Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! Today, we’re continuing our series of alphabetically ordered posts on forgotten musicals from the ’10s – ’40s. Over the next 25 weeks (note that I will not be doing a post for the letter X), I’ll be covering a different forgotten musical. The only criteria, it has to begin with that specific letter of the alphabet. A was for Are You With It? (1945). B was for Best Foot Forward (1941). C was for The Cat And The Fiddle (1931). D was for Du Barry Was A Lady (1939). E is for…
E. Ever Green (12/03/30 – July 1931)
This lavish Rodgers and Hart musical comedy was, like the only other show featured on this blog to open in London (1933’s Nymph Errant), produced by the legendary Charles B. Cochran. Its stars were Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale, two outstanding British performers who were then embroiled in a scandalous public love triangle with the latter’s wife. On the visual front, the show was most notable for its use of the revolving stage, an innovation that, while used several times in the past, would not become highly publicized in America until its usage in The Band Wagon (1931). The book, by Benn Levy, told the story of Harriet Green, a talented young hopeful who bares a striking resemblance to her famous grandmother, a Music Hall performer who has since moved to Australia. In a publicity scheme for a line of cosmetics, Harriet masquerades as her sixty-year-old grandma. Meanwhile, she develops a relationship with a fellow entertainer, Tommy, who is unaware of the scheme. Naturally, when she’s later introduced as a sixty-year-old, he… well, you can fill in the rest. All you need to know is it ends happily.
The play was adapted for the screen in 1934 as Evergreen, with Matthews and Hale, but the latter was demoted and did not play her love interest. With several plot alterations and only three songs from Rodgers and Hart’s cute score, the film, while entertaining in itself, deserves to be viewed by musical theatre fans for the expert performance of Matthews. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s pretty — theatre buffs of 2014 can really see what all the fuss is about. For this reason, it comes highly recommended.
As for the Rodgers and Hart score, it’s such a shame that the film thought only to use three numbers. As usual with this duo, there really isn’t a bad song in the bunch. The most well known is “Dancing On The Ceiling,” which was written for and cut from Simple Simon (1930), and utilized here with great purpose. This was the glorious showcase of the revolving stage, as audience members were practically convinced that Matthews was indeed dancing on the ceiling. Naturally, the film can’t give us quite that effect, but the chance to see Matthews perform one of the most popular numbers in her career is extraordinary. From the 1934 film, here’s “Dancing On The Ceiling.”
A fun and sweet (classic late ’20s/early ’30s) Rodgers and Hart duet is “Dear! Dear!” which is for the lovers, and was performed in the film by Matthews and Barry MacKay. Here they are.
The only other Rodgers and Hart song to make the film is “If I Give In To You.” Here’s the short and sweet celluloid rendition by Matthews.
Interestingly, the entire Ever Green score was recorded in 1997. Vocals are adequate, but the sparse orchestrations are a difficult listen. However, it’s our only chance to hear some excellent unknown Rodgers and Hart tunes. One of my favorites is the sensual “In The Cool Of The Evening,” which was recorded by Jack Payne’s orchestra but sans lyrics. So, to hear the song in full, we turn to the ’97 recording.
The last song I want to feature (that has never been recorded outside of the aforementioned album) is a really funny duet that I’m shocked isn’t better known, “The Color Of Her Eyes.” From the ’97 studio recording, take a listen to what I consider to be this show’s hidden gem.
Come back next Monday for F! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the final season of Here’s Lucy!