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!, both of which have already been featured. So far we’ve covered Lollipop (1924), and A Night Out (1925). Today…
III. Oh, Please! (12/17/26 – Feb. 1927)
Youmans and lyricists/bookwriters Otto Harbach and Anne Caldwell composed the score for this farcical musical comedy that became best known as a vehicle for comedienne Beatrice Lillie, who played a stage actress that plots to catch a prudish perfume manufacturer (Charles Winninger), who’s appealed to the Purity League to close her show, in a compromising position while his wife (Helen Broderick) is away. (Charles Purcell played Lillie’s love interest.) With a slight book and a star unsuited for the more conventional role in which the premise cast her, Oh, Please! became notable for the mutual disfavor between Youmans and Lillie, who substituted other songs into his score and refocused the audience’s attentions onto her clowning. She got good reviews, the show didn’t.
The only really notable song to emerge from the score is the ebullient “I Know That You Know,” introduced by Lillie and Purcell. I’m fond of this jovial rendition (above) by Nat Shilkret’s Orchestra. I adore this song.
Lillie recorded two of her numbers. The first, above, was a duet with Winninger, “Nicodemus” (his character’s name), and the other, below, “Like He Loves Me.”
Unfortunately, nothing else from the score has had longevity, and the show, with a book built around shtick, hasn’t been deemed worthy of revival. Thus, please excuse this entry’s relative thinness. The next few posts will be meatier and more rarity filled… Stay tuned!
Come back next Monday for another Youmans musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fifth season of Three’s Company!