Let’s have a change from church music, shall we? One of the girls in my singing performance class on Monday got up and sang this piece. She underlined the rather evil nature of the song by singing it very sweetly, and the class – all women, as it happens – was in tears of laughter. I went looking for a similar interpretation, and found a version sung by Julie Andrews…
I had no idea that Julie Andrews could be so vicious. I realise, of course, that she spent many years trying to live down her wholesome nanny reputation from The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, but this is breathtaking. It’s fascinating to me, because she is so nasty that the song stops being funny and actually becomes quite uncomfortable to listen to, at least to me.
Donna Murphy provides a gentler, more humorous version, which I find very effective, because when she turns serious in the last verse it really grabs you by the throat. I think I actually prefer her version, but the whole “I can’t believe that’s Julie Andrews” factor made this one irresistible.
And let’s not forget to acknowledge the genius that is Sondheim – he is responsible for both music and lyrics of this song, and clever lyrics are, I think, what he does best (I enjoy his music, too, but it’s the lyrics that really get to me). This song comes from his musical, Follies, which I have, alas, never seen. Having looked up the plot on Wikipedia, I now suspect it is the sort of thing one has to actually watch to be able to follow it. But I rather suspect that “Could I Leave You” has always been a show-stopper.