Dancing Time: Kern in the ’20s (VII)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our eleven-week series on the yet-to-be covered ’20s scores of composer Jerome Kern, who’s responsible for some of the most glorious contributions to the American songbook of all time! So far on That’s Entertainment, we’ve covered these Kern ’20s shows: The Night Boat (1920), Sally (1920), Show Boat (1927), and Sweet Adeline (1929). In this series of entries, we’re filling in all the gaps, featuring shows from both sides of the Atlantic. So far we’ve covered Good Morning Dearie (1921), The Cabaret Girl (1922), The Bunch And Judy (1922), The Beauty Prize (1923), The Stepping Stones (1923), and Sitting Pretty (1924). Today . . .

 

VII. Dear Sir (09/23/24 – 10/04/24)

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The very brief run for this show lets you know automatically it wasn’t well received. As usual, historians cite the triviality of the book, which was written by Edgar Seldwyn and concerned the romance that develops between playboy Oscar Shaw and Genevieve Tobin, the snobby dame who rejects him. He gets his revenge by winning her services as a maid in a charity auction. Others in the cast included Walter Catlett, Claire Luce and George Sweet. Along with the book, Kern’s score also got little praise, but like most of his work, contemporary scholars have found much to enjoy. Truthfully, it’s not the composer’s greatest showing, especially in comparison to his others, but it’s notable for a variety of reasons, chief of which is Kern’s partner: novice lyricist Howard Dietz. Although Dietz’s efforts here aren’t on par with what was to come from him, this is his first complete Broadway score and it shows a lot of promise. Kern’s melodies, meanwhile, continue their growth in complexity, and even though the songs themselves aren’t as memorable as those from say, The Cabaret Girl or Sitting Pretty, there are some interesting and emotionally exciting tunes, like the sweeping “I Want To Be There,” performed below by Rebecca Luker and George Dvorsky.

Another gorgeous Kern number is that of “Weeping Willow Tree,” in which the music matches the lyrics’ exquisite imagery in an ideal harmony. Here’s David Carroll.

I’m also partial to the classic Kern sounding “All Lanes Must Reach A Turning,” the melody of which was later reused for the title tune in Blue Eyes (coming here in a few weeks). Below is a rendition by Jerry Hadley and Marie McLaughlin.

The last number I’ll share with you today is the cutesy secondary and tertiary couples’ quartet, “If You Think It’s Love, You’re Right,” taken below from the Jerome Kern edition of the Lost Broadway And More album series. (Purchase it here.)  Stay tuned next week for more Kern . . .

 

 

Come back next Monday for another Kern musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the second season of Cheers!

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