Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the start of our first series on the works of Vernon Duke, a marvelous composer whose contributions to musical theatre and the classic American songbook are not praised as much as their merit warrants. On Musical Theatre Mondays, we’ve covered Duke’s work for Cabin In The Sky (1940) and both the 1934 and 1936 editions of The Ziegfeld Follies. Now, we’re delving a little deeper, featuring some of the composer’s lesser known scores, which are filled with an embarrassment of riches. We’re kicking things off today with…
I. Walk A Little Faster (12/07/32 – 03/18/33)
Monty Woolley directed this musical revue which featured a score by Duke with lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, a design by Boris Aronson, and a cast that starred Beatrice Lillie alongside Evelyn Hoey and the comedic stylings of Bobby Clark and Paul McCullough (whom you may remember from a show we covered way back in July 2013, Strike Up The Band). The sketches, several of which were written by S.J. Perelman, lampooned everything from currently running shows to European dictators. The real strength of the show, however, was the marvelous score, which included the charming “April In Paris,” introduced by Evelyn Hoey. This standard was slow to catch on due to the actress’ laryngitis on opening night in front of the critics. The period rendition below is by Lois Elliman and the Freddy Martin Orchestra.
Hoey also got the coy “Off Again, On Again,” heard below by Tammy Grimes, who gives the number more character than its probable introducer.
With the dancers, Hoey also introduced one of my favorite songs from the score, “(So) Nonchalant,” which is sandwiched in a medley below with Clark and McCullough’s “That’s Life,” and the simple and very Duke “A Penny For Your Thoughts.” This recording comes from a marvelous Ben Bagley album.
Bobby Short recorded another rarity from the score, “Speaking Of Love,” a pedestrian number that nevertheless may become an earworm; hear it below.
And we’ll wrap today’s post with Patrice Munsel’s recording of another favorite, the delicate “Where Have We Met Before?”
Come back next Monday for another Duke musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best episodes from the second season of Soap!