Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our series on the scores of Arthur Schwartz. We’ve covered a lot of his work over the past few years, including The Little Show (1929), Three’s A Crowd (1930), The Band Wagon (1931), Revenge With Music (1934), At Home Abroad (1935), Stars In Your Eyes (1939), and Park Avenue (1946). Now, as promised, we’re filling in some of the most important missing links, starting last week with Flying Colors (1932). Next…
II. Virginia (09/02/37 – 10/23/37)
Teaming with young lyricist Albert Stillman for this American blurring of musical and operetta, Arthur Schwartz composed one of his best, but sadly forgotten scores. The book, initially by Laurence Stallings and then revised by Owen Davis, told the story of Fortesque (Gene Lockhart), who comes to America in 1775 alongside a troupe of Drury Lane actors and is in possession of a secret letter for George Washington. Anne Booth [a.k.a. Anne Ziegler] was Sylvia Laurence, the leading lady, who passes the letter to Colonel Richard Fairfax (Ronald Graham), her beau, who in turn manages to get the letter to Washington before it is intercepted by a Redcoat (Dennis Hoey). It’s also worth noting that the cast was integrated and included Ford L. Buck and John W. Bubbles. The production, which the producing Rockefellers intended to be the successor to White Horse Inn (1936), opened in the same location, the cavernous Center Theatre. The choice of location, which was much too grand for an operetta that knowingly intended to meet American sensibilities (read: more intimate), has often been blamed for the show’s downfall. (Although there was one opulent scene where the Colonial army marched in on moving treadmills, so as to look like an enormous lot.) But the most likely reason that the show folded in under two months is that it was overlong upon opening, earned bad reviews as a result of its delayed trimming, and then couldn’t sustain the ticket sales.
Schwartz’s score was considered pleasing, but not spectacular, although a few songs gained popularity on the airwaves, like one of my favorite lesser known Schwartz tunes, Booth’s “An Old Flame Never Dies,” which I’ve shared on this blog before. Above is a rendition by Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, with Jack Leonard on the vocal.
Several songs were performed on the radio by Don Voorhees, who was the original production’s music supervisor, including a number for Bubbles, “Goodbye Jonah,” heard above, and leading man Graham’s “If You Were Someone Else,” heard below. Both evocative and memorable.
Another tune that slightly caught on was the lovers’ “You And I Know,” which is heard below from a Ben Bagley album, where it’s sung by Charles Rydell and Blossom Dearie.
And we’ll close today’s post with another Voorhees excerpt — this time with a vocal by (non-cast member) Francia White, the soaring final number of the first act, “My Heart Is Dancing.”
Come back next Monday for another Arthur Schwartz musical! Tune in tomorrow for my selections of the best episodes from the fifth season of The Golden Girls!