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Broadway Time Capsule 1945-1946 Season

November 4, 2011

WHAT STUFF COST

Average Annual Income: $2,900

Tickets Cost: Orchestra: $3.60-6.00 Balcony $2.40-3.00

Gas: $.21 a gallon

Milk: $.62 a gallon

President: Harry Truman

This feature of the blog represents:

a) a way to get to know your Broadway history by plopping you down in a particular season and poking around there

b) an easy way to see video clips and audio clips of year-specific shows and

c) a hand guide for T.V.’s time traveling Scott Bakula to what shows to see when he visits New York.

What a crazy season, with an Irving Berlin smash, a Cole Porter flop, 2 big revues, 2 Operettas by legendary European refugees, and 2 shows about circumnavigating the globe. I’m not joking.

THE HOT TICKET:

Annie Get Your Gun

This show, Produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein right on the heels of their successes with Oklahoma and Carousel, was originally to have been written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. Kern managed to write one last song for the upcoming revival of Showboat, “Nobody Else But Me”, but then went missing and then died, (interesting story there for those willing to look into it) and another legend, Irving Berlin took over, giving him a chance to write one of the newer styled integrated musicals. He proceeded to write smash tune after smash tune, in one of the most entertaining musicals of the decade. It was far less long-winded than R&H’s sometimes preachy hits, and Merman was never better.

Want to hear more?

http://www.amazon.com/Annie-Your-1946-Original-Broadway/dp/B00004VVZX

Call Me Mister

A hit for Harold Rome about soldiers coming home, who don’t want to be referred to by rank anymore. It was produced, written, and performed by returning servicemen and women, including the legendary Lehman Engel, in his second major Broadway music directing job, who hadn’t been seen at the baton since Johnny Johnson in 1936. The most poignant moment of the evening was Lawrence Winters singing Face On A Dime about Roosevelt. But the big hit was a trunk song about the South American dance craze: “South America, Take it Away”, which made Betty Garrett (who died this year) a star.

Want to Hear more?

http://www.amazon.com/This-Mister-ORIGINAL-RECORDINGS-REMASTERED/dp/B00006J9M1/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1318877395&sr=1-1

Want to Read more?

Beautiful Morning, pp. 181-183

Are You With It?

A show about an insurance actuary who joins the carnival after misplacing a decimal point. Everybody mentions how this show had a crazy silhouette number where people get dressed behind a scrim and you can see their shadows. Apparently the number was full of double entendres. A picture of Dolores Gray from the show:

Want to read more? Find a copy of Life Magazine from November 26, 1945. There’s a nice photo spread there.

THE SMART TICKET

St. Louis Woman

This is one of those shows that has a legendary score and a legendary cast, but didn’t quite congeal. So when you hear one of the incredible Johnny MercerHarold Arlen songs, like Legalize My Name, or Come Rain or Come Shine, or I Had Myself a True Love, it’s impossible to believe this isn’t a great show, although it evidently has book problems.

Many people have heard of Pearl Bailey; here she is singing Legalize My Name.

Pearl Bailey Legalize My Name

I also feel the need to let everyone know about the Nicholas Brothers. They didn’t do this routine in the show, of course, but have a look at this, filmed 2 years earlier:

Wouldn’t you watch these guys do just about anything?

Want to hear more?

http://www.amazon.com/Louis-Woman-Original-Broadway-Harold/dp/B000CC4VZQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1320131654&sr=1-1

THE FLOPS

Polonaise

You know, this one actually sounds really interesting. John Latouche had a brief but notable career as a very smart lyricist and opera librettist, most notably in the shows The Golden Apple and Candide. Here he was doing a life of Chopin  (Poland’s greatest composer) using Chopin’s music, as adapted by Bronislaw Kaper, who was himself a legendary Polish composer. I can’t find out a lot about this show, except that people didn’t like it all that much, and that Polish operatic tenor Jan Kiepura’s acting was dismal. He appeared with his wife, the Hungarian soprano Marta Eggerth in the show. They had played opposite one another many times, but only in opera and established operetta hits.

