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

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 week 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), A Connecticut Yankee (1927), She’s My Baby (1928), Present Arms (1928), and Chee-Chee. Today…

 

IX. Spring Is Here (03/11/29 – 06/08/29)

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Following the failure of the daring Chee-Chee, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s next project was far more conventional. Spring Is Here centered around a man who loves a woman, but the woman is in love with another man. It was as routine a story as you could get. But the simplicity of the premise fostered a rich, yet unpretentious score — in which both joys and sorrows played through with a real quiet and beautiful humanity. And the sweetness of the comedy, no doubt contributed to by a non-singing Charles Ruggles, was more than welcome to audiences of 1929. As a result, Spring Is Here was a modest hit, leading to a 1930 film adaptation (that used one member from the original cast and retained three of the boys’ best tunes.) The show’s biggest hit has become a Rodgers and Hart standard, “With A Song In My Heart,” performed by the central couple. The audio below is taken from the 1930 film adaptation.

That sweet duet is in contrast to the female’s number with the man she initially thinks she loves at the beginning. It’s the much cuter, and less heart felt (but nonetheless melodically exciting) “Yours Sincerely,” performed below by Fred Rich’s orchestra.

Another standard that emerged from the score was a duet for the two female leads, the longing “Why Can’t I?” The rendition below is by Dawn Upshaw.

One of my favorite Rodgers and Hart songs, however, is the secondary female’s “Baby’s Awake Now,” which boasts Hart’s most pointed and sophisticated lyrics from Spring Is Here. Below is the inimitable Lee Wiley.

A rarity that, to my knowledge, has only been recorded once is “Red Hot Trumpet,” which kicked off Act Two. Here are the Edisongsters.

And we’ll close this post with a video from the 1930 film of Frank Albertson and original cast member Inez Courtney with the title song, “Spring Is Here (In Person),” not to be confused with the number from 1938’s The Boys From Syracuse. 

 

 

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

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