Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our series on Gershwin in the ’20s! Much of this year will be spent finishing off our coverage on the works of some of my favorite composers from the ’20s-’40s. Of George’s output this decade, we’ve already covered Lady, Be Good! (1924), Oh, Kay! (1926), Funny Face (1927), Treasure Girl (1928), and Show Girl (1929). So far in this series we’ve featured Sweet Little Devil (1924) and Primrose (1924). Today…
III. Tell Me More (04/13/25 – 07/11/25)
George collboarated with Ira and B.G. DeSylva for this “spring musical comedy” that has a pleasantly underrated score and a plot thinner than most. The routine story, scripted by Fred Thompson and William K. Wells, concerns Kenneth, a member of a wealthy New York family, who meets and falls in love with Peggy, a sales clerk at a millinery. Unbeknownst to Peggy, Kenneth’s best friend is Billy, her estranged half-brother (they quarreled when their father died), who has begun a relationship with Peggy’s co-worker, Bonnie. Filling out the story is the relationship between the owner of the shop, Monty Sipkin, a role tailored around the talents of comedian Lou Holtz, and Peggy’s wealthy school chum, Jane, who invites Peggy up to her estate in Viewport. But there’s a catch: because Jane’s aristocratic father would not approve of Monty, Peggy has to come up and pretend that he’s her half-brother Billy. As all three couples find themselves in Westport, the requisite misunderstandings ensue, climaxing in a happy ending. Alexander Woollcott wrote, “I never saw a musical comedy book that mattered less.”
The show opened in London a month later at the Winter Garden, following the close of Primrose. In fact, Leslie Henson, Heather Thatcher, and Claude Hulbert, from Primrose, were also in the West End Tell Me More, which featured several new Gershwin tunes. The next year, Tell Me More made its Australian debut — the second Gershwin musical to do so. However, despite the relative success of all three productions, none of the songs really became standards. And the score was virtually forgotten until the early ’80s, when most of the numbers were uncovered in a warehouse in Secaucus, sparking Tommy Krasker’s 2001 restoration of the score, which features new orchestrations, but most of the songs in their complete form. It is from this recording that most of the songs in today’s post will come. (Buy it, with Tip-Toes, here.)
My favorite song from Tell Me More is “Kickin’ The Clouds Away,” a trio for Jane, Monty, and Billy. You may remember this song from the Gershwin jukebox musical, My One And Only. The recording above comes from the 2001 studio album and features Christine Ebersole, David Garrison, and Patrick Cassidy.
Jane and Monty’s big love duet is “Why Do I Love You?” — not to be confused with the better known Kern-Hammerstein song of two years later. The recording above is of Ebersole and Garrison.
Billy and Bonnie, the secondary (or rather, tertiary) couple, got two cute duets. Above is Act One’s “How Can I Win You Now?” and below is Act Two’s “Baby!” Both come from the 2001 album, and it should be noted that Gershwin kept the lyrics but rewrote the melody for the latter song in the London Production, so this recording features both versions!
Michael Feinstein recorded a lovely rendition of the ensemble’s “Love Is In The Air,” which opens the second act.
Comic Lou Holtz was afforded three funny character numbers, my favorite of which is his introductory spot, “Mr. And Mrs. Sipkin.” Here’s David Garrison.
And finally, here’s Bonnie’s “Ukelele Lorelei” from the 2001 recording.
Come back next Monday for another Gershwin musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fifth season of Sanford And Son!