V Is For… VERY WARM FOR MAY (1939)

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 was for Take A Chance (1932). U was for Ups-A-Daisy (1928). V is for…  


V. Very Warm For May (11/17/39 – 01/06/40)

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Another show that changed drastically after the out-of-town previews, this Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein musical was directed by Vincente Minnelli and starred Grace McDonald, Hiram Sherman, Eve Arden, Richard Quine, Frances Mercer, and Jack Whiting. (Interestingly, June Allyson, Vera-Ellen, Avon Long, and Don Loper were all among the ensemble.) The original story concerned 17-year-old May (McDonald), who returns home from school to find her father being shaken down by two gangsters trying to collect on his gambling debts. Their plan to kidnap her is foiled when she escapes and hides out in the barn on a wealthy matron (Arden)’s estate, where the matron’s two children (Mercer and Quine) are rehearsing a new play by their eccentric friend Ogden Quiller (Sherman) that’s premiering in a local summer theatre. May’s brother, a big time Broadway director (Whiting) arrives in time to save the play (and romance Mercer), as both the gangsters and May’s father track her down. Naturally, mayhem ensues.


The show, which featured the above premise, was a success out-of-town and looked to be a surefire hit upon its arrival in New York. But producer Max Gordon was not pleased with the show and demanded extensive changes. Essentially, the entire gangster subplot was eliminated — May was now running away from bad grades instead of menacing mobsters — and much of the material for the flaming Ogden Quiller was toned down. Though the script was apparently tighter, many involved with the show would later cite this rewrite as a mistake. For despite the talent involved, Very Warm For May closed within two months of its opening. It has never seen a major revival since. (And you can skip the movie, as far as I’m concerned.)

However, several of the songs became immediate standards. The most well-known, and one that I have confirmed on this blog to be one of my favorite songs of all time, is “All The Things You Are,” which despite its utterly romantic melody and lyrics actually serves as one of the numbers in Quiller’s show. Above is a recording that’s been on this site before, conducted by John McGlinn for his Broadway Showstoppers album with original orchestrations and arrangements.

Another hit from the score was the lush “In The Heart Of The Dark,” heard above, and also conducted by McGlinn, but recorded for Kim Criswell’s The Lorelei. Again, these are the original orchestrations and arrangements.

Yet another standard is “All In Fun,” sung by Mercer and Whiting. The recording above comes from an AEI release of a radio show that the original Broadway cast did during the run of the production. It’s certainly not complete, but highly recommended — these are original cast performances, after all. So here are Mercer and Whiting.

Above is McDonald, also from that AEI recording, with “That Lucky Lady,” which is a reprise of the previously sung “That Lucky Fellow.”

Last month I featured a song from this score that has never been recorded officially: “High Up In Harlem,” which was cut before opening. The recording above comes from a live 1994 concert audio that’s also conducted by McGlinn. Below is another unrecorded number that comes from the same concert, “May Tells All,” which she sings to Arden and the kids upon arriving in their barn.

And last but not least, let’s end this post with one of the score’s most exhilarating (in a score where practically every number exhilarates). Here’s “Heaven In My Arms,” recorded for McGlinn’s Jerome Kern Treasury. This was also for Mercer and Whiting.



Come back next Monday for W! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fifth season of All In The Family!

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