The Three Best Cole Porter Shows That You’ve Never Heard Of (#1)

Welcome to Musical Theatre Monday! This is the post we’ve all been waiting for – the final in our series on “The Three Best Cole Porter Shows That You’ve Never Heard Of.” In case you missed them, #3 in our list was Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929), and #2 was Nymph Errant (1933). 

As I have mentioned in previous postings, Cole Porter is my favorite Broadway composer. Most people are familiar with Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate, but his other scores are largely forgotten, even if many of his songs aren’t. Often praised for his wit and sophisticated lyrics, I find myself drawn to many of his memorable ear-catching melodies.

In fact, the show that I have chosen as #1 features two songs that I’m almost positive that you, dear reader, have heard: “Begin The Beguine” and “Just One Of Those Things.” Know the show?

 

1. Jubilee (10/12/35 – 03/07/36)

JUBILEE playbill!

The plot of this forgotten wonder is interesting. When news comes of an impending revolution, the Royal Family abandons the castle and sets off individually into society. The King becomes friendly with a society matron and social butterfly, the Queen chases after a swimmer-turned-actor known for his jungle movies, the Prince falls for a spunky lounge singer, and the Princess finds romance with a debonair actor/playwright.

A satirical look at royalty and popular culture, and written by “wonderboy” Moss Hart, many of the characters are based on real people! The King’s acquaintance, Eva Standing, was inspired by world-famous hostess, Elsa Maxwell. The swimmer-turned-actor was based on Johnny Weissmuller, known for playing Tarzan. (The character in Jubilee, Charles Rausmiller, plays Mowgli.) And the Princess’s conquest is a thinly disguised lampoon of the dashing Noel Coward. These connections, surely well-understood in 1935, really make our own appreciation of the show richer in 2013 — if we understand them. But that also goes for a lot of Cole Porter’s lyrics. He was the best name-dropper in the business! The then-contemporary allusions further corroborate my theory that all musicals are period pieces and indicative of the time in which they were written. They should always be treated as such. Like Archie Bunker’s defense of “Richard E. Nixon”, all the things that make this show incredibly 1935 are part of its undeniable charm.

Of course, the best part of Jubilee is Cole Porter’s wonderful score. I mentioned above two of the composer’s most famous songs. Interestingly enough, neither one was a hit until a couple of years after the show closed. In fact, “Begin The Beguine” didn’t enter prominence until it was recorded by Artie Shaw in 1938. This rendition, a classic, is one of my all-time favorites. (Still, I’ve yet to find a vocal rendition of the song that I can call my favorite. If you think you have one, please comment below!) It’s a breathtaking number. Truly. And “Just One Of Those Things” is no lightweight either. I love the seldom performed verse:

As Dorothy Parker once said to her boy friend, 

“Fare thee well,”

As Columbus announced when he knew he was bounced,

“It was swell, Isabelle, swell,”

As Abélard said to Héloise,

“Don’t forget to drop a line to me, please,” 

As Juliet cried in her Romeo’s ear,

“Romeo, why not face the fact, my dear?”

~ From the verse of “Just One Of Those Things”

In addition to those two classics are many second-tier Porter numbers that are ripe for rediscovery. Among them are the Princess’s “Why Shouldn’t I?”, Eric (the Noel Coward parody) Dare’s “The Kling-Kling Bird On The Divi-Divi Tree”, Eva Standing’s “My Most Intimate Friend”, the King and Queen’s “Me And Marie”, which was expected to be the show’s hit, and the Prince’s duet with sexy Karen, “A Picture Of Me Without You.” Incidentally, Karen, played by June Knight, also got to sing “Beguine” and “Things.”

1010940_10151644340468252_1708866047_n

But what makes Jubilee my #1 choice, beyond the two STANDOUT songs, is the strength of the choral numbers. Shows of the ’20s and ’30s often featured many numbers by the ensemble. Often these pieces would cover set changes, convey location or plot details, or simply buy the leads time backstage. But the songs in Jubilee, not unlike those in Nymph Errant, are so darn catchy! One of my favorites is the jaunty “What A Nice Municipal Park.”

