Like most hit Broadway musicals of its time, the rollicking Li’l Abner – inspired by Al Capp’s blockbuster comic strip – got the full Hollywood treatment in 1959. Musical theater fans know the film as a remarkably pure transfer of a classic 1950s Broadway musical, skillfully re-setting and preserving a theatrical experience onscreen. Most of the Broadway cast was retained: Peter Palmer reprised his portrayal of Li’l Abner, and the stage veterans included Stubby Kaye, Julie Newmar, Joe E. Marks plus a number of ensemble performers. Nelson Riddle adapted and conducted the Gene de Paul/Johnny Mercer score for the Li’l Abner soundtrack, with choral arrangements by Joseph J. Lilley; they earned the film’s only Oscar (and, later, Grammy) nomination. The “soundtrack” album (in stereo, while the Broadway recording was available only in mono) is actually a re-recording (or re-editing) of the songs for the soundtrack’s commercial LP release, a common practice that promised a smoother listening experience on the home Hi-Fi.
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