McHugh Melody: His Broadway Scores (I)

Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday and the first post in our three-week sojourn into the works of composer Jimmy McHugh. So far on this blog we’ve highlighted his efforts for both Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928 (April 2014) and the 1940 musical revue Keep Off The Grass (December 2014). We’re kicking this new McHugh series off with…

 

I. Hello Daddy! (12/26/28 – 06/15/29)

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This was a Fields family affair, featuring Dorothy with the lyrics, Herbert with the book, and Lew as the producer/star. Meanwhile, John Murray Anderson supervised the entire production, Busby Berkeley provided choreography, and, of course, Jimmy McHugh composed the music. The premise of this amiable musical comedy was based on a German farce, and told the story of three men (Lew Fields, Wilfred Clark, and George Hassell) who are unknowingly each paying child support for the same boy (Billy Taylor), a dumb brat who falls for an equally unintelligent gal (Betty Starbuck). The secondary couple was Mary Lawler (of Good News!) and Allen Kearns (of Girl Crazy), allowing the score to incorporate more traditional love songs. The production was a stable hit and the score was well received, despite never really catching fire outside of the theatre. Today, most of the numbers have been recorded, and true to McHugh’s melodic acumen, everything discoverable is absolutely charming. As a composer, McHugh walks the line that often verges more into pop than traditional show tunes, but, of course, this was a time when pop was show tunes. For instance, the most popular number (judging by the amount of times it’s been recorded) from McHugh/Fields’ score has been “Futuristic Rhythm,” introduced by Wanda Gall and the ensemble. This rendition is by Jimmy McHugh’s Bostonians with Marvin Young on the vocals.

Another hit of the show was Taylor and Starbuck’s comic duet, “In A Great Big Way,” performed below by Annette Henshaw.

The above duet is best contrasted to the secondary couple’s less interesting, but still pleasant, “Let’s Sit And Talk About You.” This rendition is by Fred Rich’s Orchestra, with Billy Murray on the vocals.

Lawlor and Kearns, however, were rewarded with a divine duet in the second act; from the first edition of Forgotten Broadway And More, this is the superior “As Long As We’re In Love,” a tune that deserves to be performed more uptempo (but this rendition features all of Dorothy Fields’ lyrics).

And we’ll close today’s post with the show’s hottest number, my personal favorite, “Out Where The Blues Begin.” This is performed below by Irving Mills & His Hotsy Totsy Gang.

 

 

Come back next Monday for another McHugh musical! And tune in tomorrow for more Night Court!

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