Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the first in a new series of posts on the musical comedy works of lyricists B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown with composer Ray Henderson. Their most famous work is Good News! (1927), which we covered here two years ago, but following that show’s success, they went on to several other full collaborations (before breaking off and each going on to other works). We’re highlighting those other forgotten, but absolutely charming, scores — starting today with . . .
I. Manhattan Mary (09/26/27 – 05/12/28)
Opening quickly after the smash hit debut of Good News!, this enjoyable musical comedy starred Ed Wynn as a waiter who helps Ona Munson (best known as Belle in Gone With The Wind) get a job in the Scandals. George White not only served as producer, but he appeared as himself in each performance (yes, he sang and danced too). A routine backstager, there was more book than both White and Wynn were used to handling, and doubts about whether to actually turn the show into another edition of the Scandals lasted throughout rehearsals. The production (which featured Mae Clark in a small role) ended up with a decent run, but the score was compared unfavorably to the trio’s most recent success. Fortunately, distance has allowed critics and historians to step back and enjoy the merits of this lively and ebullient work. In fact, despite the premise and its structuring as a star vehicle (for Wynn, and a lesser extent, White), there are a lot of similarities between the works. For instance, there’s a big wacky dance number. This time it’s “The Five-Step,” and the rendition below comes from a revisal of Follow Thru (1929) — don’t worry, it’ll be here in two weeks.
The biggest hit of the day was the title tune, originally sung by Munson and Paul Frawley as her love interest. Here’s a rendition by Paul Whiteman’s orchestra.
Another sweet duet for the lovebirds was “Nothing But Love,” performed below by Ann Hampton Calloway on a Ben Bagley album.
Also from a Bagley album, here’s the Scandals-esque, “My Bluebird’s Home Again.”
And we’ll close today’s post with my favorite song from the score, “It Won’t Be Long Now.” I have no good reason as to why I enjoy this number so much, but I think some of it has to do, once again, with the fine playing of Paul Whiteman’s orchestra.
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for more Cheers!