A Thurber Carnival

Written By: James Thurber

Music By: Don Elliot Quartet

Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Premiering on Broadway on February 26, 1960, A Thurber Carnival is a revue by James Thurber, adapted from the authors stories, cartoons and humorous commentary.  Directed by Burgess Meredith and starring Tom Ewell, Paul Ford, John McGiver, Peter Turgeon, Charles Braswell, Peggy Cass, Alice Ghostley, Wynne Miller and Margo Lungreen, the revue ran for 223 performances before closing on November 26, 1960.  The original cast album was first released by Columbia Records in 1960.  On January 24, 2012, Masterworks Broadway released the album in digital format.

            A Thurber Carnival features ten tracks of quite humorous storytelling and anecdotes with intermittent bits of jazz music performed by the Don Elliot Quartet.  I loved the Word Dance tracks featured at the beginning and end of the album in which you catch bits and snippets of conversation of the folks chatting on the dance floor.  One-liners and hysterical dialogue are rampant in these tracks.  The Night the Bed Fell is a hysterical tale narrated by Tom Ewell in which we learn about a night in which a collapsing bed caused hysteria within his eccentric family. 

            The Unicorn in the Garden is an interesting tale about turning the tables.  A man sees a unicorn in the garden.  His wife doesn’t believe him and seeing this as an opportunity to be rid of him, calls the police and proceeds to tell them he is insane.  The man turns the tables on his wife, pretending he never saw the unicorn.  Guess who gets carted off to the looney bin?  The Little Girl and the Wolf is the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood featuring quite a twist at the end.

            Memorial to a Dog sees things from the poodle’s point of view.  In Casuals of the Keys a newspaperman meets an old salt who at first tells the reporter he has nothing interesting to say, but then proceeds to tell him incredibly tall tales about people he has met in his life on the island.  The Last Flower is a view of a post-apocalyptic world’s recovery and how history is destined to repeat itself.  This is the most dramatic story on the soundtrack and features little to no humor, but it is a poignant and intelligent view of the world and I enjoyed it.

            File and Forget is a hysterical letter exchange in which an author is trying to correct a publishing company after they mistakenly send him books he never ordered to addresses he hasn’t lived at in years.  As the letter writing proceeds, the mistakes get worse and worse, more people become involved and the author becomes increasingly exasperated. 

            The entire soundtrack of A Thurber Carnival is quite enjoyable and I found myself grinning from start to finish (with the exception of the track The Last Flower which I found thought-provoking and intelligently written).  The album has a beatnik quality, what with the jazz intermissions.  Funny how something created five decades ago could still be so funny in this era.  This album would make a terrific gift for anyone who needs their funny bone tickled.


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