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), Oh, Boy! (1917), and Miss 1917. Today, we’re moving on to…
VII. Oh, Lady! Lady!! (02/01/18 – 08/10/18)
The penultimate collaboration between Kern, Bolton, and Wodehouse (their last joint effort was 1924’s Sitting Pretty — covered here this past January), Oh, Lady! Lady!! was also the last “Princess Theatre show” that officially deserved the title — opening in said venue and featuring the efforts of the trio whose work defined the moniker. (Kern would be back there, but not with Bolton and Wodehouse; Bolton and Wodehouse would also reunite in this space, but not with Kern.) Opening with great anticipation and once again meeting expectations, Oh, Lady! Lady!! was actually Wodehouse’s favorite of the series, and he later opted to adapt the story — which concerned a couple whose plans to wed are temporarily threatened by the arrival of a female jewel thief who implicates the young husband-to-be — into a novel of its own. (Note that a very youthful Vivienne Segal played the original production’s ingenue.) In actuality, modern day critics tend to view the musical’s book as slightly lesser than some of its predecessors, but the music and lyrics remain lauded. Personally, however, while the songs remain smart, character-driven and charming, I’d be disingenuous to claim that I enjoy this score as much as some of their other outings, namely Oh, Boy! and Leave It To Jane (1917). Of course, the standard was set so high, that this score is nevertheless a brilliant piece of musicianship, no matter how one chooses to rank it. (Note, incidentally, that the piece’s most famous number, “Bill,” was cut just before opening and repurposed nearly a decade later for Show Boat).
Evidence those high standards, for example, in the utterly delightful “Not Yet,” which was adapted from a 1912 melody. The rendition above is from an unreleased studio album conducted by John McGlinn. Also, from that same recording, below is the soaring “When The Ships Come Home” [a.k.a. “Little Ships Come Sailing Home”].
While that recording remains unreleased (and unsharable — so I’m limiting this post to those two excerpts), there is a Comic Opera Guild recording of the full score that comes highly recommended for those who want to seek out more of this show. It’s currently the only commercially available place to hear full renditions of gems like “Before I Met You,” another charming Kern duet (and maybe my favorite from the score).
From the same album, here’s the boisterous title tune, one of the work’s most effortlessly jaunty.
A lesser known tune of which I’ve grown quite fond is the comical “It’s A Hard, Hard World,” heard below from 42nd Street Moon’s The First Rose Of Summer.
And we’ll close today’s entry with Dorothy Parker’s favorite type of number, the trio for the leading male and the comic couple. Here’s this show’s delectable offering, “Greenwich Village,” taken below from the Early Kern album.
Come back next Monday for another Kern musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the final season of The Cosby Show!