Dancing Time: Kern in the ’20s (V)

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 and so far we’ve highlighted Good Morning Dearie (1921), The Cabaret Girl (1922), The Bunch And Judy (1922), and The Beauty Prize (1923). Today . . .

 

V. [TheStepping Stones (11/06/23 – 10/04/24)

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Back on the Western side of the Atlantic, Kern partnered once again with the dependable Anne Caldwell to deliver the score for Charles Dillingham’s barebones book musical, The Stepping Stones, which starred a father and daughter team of vaudevillians, Fred and Dorothy Stone. The plot was a modern-esque Red Riding Hood with Dorothy as Rougette Hood and Fred as her hero, Peter Plug. Oscar Ragland was the villain, while Evelyn Herbert, Ron Hoyer, and John Lambert filled out the supporting cast. (Jack Whiting also had a small role.) Surprisingly, the score was decently integrated into the book; at least, many of the lyrics were tailored to the book and its characters. That’s generally one of the excuses given as to why the score, which came from a HIT show, never produced the menagerie of standards that other Kern smashes delivered. I’m more apt to blame the actor’s strike, which put the show on hiatus from June through September, likely disrupting the songs’ momentum within the public consciousness. But I certainly can’t fault the music, which is much superior to the show we covered here last week.

A few numbers have become mildly popular among Broadway aficionados, like the wistful “Once In A Blue Moon,” an ideal cabaret song, performed above by Rebecca Luker, and “Raggedy Ann,” a charmingly cute number for father, daughter, and the ensemble, taken below from a Comic Opera Guild cast recording (the only full album of the score).

From the same recording is the main little Rougette Riding Hood set piece, “Little Red Riding Hood.”

A mild hit at the time was Rougette’s duet with Prince Sylvio (Hoyer), “In Love With Love,” performed by Kelly Lester and Kevin McMahon.

And we’ll close today’s post with an undiscovered Kern gem, father and daughter’s “Wonderful Dad,” taken from 42nd Street Moon’s album of Jerome Kern rarities.

 

 

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

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2 thoughts on “Dancing Time: Kern in the ’20s (V)

  1. Hi, Jackson! Thanks for featuring this show — you’ve made me reconsider it. The “nursery” aspect of it has always turned me off, but Kern’s work is actually quite solid. I’ve ordered the recording by the Comic Opera Guild so I can hear the score in its entirety. Please keep the Kern shows coming!

    • Hi, Scott! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I generally agree with you about the not-so-exciting subject matter, but while I wouldn’t put this in the same category as THE CABARET GIRL (1922) or THE BUNCH AND JUDY (1923), both of which I think boast great scores, there’s a lot to enjoy here and I’m certain you’ll have fun with the recording — if only for the opportunity to hear songs not found elsewhere. Next week’s show, however, is probably my favorite yet from this series . . . Stay tuned!

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