Early Kern VI: MISS 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), Very Good Eddie (1915), Have A Heart (1917), Love O’ Mike (1917), and Oh, Boy! (1917). Today, we’re moving on to…

 

VI. Miss 1917 (11/05/17 – 01/05/18)

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Kern’s first project with Bolton and Wodehouse after Leave It To Jane (1917), this musical revue was co-produced by Charles Dillingham and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. and featured contributions by several composers in addition to Kern, including Victor Herbert (with whom Kern did not reportedly gel). The production starred an impressive roster of performers that included Irene Castle, Bessie McCoy Davis, Lew Fields, Charles King, Ann Pennington, Bert Savoy, Vivienne Segal, and Van & Schenck. Two gals named Marion Davies and Peggy Hopkins Joyce were in the ensemble, while George Gershwin was the rehearsal pianist and pit orchestra conductor. The reviewers were strong, but the production was at the Century (a little out of the way for most theatergoers) and the material, it is often argued, wasn’t quite of the calibre of the most recent Princess Theatre works. In this entry, we’ll sample some of Kern’s work with Bolton and Wodehouse, and I hope you’ll agree that, although lacking the wit and cohesion that came about from the Princess Theatre shows’ effective blend of musicality and storytelling, Kern’s work is as melodiously pleasing as ever. As Exhibit A, here’s the all-time classic, “The Land Where The Good Songs Go,” which was originally written for Oh, Boy!, and featured on this blog in a past Wildcard entry. Here’s a beautiful rendition by Andrea Marcovicci.

Another semi-popular tune among the Kern cannon to emerge from this score is “Go, Little Boat,” which was actually cut during rehearsals and added into the Princess Theatre show Oh, My Dear! (1918), from which this was Kern’s only contribution. (Bolton and Wodehouse worked, instead, with Lou Hirsch.) The rendition below is by Joan Morris.

But while those two numbers are elegant and sophisticated, other tunes were peppy and adorable, like the memorable “Tell Me All Your Troubles, Cutie,” performed below by Hal and Sylvia Cazalet.

Another character-y piece that arose from a comedic sketch is “We’re Crooks,” performed below by Rebecca Luker and Graham Rowat.

And we’ll close today’s post with yet another of my favorite forgotten Kern numbers of the era, “The Picture I Want To See,” taken from 42nd Street Moon’s The First Rose Of Summer.

 

 

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

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6 thoughts on “Early Kern VI: MISS 1917

  1. Hi, Jackson! Thanks for bringing us yet more early Kern. It’s hard to believe how many songs Kern turned out in 1917 alone. And they’re still enjoyable today.

  2. Good show. I am surprised how many songs you could find for such an obscure show. I enjoy your blog very much . Thanks, Bob K.

  3. What your absolutely charming series on these early Kern (&B&W) shows prove is how right Kern was to try to keep the songs within the context of the shows, and not have them published or recorded separately. While most (all?) of them are clever and fun, out of context they don’t do a lot. Of course, there are some that do (e.g. The Land Where the Good Songs Go, or the earlier They Didn’t Believe Me) but they only highlight the truth that the marriage of music and plot (as in the Princess shows) at this pioneering stage in the development of the American musical didn’t/couldn’t produce many hit songs. In Kern’s case we had to wait until Show Boat. You are doing important work here, Jackson.

    • Hi, Noel! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I appreciate your kind words and I agree with your sentiments regarding the out-of-context playability of many of Kern’s efforts here. Stay tuned for an even more musically integrated piece, albeit one with a better score, next week!

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