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. So far we’ve highlighted Good Morning Dearie (1921), The Cabaret Girl (1922), The Bunch And Judy (1922), The Beauty Prize (1923), and The Stepping Stones (1923). Today . . .
VI. Sitting Pretty (04/08/24 – 06/28/24)
Kern’s last partnership with lyricists and book writers P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, the three of which formed the team responsible for the highly lauded Princess Theatre shows of the decade prior, is as much a throwback to the past as it is a look to the exciting future. The book, like all Bolton and Wodehouse works, is cohesive and coherent, but it’s delightfully old fashioned — as is the premise, which contends with a millionaire who disinherits his family and intends to leave his estate to two adopted orphans: a shady chap named Horace who schemes with his uncle to rob the millionaire, and May, one half of a pair of female twins. Romantic entanglements involve May and the millionaire’s nephew, Bill, and Horace with his new adopted sister’s twin, Dixie. Amusing musical theatre fun ensues. But what really makes Sitting Pretty sing is Kern’s exceptional score, which I would argue is the best of his pre-Show Boat works of the decade. So the production’s truncated run is a bizarre shame (although it did tour after closing), as is the lack of longevity in the show’s wonderful songs.
Sitting Pretty was among the discoveries made in that glorious Secaucus warehouse, and following a concert production in 1989, a full album was recorded by New World Records. It’s exquisite, and I highly recommend it to all musical theatre lovers, especially since so many of these pieces are seldom heard, like “Shufflin’ Sam,” performed by Dixie and the ensemble, and heard above (from the studio album) by Judy Blazer.
While “Shufflin’ Sam” is hot and jazzy, a lot of the score will lyrically and thematically remind of the Princess Theatre shows, like the beautiful “The Enchanted Train” (above) and the hilarious character spot for Horace’s uncle, “Tulip Time In Sing Sing” (below). Both come from Ben Bagley recordings.
I really want to share the whole New World album (like “Worries, “Bongo On The Congo,” “All You Need Is A Girl,” and “Shadow Of The Moon”), but instead I’ll urge you to buy it here and share one more tune, the miraculously and undeservedly esoteric, “There Isn’t One Girl,” a complex little tune that helps personify the Kern’s growing genius. Here’s Davis Gaines.
Come back next Monday for another Kern musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the first season of Cheers!