FLOP MUSICALS ABOUT CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE GLOBE STARRING LEGENDARY ACTORS!

Around the World

This play with Cole Porter music was a huge extravaganza written, directed by, and starring Orson Welles, who created a huge and lousy spectacle, which included projected film, a japanese circus, the collapse of a railroad bridge as a train races across, the arrival of the U.S. Marines up the aisles to rescue a hero stuck high in an Eagle’s nest, forty eight tons of sets, costumes, and props, including a 1,600 pound mechanical elephant. It required 55 stage hands and had 34 scene changes. It reminded people of another, more successful everything-and-the-kitchen-sink extravaganza, Hellzapoppin, and was hence branded Wellesapoppin by some. But nobody was really interested in this kind of baloney, and it closed quickly, losing $300,000, at a time when a big show could be had for $100,000. Welles went on to other things, and Cole Porter would look like a has-been until Kiss Me Kate. In an effort to cover costs, Welles had sold the film rights to future Liz Taylor husband Mike Todd, who made a lot of money and got a best picture Oscar with the 1958 movie version without using any material from the play. It would be Todd’s only movie. For his part, Cole Porter really enjoyed working with Orson Welles, saying that he never knew anyone in the theater who worked harder than Welles, or was kinder to his cast.


Here’s a radio drama adaptation for your listening pleasure:

Want to Read More?

The Life That Late He Led, pp. 224-228 Cole Porter: A Biography pp.298-300

Nellie Bly

Eddie Cantor produced the other musical about circumnavigating the globe, which had music by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Huesen. It was the 7th and final show together for Victor Moore and William Gaxton, who are probably most famous now for their roles in the original Anything Goes, and it would be Gaxton’s final bow on Broadway. “Just musical globalony” said Time.

WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULAR, NON-GLOBE-CIRCUMNAVIGATING FLOPS

Three to Make Ready

You already knew this, but this revue was the third of three shows, the first two being One For The Money (1939) and Two For The Show (1940) Sadly, there would be no Four to Go. It’s actually not fair to call it a flop, because all three productions ran a respectable few months before closing, which was what you might expect from a revue. Ray Bolger was apparently very funny in the show, which included a sketch called Kenosha Canoe, which purported to show how R&H would have adapted Dreiser’s American Tragedy. Also featured a young Gordon MacRae, and the debut of Julie Wilson. (see below)

The Duchess Misbehaves

A musical about a guy in a department store who after a hit on the head, dreams he’s Goya. After that the show is set in the 18th century. There were many problems out of town, including misplaced scenery and costumes. Jackie Gleason left during tryouts, only 5 performances. Vernon Rice of the Post said, “Misfortune has befallen The Duchess Misbehaves almost since its inception. Last night, however, it had its greatest misfortune. It opened.”

Lute Song

This play with music had been around the regional circuit about 15 years before it hit Broadway. It used Asian Theatre Tropes which wouldn’t be seen in a major Broadway show again until Pacific Overtures 30 years later. Mary Martin’s presence in the cast assured a cast album, but Yul Brynner, (appearing for the first time in a musical) wasn’t a big enough deal to make it onto the record. The cast was apparently not as interesting as the incredible sets by Robert Edmund Jones, which got all the good press.

Want to hear more?

The Would Be Gentleman

Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme with music adapted from Lully (!!), written as a vehicle for Bobby Clark. Huh? Well, everybody loves Bobby Clark, especially his fellow actors, who he was always cracking up, but people didn’t generally care for the show. Bordman lists this as a musical, but I think it was more of a ‘play with music’. Including it in the interest of being thorough.

Billion Dollar Baby

After the success of On The Town, Comden and Green and Jerome Robbins wanted to do a ‘20s show, but Bernstein turned them down, so Morton Gould wrote the score, but it didn’t really strike the ‘20s flavor correctly. It did, however, have the obligatory Dream Ballet made necessary by Oklahoma!’s tremendous success. Robbins, choreographing his second show, got into trouble with Agnes DeMille, who thought he had taken too many dancers from Bloomer Girl, which she had choreographed, and which was still running. But his biggest enemies were the forgettable score, and the pit, into which he fell backward while yelling at the dancers during a rehearsal. The show ran about 6 months.

