Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday! Today’s entry begets a month-long series on forgotten and seldom revived shows of the mid-1940s (’44-’46, to be exact). Coming directly in the wake of the new era brought about, in large part, by Oklahoma! (1943), these shows existed during that liminal time where musical entertainment was now expected by some to be more than just entertainment, while others fought back against the recent shift — championing a return to the feel-good fun that typified the earlier era. As a result, each of these four shows is exceedingly interesting; we started last week with Follow The Girls (1944). Today…
II. The Day Before Spring (11/22/45 – 04/13/46)
While last week’s show sought entertainment over art, The Day Before Spring, the second collaboration between Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, was exactly the opposite. The premise engaged shades of Follies (1971), as a married couple (Irene Manning, John Archer) return to their ten-year college reunion where she rekindles a romance with the old collegiate flame with whom she almost eloped (Bill Johnson), who has since written a romantic novel about their time together. Meanwhile, the husband flirts with an eager widow (Patricia Marshall). The production was purposefully inventive, including several ballets (telling the same event but from different perspectives) and a sequence where the conflicted wife receives advice from the busts of Plato, Voltaire, and Freud, which come to life in song. Unfortunately, audiences never warmed to the show, and it closed in under six months, never earning a revival until a production by the York Theatre in 2007, which revealed the score to be an utter delight, filled with memorable tunes and shockingly sophisticated characterizations.
Take, for example, one of the best numbers, given to Pat Marshall, in which she laments that her newfound object of desire is going to remain faithful to his wife. Above is Ann Hampton Calloway with “My Love Is A Married Man,” a forgotten classic.
Marshall also got a memorable number in “A Jug Of Wine,” performed below by the inimitable Dorothy Louden, who sings the heck out of it.
But the score offered a little of everything — rousers for Bill Johnson like “God’s Green World,” taken above from a Bagley album with Jerry Orbach, and wistful duets for Johnson and Manning like “You Haven’t Changed At All,” heard below from the 1945 edition of the Broadway-by-the-Year series.
And we’ll close today’s post on this marvelous forgotten work with the soaring “I Love You This Morning,” which is part of the husband’s imagined reading of Johnson’s book. The rendition below is from a live audio of the 2007 Mufti production (which is available to subscribers who comment below)!
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical from the mid-forties! And tune in tomorrow for more Night Court!