Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday! Today’s entry concludes a month-long series on forgotten and seldom revived shows of the mid-1940s (’44-’46, to be exact). Coming directly in the wake of the new era brought about, in large part, by Oklahoma! (1943), these shows existed during that liminal time where musical entertainment was now expected by some to be more than just entertainment, while others fought back against the recent shift — championing a return to the feel-good fun that typified the earlier era. As a result, each of these four shows is exceedingly interesting; so far we’ve highlighted Follow The Girls (1944), The Day Before Spring (1945), and Billion Dollar Baby (1945). Today…
IV. Call Me Mister (04/18/46 – 01/10/48)
This smash hit was one in a unique genre: the coming-home-from-war musical revue! With a score by Harold Rome, a master who hasn’t been featured on this site yet (but don’t worry, this is just the beginning — stay tuned), and sketches by both Arnold Auerbach and Arnold B. Horwitt, there was a lot of fun to be had in satirizing army life and the gentlemen who were just now coming home from the front lines. The cast included George S. Irving, Lawrence Winters, and Betty Garrett, the latter of whom secured the show’s biggest hit, playing a canteen hostess exhausted from all the entertaining in “South America, Take It Way.” As the only show in this series of posts that got a cast recording, here’s Garrett herself with her hit tune.
Garrett also got another fun turn with the “Surplus Blues,” also known as “Little Surplus Me.”
Another popular tune was “Military Life,” colloquially called “The Jerk Song” for its popular line, “still a jerk.” Here’s the original cast recording. (Note that this was one of three songs — although this one was lyrically revised — to be utilized in the 1951 film adaptation of Call Me Mister, which starred Betty Grable and Dan Dailey and added a plot about a USO entertainer in a love triangle with her captain beau and her ex-husband.)
But it wasn’t all humor; there were some heartfelt moments, and all of them were rendered with needed sincerity, and more importantly, seamless Rome melodies. The best of these is “Along With Me,” performed below by original cast members Paula Bane and Danny Scholl.
My favorite song from the score, and the one with which we’ll close, is “Goin’ Home Train,” which is led by Winters and consists of six contrasting melodies that all come together gloriously. It’s majestic!
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for more Night Court!