but I'm certain that a more fully orchestrated version of the ballad So Long Love would put that number far above the others. Although this is the first public presentation of any of Mr. Flynn's work, it is polished and neat, and shows considerable promise.
Although Nancy Fisher had a relatively minor part in the play, any discussion of the cast must be led by praise for her solo rendition of General Education in a Free Society. Two years ago, when the Annex first went in for these musical breaks, Miss Fisher did a number called I Know What Little Girls Are Made Of which still stands as the best single number in any Harvard or Radcliffe show. Although her material in the current edition does not match that song, her delivery is in the finest musical comedy style. Miss Fisher belongs on the stage.
Jim O'Neil and Barbara Knauff were fine in the leading roles. As a team they displayed a high flair for comedy, and they sang with careful elocution and pleasant voices. Marshall Pihl and Barbara Williams led an excellent supporting cast. And don't forget the kickline.
John Snell sparkled amidst Malcolm Holmes' fine musicians with several outstanding trumpet bits.