Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our “Wildcard” series of posts, each one featuring a notable musical comedy from a composer who’s never been featured in a series of his own! The last two weeks have seen coverage of Lou Hirsch’s Going Up (1917) and Harold Arlen’s You Said It (1931). Today, we’re featuring a work by Hoagy Carmichael, a brilliant musician whose contributions to American pop are better known than his efforts for the stage. Today we’re looking at his first complete Broadway score…
III. Walk With Music (06/04/40 – 07/20/40)
This show, produced by Ruth Selwyn and the Shubert Brothers, had a tortured history, beginning life with a different title (Three After Three) and several different cast members. Carmichael and frequent collaborator Johnny Mercer concocted the score, and the plot, based on the play Three Blind Mice, centered around three New Yorkers who head to Palm Beach to snare rich husbands. One pretends to be rich, one pretends to be poor, and the other pretends to just be their chaperone. The “rich” one falls for a poor man, the “poor” one falls for a rich man, and the chaperone falls for another man. After a long and laborious tryout that folded in Detroit, the show was overhauled and when it came to New York the feminine trio were now New Hampshire farm girls, played by Mitzi Green (the maid), Kitty Carlisle (the heiress), and Betty Lawford (the chaperone), the latter two replacing Simone Simon and Mary Brian. Jack Whiting, Art Jarrett, and Lee Sullivan played the love interests. (The cast’s not too shabby, eh?)
The book was considered gaggy and old-fashioned, while the score was written off as pleasing but not competitive (especially when seen against other shows currently playing like Du Barry Was A Lady and Louisiana Purchase). Carmichael and Mercer have both proven their immense talents in other places, but I’m afraid that Walk With Music does seem inferior when compared to material that is obviously extraordinary. But that doesn’t mean it is completely without merit. For instance, there are several really fun and swingin’ pop-sounding tunes, like “Ooh! What You Said,” which for a brief out-of-town moment, was also the title of the show. The rendition above is by Marion Hutton with Glen Miller’s Orchestra.
Tex Beneke joins Hutton and Miller’s orchestra for this rendition (above) of the show’s most popular song, the Latin-infused “The Rhumba Jumps,” probably the most unique entry to make it to New York. Another vaguely popular tune from the score is the wistful “Way Back In 1939 A.D.,” performed below by Rob Evan.
Yet so many of the other songs from the score are nothing more than charmingly forgettable, like the simple but perhaps effectively romantic “What’ll They Think Of Next?” The rendition below is by Helen Forrest and Benny Goodman’s orchestra.
And we’ll close today’s post with Klea Blackhurst and the title tune. It’s a sweet forgotten song to typify a troubled forgotten show.
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for the first in our series on Night Court!