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 was for Ever Green (1930). F was for Funny Face (1927). G was for Great Day! (1929). H is for…
H. Hot-Cha! (03/08/32 – 06/18/32)
The last original musical comedy produced by master showman Florenz Ziegfeld, this bawdy and thinly-plotted show, subtitled (and originally called) Laid In Mexico, features a score by the DeSylva-less team of Brown and Henderson, and starred Bert Lahr, Lupe Velez, June Knight, and Buddy Rogers. (Eleanor Powell was one of the dancers and Gypsy Rose Lee had a bit part.) The plot found Lahr, a waiter whose speakeasy gets raided by the cops, fleeing to Mexico where he is roped into becoming a bullfighter. Little plot, lots of Lahr shtick, sexy Velez bits, and several sweet songs for the ingenues — Knight and Rogers. In essence, a fine representation of a naughty and romp-filled early ’30s show, and with a clear emphasis on the stars.
Truthfully, the score is not extraordinary. It’s serviceable and, if the songs that have been recorded (which are only about half of the total tune-stack) are any indication, mildly pleasing — in that uncomplicated, unchallenging way. Still, Henderson always knew how to write amiable tunes, so let us enjoy what has remained from this utterly ’32 musical comedy. The most well-known number is probably “You Can Make Make My Life A Bed Of Roses,” played above by George Olsen’s orchestra and sung by Bob Borger.
Fran Frey and Olsen also recorded Velez and Rogers’ “Say (What I Wanna Hear You Say)” (heard above).
Olsen’s wife, Ethel Shutta (yes, THE Ethel Shutta) recorded two of the show’s songs, “There’s Nothing The Matter With Me” (above), and “There I Go Dreaming Again” (below). The latter is my favorite song from the score, an ordinarily romantic (and wistful — oh, so wistful) tune that I shared once before on a past Wildcard Wednesday post.
Another fun number, “It’s Great To Be Alive,” was cut early in this show’s run and inserted in the next Brown-Henderson musical, Strike Me Pink (1933). The recording below, by Anson Weeks’ orchestra and Harriet Lee, comes from a medley of tunes from the latter show.
Come back next Monday for I! And tune in tomorrow for more MTM!