Later Rodgers: Rarities from REX (1976)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! In this month’s entry, we’re celebrating Rex (1976), the notoriously ill-fated Henry VIII musical with a score by Richard Rodgers and Sheldon Harnick that began its out-of-town previews 42 years ago this week (on February 20, 1976). I have an audio recording of this first performance to share with subscribers who comment below voicing their interest — and if you’re not yet subscribed, please do so!

I’m quite fond of Rex and consider it Rodgers’ second most melodic work following the passing of his collaborator Oscar Hammerstein II (rivaled only in my estimation by Rodgers’ efforts with Sondheim on 1965’s Do I Hear A Waltz?), and urge all curious parties who’ve yet to sample this score to purchase the Original Broadway Cast recording, which features Nicol Williamson, Penny Fuller, Tom Aldredge, Barbara Andres, Glenn Close, and Ed Evanko.

There, you’ll enjoy treasures like “Away From You” (above – from the cast album), “As Once I Loved You,” “No Song More Pleasing,” “Elizabeth,” and “So Much You Loved Me” (below – from the tryout preview audio), the last of which has the same melody as “From Afar” but was deleted before the Broadway opening in a contentious developmental period that didn’t fix Rex‘s obvious problems (and instead compounded them). Many songs were discarded and added during this process, as the show dealt with a temperamental star, contrasting directorial visions, and a difficult central character.

Harnick and bookwriter Sherman Yellen revisited Rex in advance of a 2000 Musicals at Mufti production, for which they updated the troubled text — by zeroing in on Henry’s quest for a male heir and beefing up the second act’s utilization of Elizabeth I — and tinkered with the tunestack, reinstating gems like “So Much You Loved Me” and Henry’s 11 o’clock death bed solo, the outstanding “The Pears Of Anjou,” which Harnick recorded (heard below).

I’d love to share the entire score with you in this post. But, instead, I’ll reiterate that I’m happy to offer commenting subscribers access to the February 20, 1976 audio — the first time the rocky Rex was performed for an audience — along with a selection of demos featuring Rose Marie Jun and Stan Stanley (hear the latter sing “As Once I Loved You,” below) and an audio of a 2002 concert consisting entirely of CUT material.

 

 

Come back next month for another Musical Theatre entry! And tune in tomorrow for more Frasier!

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20 thoughts on “Later Rodgers: Rarities from REX (1976)

  1. The 1970s were an often trying time for musicals. They gave us Sondheim gems, yes, but so many “1600 Pennsylvania Avenues” and “One Night Stands”. I’d love to hear “Rex” in performance, as is really is a lovely score, and thanks for the opportunity to do so!

  2. HI Jackson,

    I would appreciate a copy of “Rex” as you outlined above. About one month ago, you sent me the BBC “Jubilee” and I have played it many times since. As I wrote to you after receiving it, I cannot thank you enough and I reiterate that.

    Look forward to receiving “Rex”

    Many thanks,

    John Giles

  3. remember seeing REX and not thinking very much about it. The music was good but the story line was bad.. Would like to hear the updated version of it to hear if it was improved upon..

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I don’t have an audio of a revised production, but I have emailed you at your gmail address with access to the audios mentioned in this post.

  4. Hi, Jackson! Thanks for shining a light on this unjustly ignored score. I agree with you that it is melodic and pleasing — and I like the “flavor” of Tudor England that Rodgers was able to infuse into it. I would love to hear the audio that you mentioned. Thanks for another great post!

  5. Was lucky enough to see Rex during it’s tryout. I remember that much of the music was lovely and Penny Fuller especially delightful. Please send me the live recording, I’d love to hear the entire show again. Thx.

  6. “Rex” is the one Richard Rodgers score from his late period that I know only by reputation but have never heard anything from (well, actually, “Rex” and “Androcles and the Lion”), but the selections you you share in the post are all lovely. I’d love to hear the other material you have to share. Thanks, Jackson. You are an education.

    • Hi, Michael! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Please subscribe to this blog using your preferred email address and I will send them your way!

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