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

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) Peggy-Ann (1926), Betsy (1926), and A Connecticut Yankee (1927). Today…

 

VI. She’s My Baby (01/03/28 – 03/03/28)

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This vehicle for Beatrice Lillie featured a marvelous cast and a nifty Rodgers and Hart score. Jack Whiting played a bachelor who passes off his maid (Lillie), as his wife and borrows the neighbors’ baby to convince his uncle to lend him some money to put up a show starring his sweetheart, Irene Dunne. Clifton Webb was one half of the secondary couple. (Also seen in the cast was William Frawley, but he was reportedly fired during the run after punching Webb in the nose.) It had all the ingredients for success, and no one seems to know today why the run was so relatively short, especially since Lillie and the show received favorable reviews. Some have since proposed that the book, by songwriters Kalmar and Ruby, was weak. (This is perhaps a given, as musical comedy books of the era would rarely satisfy a modern theatergoer, since their principal aim was merely to lead from one potential song hit to another.) Regardless, the She’s My Baby score contains some of Hart’s best work.

Of course, many of the tunes were recycled from previous outings. In addition to “If I Were You,” which was from the Ziegfeld flop, Betsy (1926) [covered here], Rodgers and Hart utilized two songs heard only to English audiences in 1926’s Lido Lady [covered here], “Try Again Tomorrow” and “A Little House In Soho,” which was originally titled “A Tiny House In Soho Square.” Both of those were duets for Webb and his love interest. The boys also recycled two songs from the 1927 British revue One Dam Thing After Another, “My Lucky Star,” and the absolutely scintillating “I Need Some Cooling Off,” performed above by the Savoy Orpheans.

Lillie got two Lorenz Hart specialities in “When I Go On The Stage,” performed above by Carolyn Mignini, Kevin McMahon, Scott Harlan, and Greg MacKellan, and “A Baby’s Best Friend,” performed below by the master comedienne herself!

We’ll end today’s post with the delightful “You’re What I Need,” originally intended for A Connecticut Yankee (1927) and introduced by Whiting and Dunne. The rendition below is by Bobby Short.

 

 

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

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