The Syncopated Walk: Early Irving Berlin (III)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the conclusion of our first ever series of posts on the musical scores of Irving Berlin, a composer whose identity is inextricably linked with the definition of the American musical theatre! While we’d covered several of Berlin’s later scores, we’d never even touched his first Broadway works. In this series, we’ve highlighted Watch Your Step (1914) and Stop! Look! Listen! (1915). Today . . .

 

III. Yip-Yip-Yaphank (08/19/18 – 09/14/18)

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With America having entered the Great War in 1917, Irving Berlin was recruited into the Army and stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York. There he proposed the idea of writing a musical revue for the men to perform as a fundraiser that would help them build a community center. Should the show become a hit, then it would possibly transfer to Broadway. Well, the show, which was performed entirely by the men stationed at Camp Upton, was a hit and it did transfer to Broadway — with the same cast and crew. Among the ensemble was Irving Berlin himself, who came out to sing the 11 o’clock number, “Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,” the score’s most famous. (He would also do the same in the 1942 military musical revue This Is The Army, which was quickly adapted for the screen and features Berlin in a full recreation of this number.) Below is Berlin’s own rendition of the tune, from the 1942 cast album of This Is The Army. 

Another Irving Berlin hit first found life in this military revue, “Mandy,” which was originally titled “Sterling Silver Moon.” When Berlin noticed that customers looking for the sheet music were calling the song by the wrong name, he decided to re-title and revise the lyric, which was then added to the 1919 Ziegfeld Follies. Here’s Benjamin Sears’ rendition with the original lyrics!

This cute number was deleted when its ernest sentimentality became an unintentional source of comedy. Here’s a 1918 period recording by Lambert Murphy with the Orpheus Quartet of “(I Can Always Find A Little Sunshine In) The Y.M.C.A.”

And we’ll close today’s post with the show’s closing number (replacing “God Bless America,” which Berlin scrapped in favor of something with a stronger beat), “We’re On Our Way To France,” which found the entire company marching through the aisles and out of the theatre — ostensibly to war. This rendition comes from the soundtrack of This Is The Army, where the song was also featured.

 

 

Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the ninth season of Cheers!

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2 thoughts on “The Syncopated Walk: Early Irving Berlin (III)

  1. Enjoyed Yip, Yip, Yaphank. very much . I have heard the complete BBC recording of it. The song about the YMCA was funny. It reminds me of THE VILLAGE PEOPLES of the YMCA. it caused snickers from the audience who interpreted the song a little different especially since it was sung by two drag queens to an innocent young boy. i saw the first Desert Song movie the male comedy star was so gay I thought he was going to fly off the stage.. This was before the codes movies. Just goes to say . The audience then was just the same then as it is now. We don’t need some one telling was to think.

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