Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday and the conclusion 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, we’re filling in some of the most important missing links; so far we’ve looked at Flying Colors (1932), Virginia (1937), and Between The Devil (1937). Today…
IV. Inside U.S.A. (04/30/48 – 02/19/49)
Schwartz and Dietz reunited for this revue that, like the duo’s At Home Abroad, offered audiences a musical tour — this time of the good ol’ United States. The production starred Jack Haley and Beatrice Lillie, along with Valerie Bettis, Thelma Carpenter, John Tyers, Louis Nye, Carl Reiner, Jane Lawrence, Herb Shriner, Estelle Loring, William LeMassena, Talley Beatty and Jack Cassidy. (Paula Laurence was Lillie’s understudy.) Inspired by the John Gunther book of the same name, the sketches were written by Arnold Auerbach, Moss Hart and Arnold B. Horwitt. The musical later inspired a seaso- long variety show hosted by Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healey entitled Inside U.S.A. With Chevrolet. Although a hit at the time, I wouldn’t consider this work to be either Schwartz or Dietz’s finest. (Musically, there’s more interesting stuff elsewhere!) That noted, there’s still quite a bit to enjoy. Let’s begin our tour of the highlights.
After Lillie extolled the charms of Pittsburgh in song, and Haley starred in a sketch set in a Miami Beach hotel, Thelma Carpenter took the show to Churchill Downs in Kentucky with the sultry “Blue Grass,” performed above by Pearl Bailey.
In Ohio, Reiner, Tyers, and Nye played classical composers trying to craft an ode to Lillie. In Rhode Island, Haley sang a ditty — my favorite from the score — in honor of Loring, a tune I’ve shared here before, “Rhode Island Is Famous For You,” heard above. Next, on a San Francisco wharf, Tyers, Bettis, and company crooned the show’s most popular number at the time, “Haunted Heart,” performed below by Buddy Clark.
From there, Lillie took us to Plymouth, Mass. where she played a quirky mermaid, and Shriner performed a Western themed monologue remote from Indiana. The first act ended at a fair in Kenosha County, Wisconsin with Dietz’s favorite song from Inside U.S.A., “First Prize At The Fair.” Here’s Haley’s recording of the tune.
Act II opened with Lillie “At The Mardi Gras” in New Orleans. Here’s the diva herself.
The rest of the second act took the audeince to New York City for a sketch with Haley instructing young waiters (on how to bother the guests), went out to Wyoming for a rousing number by Tyers as a cowboy remarrying his first wife, came back to New York for a fun sketch (by Hart) with Lillie as a maid who unnerves an off-Broadway actress on opening night, traveled to a sensational murder trial in Chicago where a beautiful murderess named Tiger Lily (Bettis) did a highly praised ballet, and concluded in New Mexico with Haley and Lillie as a pair of Indians who DON’T want the land back (take that Rodgers and Hart), before the finale. Two worthwhile numbers were dropped out-of-town, one for Lillie called “Atlanta,” and one for Carpenter, with which we’ll close today’s post, entitled “Protect Me,” set in Hartford, Connecticut, the insurance capital of the U.S.A. The rendition below is by Pearl Bailey.
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! Tune in tomorrow for my selections of the best episodes from the final season of The Golden Girls!