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)
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!