Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday and the start of a new week here on That’s Entertainment! Today’s post, spurred by the week before last’s look at The Little Show (1929), begins a month long series on musical revues of the early ’30s. This blog has already covered The Band Wagon (1931), As Thousands Cheer (1933), and Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. This month we’ll be highlighting just a few revues from 1930-1935.
I. Three’s A Crowd (10/15/30 – 06/06/31)
Following the success of 1929’s The Little Show, producer Max Gordon was quick to snap up its three stars — Fred Allen, Libby Holman, and Clifton Webb — for another “intimate” musical revue. Added in for good measure was ballerina Tamara Geva, dancing the choreography of Albertina Rasch. (Young Fred MacMurray also appeared.) The score was from a hodgepodge of songwriters, though, like The Little Show and The Second Little Show (1929), the majority of the contributions were by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, who also wrote some sketches. Along with The Little Show, Three’s A Crowd is directly responsible for shaping the musical revue, and for the existence of 1931’s absolutely brilliant The Band Wagon.
The show opened with a bedroom set and what looked to be a rather ordinary sketch about adultery before Fred Allen burst in and ordered the bed be taken off in favor of an evening of fresh entertainment. One of the most memorable sketches was called “In Marbled Halls,” and had Geva accidentally intruding on Webb’s bath, and following the falling off of the doorknob, found the two of them trapped together. But, as usual, the highlights of the production were the musical numbers. Above is Libby Holman’s recording of her “Moanin’ Low” equivalent, the mournful “Body and Soul,” with music by Johnny Green and lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton. Below is Holman’s recording of “Something To Remember You By,” which she sang to departing sailor Fred MacMurray.
Here is a Ben Bagley medley of songs from Three’s A Crowd: “Practicing Up On You,” which has music by Philip Charig, and was included earlier in 1930 in The Second Little Show, “Out In The Open Air,” which along with the following number, “Forget All Your Books,” has music by Burton Lane. The lyrics for all three in the medley are by Dietz.
A song with social significance, here’s Cab Calloway’s recording of Charles M. Schwab and Henry Myers’ “Yaller.”
Below is a period recording of “The Moment I Saw You,” a song originally included in the 1930 edition of a British revue entitled The Co-Optimists, and which should not be confused with the song of a few years later.
It’s ironic to end this post on Three’s A Crowd with a song called “Right At The Start Of It,” but it’s fitting — this was part of the NEW trend in musical revues: stars who sing, dance, and participate in the sketches without the assistance of a Ziegfeldian ensemble of beauties. Though next week we’ll be examining one in a series of long running musical revues, the effects of The Little Show, Three’s A Crowd, and the following year’s The Band Wagon are immeasurable. We’re right at the start of it…
Come back next Monday for another ’30s musical revue! And tune in tomorrow for the best episodes from He & She!
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