 

Some of my favorite lyrics from Jubilee include the entirety of “Begin The Beguine”…

When they begin the beguine

It brings back the sound of music so tender, 

It brings back a night of tropical splendor,

It brings back a memory ever green.

I’m with you once more under the stars

And down by the shore an orchestra’s playing,

And even the palms seem to be swaying

When they begin the beguine.

To live it again is past all endeavor

Except when that tune clutches my heart.

And there we are, swearing to love forever,

And promising never,

Never to part. 

What moments divine, what rapture serene,

Till clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted,

And now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted,

I know but too well what they mean. 

So don’t let them begin the beguine!

Let the love that was once a fire remain an ember. 

Let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember. 

When they begin the beguine. 

Oh yes, let them begin the beguine, make them play!

Till the stars that were there before return above you,

Till you whisper to me once more, “Darling, I love you!”

And we suddenly know what heaven we’re in

When they begin the beguine. 

~ “Begin The Beguine” (My favorite Porter song!)

 

Also…

Has Mussolini been invited?

What, Benito? Why, he’s delighted, 

He’s my most intimate friend.

Gertrude Stein will be there of course,

And Tommy Hitchcock’s bringing his horse,

You know, I taught him how to play polo, isn’t it odd?

And although she’s a dreadful person,

I’ve invited Aimee MacPherson

‘Cause we’re both so intimate with God.

~ Cut lyric from “My Most Intimate Friend”

 

index.php

Although this marvelous score has never been recorded, a complete production was broadcast on BBC Radio in 1999. For all registered subscribers interested in this audio, and/or a copy of the original 1935 libretto, comment below and I’d be happy to send them your way!

 

 

Well, that wraps up our series on “The Three Best Cole Porter Shows That You’ve Never Heard Of.” Come back next Monday when we begin highlighting forgotten Gershwin shows! And tomorrow we continue with the best episodes from the third season of I Love Lucy! 

Advertisements

58 thoughts on “The Three Best Cole Porter Shows That You’ve Never Heard Of (#1)

  1. Pingback: Ripe For Revival – 1935 Edition | THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!

  2. Great article! It’s a wonderful show. I had never seen the photo featured in the other article of June Knight singing “The Beguine.”

    I’d love to see the script if you wouldn’t mind sending. e-mail is tugrice@gmail.com Thanks!

  3. Thank you for posting this nice summary. I was lucky enough to see both live performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre in January 2000. But don’t have a copy of the BBC recording. So, I would be very happy, if you could “hook” me up for text and recording. If you would be interested in a copy of the programme of that performances, I would gladly send it.
    Kitty Carlisle-Hart was present and told stories about her husband and that famous around-the-world-trip of Hart, Porter and Woolley, on which they created “Jubilee”.

    If I may, I would like to add some additional information.

    The musical was written in 1935 and not only are the sidekicks real people, but the whole musical reflects the situation of Britain in 1934. With the king being George VI., the Queen being Mary and Prince Peter being Edward VIII., with even his tendency to explore the night-life.

    You mentioned, Princess Diana’s (yes, Diana – the two above mentioned concerts where originally sceduled one months after modern day Diana’s death and because of the identical name, they postponed it to january 2000) love-interests name, Eric. The character’s name is Eric Dare. To dare is the opposite of being a coward and Noel Coward’s brother’s name was Eric.
    Eric’s first song in the musical is the above mentioned “The Kling-Kling bird on the Divi-Divi-Tree”, which is not only totally in the style of Coward, but is a song of a man, who travelled the world for a year (the Hart-Porter-Woolley-trip), but never slept with a woman once (the gay word-play between Coward and Porter).

