Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our six week series on the yet-to-be covered ’30s scores of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, whose work from both the ’20s and ’40s has been well represented here. The only featured shows of theirs from the ’30s — my favorite musical decade — have been Ever Green (9930), Jumbo (1935), On Your Toes (1936), and Too Many Girls (1939). So we still have some rich area to cover! So far in this series, we’ve highlighted Simple Simon (1930), America’s Sweetheart (1931), Babes In Arms (1937), and I’d Rather Be Right (1937). Today . . .
V. I Married An Angel (05/11/38 – 02/25/39)
Originally a film in development during their tenure with MGM in 1933, the boys bought back the property (with MGM given a first refusal to the film rights should the stage production become a success) and contributed both the score and the book. George Balanchine once again choreographed (and there was some ballet), while young Joshua Logan staged the book scenes — and this was noted as being the wordiest of the spotlighted duo’s late ’30s works. The story, adapted from a Hungarian play, starred Dennis King as a banker who literally marries an angel, played by Vera Zorina, and contends with her struggle to adapt to life on Earth among mortals. Vivienne Segal, who would go on to play two more iconic R&H roles, was King’s supportive sister, Walter Slezak was his boss, Audrey Christie was his ex-girflriend and Charles Walters played his secretary and friend. The show was a hit, for all involved, and MGM did indeed make a film in 1942. As usual, it wasn’t in any way an accurate reflection of the stage play. But due to the soundness of the book and the charm of the score, which wasn’t padded with unnecessary numbers (only eight original tunes played Broadway), I Married An Angel has seen a number of small scale revivals, and attempts have been made to resurrect the work.
There are a few standards, the most notable being “Spring Is Here,” not to be confused with the title song of the 1929 Rodgers and Hart musical of the same name (which we covered earlier this year). Above is a rendition from a 1986 New Amsterdam Theatre production. Interestingly, the number is performed by brother and sister (as opposed to the two lovers).
From that same recording, here’s the frothy opening, “Did You Ever Get Stung?” It was introduced by King, Segal, and Walters.
Gordon McRae and Lucille Norman duetted on Segal and Slezak’s gorgeous “I’ll Tell The Man In The Street,” maybe my favorite song from this score, in an abridged radio production (excerpts of which have been released on CD).
Audrey Christie is the only original cast member to have recorded her numbers. Above is “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” and below is “At The Roxy Music Hall.” Both are incredibly catchy!
And we’ll close today’s entry with “A Twinkle In Your Eye,” in which Segal gives the angel the score on how to be a human woman. This rendition, taken from a live 1975 concert in honor of Josh Logan, is performed by Phyllis Newman, who played the show at the Berkshire Theatre Festival just two years later.
Come back next Monday for another Rodgers and Hart musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fifth season of The Jeffersons!