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 was for Hot-Cha! (1932). I was for Irene (1919). J was for Jumbo (1935). K was for Knickerbocker Holiday (1938). L was for Leave It To Jane (1917). M was for Me And My Girl (1937). N was for The Night Boat (1920). O was for On Your Toes (1936). P was for Park Avenue (1946). Q was for Queen High (1926). R was for Red, Hot, And Blue! (1936). S was for Show Girl (1929). T is for…
T. Take A Chance (11/26/32 – 07/01/33)
Originally titled Humpty Dumpty, this thinly plotted musical comedy about a theatrical family backing a musical revue concerning great moments in American history featured a score by Richard Whiting, Nacio Herb Brown, and producer B.G. DeSylva with a cast that included Lou Holtz, Sid Silvers, Eddie Foy, Jr., and Ethel Merman (in her third musical). After a disastrous five performance run in Pittsburgh, Humpty Dumpty closed for repairs. The sketches were reduced, Vincent Youmans was brought in to beef up the score, and all of the principal cast members, save Merman and Silvers, were replaced. The new line-up featured Jack Whiting and June Knight (the “Begin The Beguine” girl) as the backer and the star (in a romance of course), and Jack Haley as another comic. Retitled Take A Chance, the show finally opened in November of 1932 and was a surprise hit.
While never revived, Take A Chance was adapted for the screen in 1933 with Lillian Roth, and though not a fair look at the show, remains an enjoyable film in itself (featuring several additional tunes, including the marvelous “It’s Only A Paper Moon”). The only number from the show to make the film was the big hit, Ethel Merman’s torchy “Eadie Was A Lady.” Listen to her original recording above of this DeSylva-Brown-Whiting number.
Other hits from the show included ‘You’re An Old Smoothie,” a DeSylva-Brown-Whiting duet for Merman and Haley — the recording above comes from a 1961 Ethel Merman album — and “Rise ‘n’ Shine,” a Youmans-DeSylva rouser for Merman that closed the first act. The recording below is by Joan Morris.
From the same album, here’s Morris and Robert White with “So Do I,” a cute Youmans-DeSylva duet for Whiting and Knight.
Youmans and DeSylva also gave us the star couple’s main love duet, the romantic “Oh, How I Long To Belong To You,” sung here by White.
Silvers, Haley, Whiting, and Knight had a fun and mildly naughty production number in DeSylva-Brown-Whiting’s “Turn Out The Light.” This is a period recording by Paul Whiteman’s orchestra.
We shall conclude today’s post with a Youmans-DeSylva number for June Knight that has since received a renaissance of sorts when Kristin Chenoweth recorded it on one of her albums a decade ago. Here’s Chenoweth with the alternatively hot “Should I Be Sweet?”
Come back next Monday for U! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the third season of All In The Family!