    Jubilee had 36 different settings, from an indoor swimming pool to the beach, from the El Morocco to a lion’s cage in a zoo. That made the rightfully hailed chorus numbers so important. “My LouLou” for example was only written as a loop to give them a chance to change the set. It starts as a dance-floor number at the El Morocco and the coples dance in front of the curtain, which is lowered during the number. When the set change is done, a light signals the conductor, that he can end the loop and the coples finish. I especially love the simple fun of the lyrics:

    My LouLou, my LouLouLou, la-la,
    You’ve got such a lot of oo-la-la
    That you make me want to do , la-la
    Things gentlemen don’t do,
    And although I know you’re true, la-la
    To the captain and the crew, la-la,
    Still I’d go to Timbuctoo, la-la,
    For your oo-la-la, LouLou

    (taken from Robert Kimball – The complete Lyrics of Cole Porter)

    I could go on for pages about this, my favorite musical of my favorite composer. If you like to get into a discussion, please conatct me.

    Greetings,
    Michael

  4. I would so much love to her the 1999 BBC broadcast, it is a shame that the 1998 concert was not recorded. Please let me know ware to go.

  5. Just started hearing the beautiful songs from Jubilee and am now interested in the script but I have not been able to find it anywhere. Do you happen to know where I could order it, or locate it somehow?

  6. I am so happy I found your site. I am also a huge fan of Cole Porter’s “Jubilee.” For years I have been playing the Paul Whiteman recording. Luckily there is a cd with Cole singing some of his songs from the show. I just wish someone would record a studio cast 2 cd set of the show. Reading your comments about the show was very informative too. I have been trying to find the script and BBC recording for a long time. Could you hook me up. Thank you so much.

  7. Hi Jackson! I just discovered your site while trying to research “Jubilee”. This is a wonderful resource. I’ll be singing “Just One of Those Things” at a upcoming recital, so I was searching for information about the show. I would love to have the original script and/or the BBC Radio Broadcast 1999 to help me prepare.

    Thanks,
    Tina

    P.S. I am singing the verse, too! :)

  8. I have heard that Jubilee’s score is n considered by many one of his best. Thank you for filling out the details. If possible, I would love to listen to the recording. Beyond Fifty Million Frenchmen and Anything Goes, recordings of Porter’s twenties and thirties musicals, which contained so many of his classics, are hard to come by. If you could send, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Best,
    Chris

  9. Hi! this is a great article!

    I’m doing a school project on Jubilee, but can’t seem to find much information about it on the internet. Do you think you could send me a copy of the script? The help would be much appreciated.

    • Hi Hannah! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’d be happy to send you the JUBILEE script. Just subscribe to this blog using your preferred e-mail address (you can do this by clicking the button on the right side of the page) and I’ll send it your way!

  10. Thank you for this informative article concerning Cole Porter’s Jubilee, a favorite of mine for some time. I have a poor tape recording of Bill Tyne’s New Amsterdam Theatre Company performance at Town Hall. It was in retrospect quite good. I’d hoped the well-cast Carnegie Hall concert might have been recorded, even though it was seriously underrehearsed. The lack of a recording of the entire show is conspicuous as it is one of Porter’s best. As for recordings, for all the brilliance of the writing, Begin The Beguine is not easy to record. I like Mildred Bailey’s early recording, perhaps made before the show opened, which is marred by the misinterpretation of one letter, as “disperse” is read as “dispense”. And though I am not a fan of Michael Feinstein, his version ala Sinatra with a faux Nelson Riddle orchestration is far better than expected.

    I would greatly appreciate information as to how one might access the BBC 1999 Concert recording.
    Also, many thanks for the many tasty treats you have placed on YouTube.
    Terence Erkkila

    • Hi Terence! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      And thanks for your kind words. I’d be happy to send you the BBC audio. Just subscribe to this blog using your preferred e-mail address (you can do this by clicking the button on the right side of the page) and I’ll send it your way!

