Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our first series on the works of composer Vincent Youmans, best known today for No, No, Nanette (1925), which we covered here in our string of posts on seminal ’20s musicals. Once a prolific musician highly regarded for his melodies (a “gifted human” according to Cole Porter), Youmans hasn’t been afforded by time the same recognition as some of his contemporaries. Hopefully these posts will illustrate why this obscurity is undeserved. We’re covering every stage score for which Youmans is credited as the main composer, save Nanette and Great Day! (1929), both of which have already been featured. Last week we began with Lollipop (1924). Today…
II. A Night Out (09/07/25 – 09/20/25)
As No, No Nannette (1925) was preparing to move to New York for its Broadway run, producer Alex A. Aarons approached Youmans to write a new score, with Irving Caesar and Clifford Grey as co-lyricists, for the American production of a 1920 British musical farce about a sculptor and his dominating wife who are nearly caught in compromising positions with other people when a cafe is raided in 1890s France. (Cole Porter contributed several tunes to the ’20 production.) For his adaptation, Aarons booked two English performers, Toots Pounds and Norman Griffin, for the leads, and began the show’s Pre-Broadway run in Philadelphia. The reviews were divisive and Aarons closed the show at the end of its two-week booking. It was the only Youmans musical to close out of town. The only two numbers singled out from Youmans score at the time were “Sometimes I’m Happy,” adapted from a number written for Mary Jane McKane (1923), but has remained notable for its inclusion in Hit The Deck! (1927), which we’ll be covering here in a few weeks, and “(Like A) Bird On The Wing,” which was published but never recorded. Below is a marvelous rendition of the former by Mildred Bailey and the Six Rhythm Boys in 1941.
Most of the tunes that have survived to be published and recorded were also associated with other shows, like “Kissing,” which was adapted from another song written for (but cut from) Lollipop. The charming rendition below is by Joan Morris and Robert White.
We’ll close this post with one my favorite recorded tunes from this short-lived score (that was actually cut before opening), “I Want a Yes Man,” performed below by Ann Morrison and Michael Heitzman.
Come back next Monday for another Youmans musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fourth season of Three’s Company!
An interesting side note on Vincent Youmans — Many believe that F. Scott Fitzgerald based the character Abe North in “Tender Is the Night” on Youmans.
Hi, Scott! Thanks for reading and commenting.
You’re correct! Sometimes I think I like TENDER IS THE NIGHT better than the novel for which Fitzgerald is best known…