Thou Swell, Thou Witty, Thou Rodgers & Hart in the ’20s (I)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the start of our two month series on the 1920s book musicals of Rodgers and Hart, a team whose ’30s and ’40s work has been fairly well represented here in the past. But the only ’20s work of theirs covered has been Dearest Enemy (1925). We’re going to rectify that now, starting with…

 

I. The Girl Friend (03/17/26 – 12/04/26)

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Rodgers and Hart composed a jaunty score for this easygoing vehicle for husband and wife team Sammy White and Eva Puck. Lew Fields produced, while his son Herbert wrote the admittedly thin book about a dairy farmer who plans to enter a six-day bicycle race to impress his girl, the daughter of a professional cyclist. After the original 1926 production, the show premiered in London the following year with a book adapted from 1926’s Kitty’s Kisses and mixing the Rodgers and Hart score with Gus Kahn and Con Conrad’s. It was a variation of this mishmash that toured Britain in 1987. But the full original score has not been heard since outside of a few small concert productions (like Musical Tonight!’s in 2004). The show’s relative obscurity — and unrevivability — is largely a result of the duo around whom it was crafted. Also, compared to the progressive and narratively solid work of Dearest EnemyThe Girl Friend is fluff, although the score is definitely a delight. And there are some magnificent (and well known) tunes. So, in keeping with the show’s simplicity, today’s post is easy, breezy, and ready to present you with some of the delightful tunes from Rodgers and Hart’s The Girl Friend. Up first, the most well known number, “The Blue Room,” in a period rendition by jazz violinist Joe Venuti and the Blue Four. Harold Arlen is the vocalist! (Check out Hart’s marvelous lyrics here.)

The title song, a bouncy Charleston performed, like the above, as a duet for Puck and White is heard here below in another period recording by George Olsen’s orchestra.

Puck had a pretty funny duet (thanks again to the brilliant work of Hart) with “The Damsel Who Done All The Dirt.” The rendition below is by Estelle Parsons and Nancy Andrews from a Ben Bagley recording.

And we close today’s post with a charming number that I discovered only a year ago, the secondary couple’s “Why Do I?” The rendition below is by Bill Daugherty and Nancy Anderson. One of my new favorites!

 

 

Come back next Monday for another Rodgers and Hart musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fifth season of The Bob Newhart Show!

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