Dancing Time: Kern in the ’20s (II)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our eleven week series on the yet-to-be covered ’20s scores of composer Jerome Kern, who’s responsible for some of the most glorious contributions to the American songbook of all time! So far on That’s Entertainment, we’ve covered these Kern ’20s shows: The Night Boat (1920), Sally (1920), Show Boat (1927), and Sweet Adeline (1929). In this series of entries, we’re filling in all the gaps, featuring shows from both sides of the Atlantic. We started last week with Good Morning Dearie (1921). Today . . .

 

II. The Cabaret Girl (09/19/22 – 08/11/23)

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After the success of the London production of Sally, Kern teamed with P.G. Wodehouse and George Grossmith to compose the score for an original West End Musical, The Cabaret Girl, which was tailored around the talents of Dorothy Dickson, an American performer who had delighted British audiences in their mounting of Sally. The premise of this new show has soon-to-be-wealthy heir Jim Paradene (Geoffrey Gwyther) falling in love with a performer, Marilynn Morgan (original name, huh?), who has to be approved by his snobby family before he can earn his fortune. The lovers’ plan is to pretend that they’re already married and throw a honeymoon celebration in the country for members of the local aristocracy; but when they learn the notables are all away, they hire the cabaret troupe to take their places. Complications, naturally, ensue until all ends happily. Grossmith and Norman Griffin (replacing Leslie Henson, who fell ill on the scheduled opening night, delayed the premiere, and had to be replaced until he stepped back in several months later) played producers of Marilynn’s cabaret group.

Although a big hit at the time, the American premiere of this musical didn’t occur until the 21st century, when places like 42nd Street Moon and Musicals Tonight! mounted concert productions. There have also been two cast recordings released, one by the Comic Opera Guild and the other by the Ohio Light Opera (my preference, also includes the book scenes). These recordings give a great taste of the score, which although not exceptional, is incredibly fun and, like Gershwin’s early British triumph Primrose (1924), a great blending of British and American sensibilities. For instance, although you can anticipate songs with names like “London, Dear Old London” (heard below — from the Ohio Light Opera recording), all of the tunes retain a boldness that can be defined as iconically American, as is the case with “Shimmy With Me,” performed above by Dee Hoty, which introduced Londoners to this famous dance and which’s melody was later reused for a number in The City Chap (1925). (A lot of songs in this score had life in other productions. For instance, “The First Rose of Summer,” was adapted from a song in 1919’s She’s A Good Fellow — which we’ll eventually be covering in a future Musical Theatre Monday series).

Another song ended up being re-used in The City Chap, which we’ll be covering here in a few weeks, the breathtakingly marvelous “Journey’s End,” taken below from the Ohio Light Opera recording.

Meanwhile, “Ka-Lu-A,” from last week’s Good Morning Dearie was also included in this show, and likely became an even bigger hit. But since we already featured that tune here last week, here’s a charming, and more British sounding, “Looking All Over For You,” from the album “Jerome Kern in London and Hollywood.”

And we’ll close today’s post with a brief original cast recording by Dorothy Dickson of my absolute favorite number from this score, “Dancing Time.” Although I initially planned on showcasing a more complete rendition with the original orchestrations and a marvelously jovial ensemble (heard here), I’m crazy about original cast renditions.

 

 

Come back next Monday for another Kern musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the eighth season of The Jeffersons!

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