Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! This month, we’re featuring a show that eluded our extensive look at the 1920s during weekly coverage: the first musical to play the legendary Ziegfeld Theatre… Yes, I’m referring to that lavish folly known as Rio Rita (1927), a silly frolic that opened 95 years ago this month — its “plot” concerning a Texas Ranger pursuing a bandit on the Mexican border while courting his prime suspect’s sister, the eponymous Rio Rita… Now, admittedly, this operetta-adjacent score, by Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy, is not exceptional — certainly not compared to Ziegfeld’s next book musical to play that space, the iconic Show Boat — but a memorable 1929 film adaptation retained a good many of the stage show’s songs, and I recommend checking it out for your own educational pleasure.
And in the meantime, I’m offering — for subscribers who comment below to alert me of their private, non-commercial interest — a songs-only audio recording of a live stage production, mounted in May 1971 at my alma mater, The University of Southern California. This is your chance to sample almost the entirety of the original score, including numbers cut from the film… As an excerpt though, here’s something you may have heard before, my favorite number from Rio Rita — the bouncy “Out On The Loose.” Enjoy!
Come back next month for another musical rarity! And stay tuned for more Kate & Allie!