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

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation 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, and so far we’ve covered The Girl Friend (1926), Lido Lady (1926) and Peggy-Ann (1926). Today…

 

IV. Betsy (12/28/26 – 01/29/27)

IF I WERE YOU

Rodgers and Hart had a busy end to 1926, with Lido Lady opening over in London and Peggy-Ann premiering the night before Betsy, a new musical comedy produced by the great Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., who gave the boys only two weeks to concoct a score. The story, far less daring than Peggy-Ann’s, concerned three Jewish brothers who long to marry their respective girlfriends. But Mama insists that they first play matchmaker for their sister Betsy (Belle Baker). Unfortunately, their choice, Archie (Allan Kearns) is in love with sister Ruth! As one might expect, however. everything turns out hunky dory in the end. To everyone’s chagrin, the undistinguished plot was matched with a rather routine score. (Thus, today’s post will be uncharacteristically short.) The hit of the evening turned out to be “Blue Skies,” an original number written by Irving Berlin, which Ziegfeld surprised Baker with the morning of the opening. Rodgers and Hart were reportedly embarrassed.

But there were two numbers in the score that bear mentioning. The first is the pair’s only semi-standard to come from Betsy, “This Funny World,” introduced by Belle Baker, and performed above by Joan Morris. The other is among my personal Rodgers and Hart neglected favorites, “If I Were You.” Sung by Ruth and Archie, the recording below is by Frederica von Stade.

 

 

Come back next Monday for another Rodgers and Hart musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the second season of Maude!

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