Early Kern III: HAVE A HEART (1917)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our series on the early musical theatre works of Jerome Kern, the brilliant composer whose complete scores from 1920 onward have been highlighted here over the past three years. Now we’re going back to the beginning — well, almost the beginning. So far in this series we’ve covered Nobody Home (1915) and Very Good Eddie (1915). Today, we’re moving on to…

 

III. Have A Heart (01/11/17 – 03/17/17)

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As the first complete score featuring the work of Kern with both Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, the trio largely credited with the creative development of the “Princess Theatre shows,” Have A Heart, like 1917’s Leave It To Jane (covered here back in 2014), did not actually premiere or play in the Princess Theatre. However, the show is usually discussed under the figurative umbrella with these other works, for many of the aesthetic qualities are shared — perhaps, not surprisingly, given that the combination of these three gentlemen’s talents is largely responsible for defining what it even means to be a Princess Theatre show. (Heck, there are non-Kern shows that played the Princess Theatre during this decade that aren’t even considered “Princess Theatre shows,” even though they boast more of a literal claim to the title!) I am also inclined to discuss this work in relation to the other K-B-W shows because all of the hallmark qualities are here — frothy dialogue, literate lyrics, and unforgettable tunes. The premise involves a couple who, on the eve of divorce, decide to elope for a second honeymoon. Sounds like a ball of fun, right?

Well, as you may have guessed, the score is indeed as much a delight as anything we’ve seen in this series thus far, demonstrating a continual growth in the efforts of both Kern and Bolton and giving evidence to the sublime addition of Wodehouse into this magical collaboration. Its brief run is a shocker, especially given the favorable reviews and the tangible high quality of the material. To date, Have A Heart has remained overshadowed by other Princess Theatre titles (even those that aren’t K-B-W, like Very Good Eddie, and ones that also aren’t even “legitimate,” like Leave It To Jane). I’m not going to venture a guess as to why, although conventional wisdom, as always, cites the book. However, even if this were the case, the score is strong enough to justify a multitude of sins, making Have A Heart a very ripe candidate for revival. Don’t believe me? Take a listen to a number that’s been featured on the blog before, the wistful “And I Am All Alone,” sung above with incandescent precision by Andrea Marcovicci.

Other popular songs from the score include “You Said Something” (above) and “Honeymoon Inn” (below) which was added into the 1975 revival of Very Good Eddie, and is probably my second favorite song from this  particular score. Both renditions come from the unreleased studio album by John McGlinn. (Hopefully this recording will eventually be released; these two excerpts are all I am able to share here today.)

Fortunately, you can hear the full score in all its glory on a 2005 Comic Opera Guild recording, where you’ll delight in rarities like “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down,” which had been cut before the Broadway opening.

From the same recording, here’s the jubilant “Bright Lights,” based on a number from the previous year called “Toodle-Oo.”

Here’s Billy Murray with Billy B. Van’s comedic second act highlight, “Napoleon.”

And we’ll close today’s post with a marvelous rendition of the bouncy “I’m So Busy,” performed by Rebecca Luker and George Dvorsky. (For more of Have A Heart, I highly recommend checking out the Comic Opera Guild recording, as there are so many other songs I’d have liked to share here, but didn’t for the sake of concision!)

 

 

Come back next Monday for another Kern musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the fourth season of The Cosby Show!

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10 thoughts on “Early Kern III: HAVE A HEART (1917)

  1. Very good, Jackson. Oh, boy! Miss springtime Andrea Marcovicci just has to be the best interpreter of Kern/Wodehouse songs. No need to look past this one here and The Land Where the Good Songs Go, Perhaps Have a Heart didn’t capture all the critics (George S. Kaufman in particular) simply because it was a slightly immature Trio of Musical Fame show. All three, but in particular Kern, had distractions during it, according to Lee Davis, their biographer. And it was a newish concept. I’m looking forward to Oh, Boy! Love your work.

  2. Good show. I have the Comic Opera version and it is very good.I have noticed that Kern borrowed songs from some of his past shows and inserted them into his newer shows. Let me know when John McGlinn recording is available. His overture from this show is on Youtube.
    .

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I will never be able to share the unreleased McGlinn recordings, but hopefully a deal will be made to release them because they are indeed complete. Apparently, it’s been in the works for years…

  3. Hi, Jackson! Thanks for featuring another interesting show. The combination of Kern and Wodehouse is hard to beat. Love the recordings! I too am looking forward to Oh, Boy!

  4. Thanks for these posts on early Kern! I love this period of his career, and the even earlier interpolations featured on the Lost Treasures disc (wish there was more). I also appreciate the two selections from the McGlinn recording. Quite a difference between this version of Honeymoon Inn and the one on Very Good Eddie revival CD.

    How many shows did McGlinn professionally record that have yet to be released? I can only hope someday we’ll be able to purchase a nice box set of The Works of Jerome Kern as conducted by John McGlinn (not to mention a set of his Victor Herbert recordings).

    Speaking of which, I know you didn’t cover The Girl From Utah, but do you know anything about this recording listed on castalbums.org?: http://castalbums.org/recordings/The-Girl-from-Utah-Studio-Cast/27381

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi, Blaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      McGlinn recorded complete albums of HAVE A HEART (1917), LEAVE IT TO JANE (1917), and OH, LADY! LADY!! (1918), along with the above selections from THE GIRL FROM UTAH (1914). [He also recorded Herbert’s BABES IN TOYLAND (1903) and THE LADY OF THE SLIPPER (1912).] I have been asked specifically not to share any of them here due to the commercial interest that still exists, but I will feature a couple of selections from OH, LADY! LADY!! in a few weeks, just as I’ve done for the others. Fortunately, most of Kern’s scores from this period have been put on disc by the Comic Opera Guild, affording the chance to hear some of these rarer songs — while we wait for those long-in-the-works McGlinn deals to be made.

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