My first blog on this first Monday is musical theatre themed (as every Monday’s post from hereafter will be). Today’s post concerns my favorite Broadway composer of all time, Cole Porter (1891-1964). You are most likely familiar with the music from two of his hit shows: Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate. Though those are his most famous works today, he composed scores for approximately 20 more shows in his 30+ year career on Broadway. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the three best Cole Porter shows that you’ve never heard of. Today’s post will cover number three on the list.
3. Fifty Million Frenchmen (11/14/29-07/05/30)
This Parisian set musical comedy cemented Porter’s unique blend of sophisticated lyrics with haunting and vibrant melodies. Often described as an onstage tour of Paris, the book centered around William Gaxton (later famous for appearing in the Gershwins’ Of Thee I Sing and Porter’s own Anything Goes) as a millionaire without his wealth and his attempts to woo the dashing Genevieve Tobin. An assortment of other odd characters fill out the obligatory secondary romances including Helen Broderick, Evelyn Hoey, Betty Compton, and Jack Thompson. Though the boy-meets-girl plot was not novel, the locations were. One number, “Do You Want To See Paris?” involved Gaxton as a tour guide, showing the audience the sights of the city.
Several dynamite numbers from the score continue to endure as standards. Those include the romantic, “You Do Something To Me” and the snappy, “You’ve Got That Thing.” Forgotten gems include all of Evelyn Hoey’s numbers as the sassy singer May DeVere: “Find Me A Primitive Man”, “I’m Unlucky At Gambling”, “Please Don’t Make Me Be Good”, and “The Boy Friend Back Home.” The latter replaced “Please Don’t Make Me Be Good” a month into the run, and was in turn replaced the following March with the rousing, “Let’s Step Out.” Comedienne Helen Broderick also got to shine with “Where Would You Get Your Coat?” and the uproarious “The Tale Of The Oyster.”
My favorite lyrics from the score would have to be:
You’ve got what Adam craved when he
With love for Eve was tortured,
She only had an apple tree,
But you, you’ve got an orchard.
~ From “You’ve Got That Thing”
My boy friend may not be a perfect sheik
But he’s got what Mae West calls neck technique.
And although Maurice Chevalier may
Be a good performer in a certain way,
Still he can’t perform like the boy friend back home.
~ From “The Boy Friend Back Home”
See that bivalve social climber
Feeding the rich Mrs. Hoggenheimer
Think of his joy as he gaily glides
Down to the middle of her gilded insides.
~ From “The Tale Of The Oyster” – A song about an oyster’s journey from ocean to platter to stomach and back to ocean again
The entire score for this entertaining show was recorded in 1991. Kim Criswell sings the May DeVere songs with vigor. A marvelous recording, I highly recommend it: http://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Million-Frenchmen/dp/B0040I86P4/ref=tmm_other_meta_binding_title_0
In summation, this lively and melodic Cole Porter score features some of his wittiest and most fun lyrics. This is Porter in tip-top form. If you’re looking for a new score to listen to, pop this one in. It sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did 84 years ago. You will be enchanted with the exuberance of the music and the lyrics. (And those marvelous orchestrations!)
Come back next Monday for the second best Cole Porter show you’ve never heard of! And tomorrow is sitcom day!