Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the first in a new “Wildcard” series of posts, each one featuring a notable musical comedy from a composer who’s never been featured in a series of his own! This first week’s entry highlights a work by Louis Hirsch. In addition to co-founding ASCAP, Hirsh is best known for his contributions to four editions of Ziegfeld’s Follies (not to mention the classic “Love Nest,” the eventual theme song from The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show). Never regarded with the same praise as some of his contemporaries (like Berlin and Kern), Hirsch nevertheless contributed some recognizable and neglected gems that are more than deserving of renewed attention. We’re kicking off the series today with Hirsch’s . . .
I. Going Up (12/25/17 – 10/26/18)
Based on the highly regarded 1910 play The Aviator by James Montgomery, this Cohan-and-Harris backed musical comedy found Hirsch teaming with lyricist and co-bookwriter Otto Harbach (when he was still going as Otto Hauerbach) for a whimsical score set around the seemingly patriotic (WWI had by now become a global event) theme of aviation. The story involves Robert Street (Frank Craven — best known from the original Our Town), author of a book about aviation despite never having been in a plane. When his agent proposes he fly a biplane for a publicity stunt, Robert’s girlfriend Grace (Edith Day) thinks it’d be a good way of impressing her snobby parents, who’d rather her marry a French flying ace. After the Frenchmen (and rival for Grace’s affection) challenges Robert to an air race, Robert finds himself up in the air for a theatrical spectacle. Ed Begley and Ruth Donnelly were also in the cast, and Irving Berlin contributed one number that was added into the original score.
The original Broadway production was a success, spawning three national tours and productions in both Britain and Australia. The only major revival came in 1976, when the Goodspeed Opera House decided to capitalize on the Nostalgia craze (started by the wonderful 1971 No, No, Nanette) by mounting a revisal (as they had done in 1975 with Very Good Eddie). Their version of Going Up was slightly more faithful to the original than the revivals of both Irene and Good News, bearing only three interpolations of other (well-known) Hirsch tunes. The production transferred to Broadway, but closed after six weeks. Hirsch’s score was not considered particularly strong, although “(Everybody Ought To Know How To Do) The Tickle Toe,” heard above by Vernon Dalhart in a 1918 recording, again gained raves.
Fortunately the full original score has been recorded by Operetta Archives Records, and while it’s not a great representation of the show (vocally or instrumentally), it’s invaluable. For instance, where else can you hear full renditions of charming songs like the jaunty “I’ll Bet You” (above) or the “I Want A Determined Boy” (below)?
Well, you can hear the above in a live audio of the 1976 production when it was still at Goodspeed. (Subscribe readers should comment below if interested in obtaining this recording!) The audio seems to document a wonderfully fun production. Here’s the outstanding and show-stopping title tune.
Also from the ’76 production, here’s the lilting “If You Look In Her Eyes.”
And we’ll close today’s post with a performance by Evelyn Laye and Austin Melford from the 1918 Original London cast. Here they are with the amusing “Do It For Me.”
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for more Mama’s Family!