Want to hear more?

Billion Dollar Baby (Revival Cast)

Billion Dollar Baby (Revival Cast)

Buy from Amazon

Want to Read More?

Dance With Demons pp.97-102

The Day Before Spring

Lerner and Loewe’s second score together, it involved old flames being stirred up at a college reunion. The shadow of Oklahoma! looms over this show too, with its plot-advancing ballet sequences, created by Anthony Tudor. Directed by Edward Padula, who would later produce Bye Bye Birdie. Although no movie was ever made of this show, it was optioned by MGM, and the sale of that option for $250,000 allowed Lerner (in his own words) to “eat properly” for the first time. Even the critics who didn’t like it could see that this team was a talented force to be reckoned with.

Want to Read more? The Wordsmiths, pp. 153-157

The Girl From Nantucket

Jacques Belasco score to a story involving a house painter who is mistakenly given a job painting a museum mural, the show eked out 12 performances and expired. One source I found claims the musical lost $360,000. No sources I found liked what they saw. Wolcott Gibbs said “it was dirty and feeble-minded in equal doses”

Carib Song

A pretentious Katherine Dunham vehicle, set in an unnamed West Indian Fishing Village. Score by Baldwin Begersen. Dunham is legendary! This show? Not so much.

Want to hear more?

http://www.amazon.com/Cabin-Original-Broadway-Porgy-Studio/dp/B00000HZUJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1320147399&sr=1-1

Want to read more? Evidently there’s a folder about this show in the Free Library of Philadelphia.

OPERETTAS BY FAMOUS EUROPEAN REFUGEES FROM WORLD WAR II! (you didn’t want to see an operetta?)

Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston

This Operetta, wit a score by Robert Stolz, followed Waltz King Johann Strauss to Boston. There was evidently a delightful Laughing Song, but it wasn’t enough to keep the show going. This show was the Broadway debut of Harold Lang (who still had time after the show closed to be in this season’s Three To Make Ready) . I found a particularly painful passage from a George Jean Nathan’s review:

“…with the possible exception of Schubert and Schumann, the love lives of the illustrious gentlemen [composers], along with the women involved with them, have been as appealingly romantic as a severe case of Parkinson’s disease. A prayer may further be lifted that in the future, the shows will not, as in the case of the one under scrutiny, be cast with a male performer so pretty that an audience is puzzled whether the central figure was after all a composer or a movie actor. And, while the praying is going on, may something also be done about the coloratura heroines. I do not know how others may feel about it, but when it comes to me I confess to have a very difficult time of it believing in any man’s passionate adoration of and tender solicitude for a woman who occupies the entire evening- and very probably, God forbid, the rest of the night, loudly gargling her way, while grinning like a triumphant hyena, to a high C”

Wow! Don’t ever take that guy to the opera!

Marinka

Emmerich Kálmán Operetta about an Austro Hungarian crown prince double suicide. (apparently they managed to give it a happy ending, though) Sadly for this production, Oklahoma! had made it impossible for operettas like this to take off. There was a lot here that reminded people of Oklahoma!, including the original Laurey, (who still had time after the show closed to be in this season’s Are You With It?)  a Curly from the road company, and a song that evidently sounds a lot like Surrey With The Fringe On Top.

Want to Hear More?

http://www.amazon.com/Marinka-Robin-Farnsley/dp/B001BF0AEO/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1318882092&sr=1-1

(if you can afford it!)

Want to Read More?

Beautiful Mornin’ pp. 141-142

NEW FACE:

Julie Wilson

Fantastic performer who lived and worked in London for a while and now is a legendary cabaret artist.

Here she is, roughly a decade after her Broadway debut:

And this is how most people think of her now (although the screenshot in the video shows her making an unfortunate face) :

Harold Lang

Terrific song and dance man, original triple-threat.

Here he is in a revival of Pal Joey

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