Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the start of our six week series on the yet-to-be covered scores of George Gershwin. Although we’ve highlighted a lot of the master composer’s work in the past, the entries in this series are either really early in his career or those I initially deemed too popular and well known to be considered “forgotten.” But the time has come to give all of his brilliant work fair play, and we started last week with La-La-Lucille! (1919). Today…
II. A Dangerous Maid (03/21/21 – 04/16/21)
If you’ve never heard of this musical, don’t worry — it never even opened on Broadway, closing in Pittsburgh after a five city tryout (and a couple of cast replacements that made Vivienne Segal the new lead). George and his brother Ira, working under the pseudonym “Arthur Francis”, wrote ten songs (eight of which were used) for the musical adaptation of book writer Charles W. Bell’s own play, A Dislocated Honeymoon (1918). Although the script for this production has yet to be rediscovered, the general premise involved a wealthy family’s attempts to break up their son’s new marriage to an ex-chorine. When producer Edgar MacGregor decided to close the show, after good (but not great) reviews, the intention was to remount the show in a few weeks. Those few weeks turned into a few years, and MacGregor didn’t bring the show into New York until 1923, where it was renamed Elsie (the title that the show ran under at the very end of its 1921 Pittsburgh run) and featured an entirely different score by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle! (Elsie folded after only 40 performances.)
The Gershwin score remains as esoteric as it did then, with the only recognizable tune being “Boy Wanted,” which was slightly revised and used in the British musical comedy Primrose (1924), which we covered here in January. (See that post for a rendition of the number.) Another song, “The Sirens” was also adapted for use in Primrose. Other than that, nothing from the score has been recorded more than twice, the most recent discovery being the secondary couple’s “Anything For You,” performed above by Gershwin aficionado Michael Feinstein.
Nancy Walker, a marvelous Broadway performer best known to readers of this blog for her regular role as Ida Morgenstern on Rhoda, recorded the appropriately simple “The Simple Life” in 1952. Hear it above.
Elsie, the “dangerous maid” of the title, got two grand numbers of her own. “Just To Know You Are Mine” (performed above by A.A. V. V.) seems more European operetta than American musical comedy, while “Some Rain Must Fall” (performed below by Brian L. Green) is an evocative and (for 1921) character revealing ballad. It’s an early Gershwin gem, and an appropriate capper to today’s post.
Come back next Monday for another George Gershwin musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the final season of Taxi!