Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation 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. So far we’ve covered Walk A Little Faster (1932), Banjo Eyes (1941), and The Lady Comes Across (1942). Today…
IV. Jackpot (01/13/44 – 03/11/44)
Bursting with all the patriotic pride of most musicals of the WWII era, Jackpot featured a reunion of two Let’s Face It! (1941) co-stars, Nanette Fabray, who now took on the starring role following a successful run as Constance Moore’s replacement in By Jupiter (1942), and Benny Baker, who was paired romantically in this show with the always delightful Mary Wickes. Fabray got traditional leading man Allan Jones as her love interest, whose character, along with Baker and Jerry Lester, wins Fabray in a bond-selling rally. Rounding out the cast was Betty Garrett as Lester’s love interest, WAC Sgt. Maguire. The score by Duke and Howard Dietz was, by all accounts, energetic and memorable. But the show fell victim to the Oklahoma! plague. That is, musical comedies were now regularly expected to be more than trivial farces, and this jovial joke of a show — though utterly American — just didn’t make the grade and closed in two months. Thus, so little of the score has been preserved. One of the most regularly cited numbers is “Sugarfoot,” introduced by Baker, Lester, Wickes, and Garrett, and it’s taken above from a Bagley album.
Also from a Bagley album, above, is the main lovers’ duet, “What Happened?” Meanwhile, Garrett led the ensemble in the rousing final number, “These Are The Yanks From The Banks Of The Wabash,” performed below by Mitchell Heitzman.
And we’ll wrap today’s post with my favorite song from the score, “I’ve Got A One Track Mind,” performed by Michael Piontek, but originally sung in the 11 o’clock spot by Allan Jones. (Yes, this post was unfortunately brief — the next two weeks will be more plentiful . . . stay tuned!)
Come back next Monday for another Duke musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the first season of Taxi!