  11. I’m a huge Cole Porter fan and just found your web site. Been wanting to hear the score of Jubilee for ever. Can you send me the BBC audio?

  12. do you know who the actors are in the 1999 BBC recording?
    btw – what an unexpected treat to be able to hear the score!

  13. Hi Jackson, I would very much like to be able to read the Jubilee script. Could you hook me up with a copy? Thanks, Roland.

  14. Hello, and thank you for this wonderful article! As a life-long fan of Cole Porter, I was thrilled to find more information about this show, as “Begin the Beguine” has always been my favorite of his songs. (Although I didn’t care for it at first, I’ve grown quite fond of Frank Sinatra’s recording from the 1940s.) I would be very grateful if you would send me the BBC recording of “Jubilee.” Thank you so much!

    • Hi, Peter! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’d be happy to send you the BBC recording, but first, please subscribe to the blog with your preferred email address.

      • Hello,
        I commented here a while ago, but wasn’t yet a subscriber. I’m now a subscriber and would love to have the BBC recording of “Jubilee,” My thanks again for this fascinating, informative article concerning my favorite musical theater composer-lyricist.

  15. This article is so great! I have been listening to Nymph Errant on loop for two weeks and I am certainly on a Cole Porter high lately. Jubilee is next on my list. What a tragedy it hasn’t been recorded. Seems like an Encores! staging is in order. If you could send me the script and BBC recording of “Jubilee”, I would very much appreciate it!

  16. Hey.Loved your article! Had so much new information that I didn’t know about Jubilee. Could you send me the script and BBC recording of Jubilee? It would make my day :)

  17. Hi Jackson, last year I fell in love with Cole Porter when my voice instructor handed me “Begin the Beguine” to work on in lessons. I’ve been looking for more information on Jubilee since then, could you send me the script and recording? That would be wonderful!

  18. Still catching up on your older blogs. Enjoyed every ones comments and their additional knowledge on the show. Would love to read the script. I find it really difficult to find librettos from older shows. Would also enjoy the BBC recording. Keep up the good work. Thanks, Bob K.

  19. Hi, Jackson, I’ve been learning about Cole Porter for the last several years and your blog has provided songs and information I haven’t found anywhere else. Started subscribing a few weeks ago. I’d love to get copies of the script and recording of Jubilee. Thank you for so much excellent information!

  20. I would like to add a few things. First I was born 10/2/1935 in the middle of Jubilee beginning. Begin the Beguine has been my favorite song when I saw the Night and Day movie. Later in life I married a real Samoan titled princess. Having read where Cole composed the song, when I was In American Samoa which was a stop on his ship travel he used the piano which is in the Kneubahl Museum and actually sat at the piano where Cole worked on Begin the Beguine. The song that was will always be the most beautiful love song ever written brought me my wife from Western Samoa and the palms are still swaying. Thanks for all the information. As a teacher in Saipan I was privileged to broadcast a big band 2 hour program on their PBS station. My theme was Begin The Beguine by Artie Shaw played in its entirety KRNM signing off Alton Linwood Seaver III

  21. I’ve just discovered your blog, so I’m enjoying going back and seeing all you’ve covered. I would love to have the BBC recording and libretto of this show!

    • Hi, Isaac! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Please subscribe to this blog with your preferred email address. Once you confirm, I’ll send you downloadable links for both!

  22. This is a really fascinating article. Could you send me the recording and the libretto? It would be so awesome if I could convince my director to produce this show.

    • Hi, Ethan! Thanks for reading and commenting – and subscribing!

      I have emailed you at your hotmail address for access to the libretto and audio. Enjoy!

  23. Could you please send me copies? I am an academic interested in studying Cole Porter’s early and lesser-known works. I would really appreciate any help!

    • Hi, wtvridowhatiwant! Thanks for reading and commenting – and subscribing!

      I have emailed you at your yahoo address for access to the libretto and audio. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply