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), A Night Out (1925), and Oh, Please! (1926). Today…
IV. Hit The Deck (04/25/27 – 02/25/28)
Youmans’ biggest hit after Nanette, this dance-heavy musical comedy was co-produced by Lew Fields and Youmans himself, who composed the score with lyricists Clifford Grey and Leo Robin. The book was adapted from an early ’20s comedy and centered around Loulou (Louise Groody — a familiar name here on Musical Theatre Mondays), a Newport coffee shop owner who falls in love with Bilge (Charles King), a sailor. Using some newfound cash, Loulou follows Bilge and his fleet to China where she wins his affection, but things are complicated by his discovery of her wealth. Do things work out in the end? SPOILER ALERT: Yes.
Following the original Broadway production, a 1927 London Production was mounted (yielding a handful of recorded selections) and RKO produced a 1930 film adaptation, which is unfortunately lost. (If the story sounds familiar, it’s because the source material was also used as the basis for the 1936 Astaire/Rogers film, Follow The Fleet.) Today the title is best remembered by fans of the 1955 MGM spectacular, which uses a different premise and a hodgepodge of Youmans songs.
Interestingly, the original stage score for Hit The Deck seemed to be a bit of a hodgepodge itself. Two of the best numbers were recycled from other works. The jaunty “Hallelujah!,” heard above by the cast of the 1955 film, was adapted from an unpublished 1918 march, while “Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue),” was originally used in A Night Out. (We featured a rendition by Mildred Bailey in our post on the aforementioned show.) The rendition below is by Original Broadway cast members Groody and King.
The most highly regarded number composed specifically for Hit The Deck was the ear catching “Why, Oh Why?” The rendition below is by Joan Morris and Robert White, whose Youmans albums with pianist William Bolcolm are absolute treasures.
Another number that makes it easy to be one of those humans that goes in for Vincent Youmans is “Lucky Bird,” heard below with Jane Powell from the 1955 Motion Picture soundtrack.
One of my favorite Youmans tunes ever written was actually cut after the tryouts, “An Armful Of You,” which has been featured on this site before. Here’s White.
And we’ll close today’s post with a number that Youmans wrote for the lost 1930 film, “Keepin’ Myself For You.” Included in the 1955 film and other regional productions in the ’50s and ’60s, this period rendition is by Ben Bernie’s Orchestra.
Come back next Monday for another Youmans musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the sixth season of Three’s Company!