Early Kern X: ZIP! GOES A MILLION (1919)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the conclusion of our series on the early musical theatre works of Jerome Kern. In this series we’ve covered Nobody Home (1915), Very Good Eddie (1915), Have A Heart (1917), Love O’ Mike (1917), Oh, Boy! (1917), Miss 1917, Oh, Lady! Lady!! (1918), Rock-A-Bye Baby (1918), and She’s A Good Fellow (1919). Last is…


X. Zip! Goes A Million (12/08/19 – c. 12/27/19)

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Kern teamed with lyricist B.G. DeSylva for this musical adaptation of Brewster’s Millions, which had a book by the composer’s regular collaborator Guy Bolton and was intended to open in early 1920 at their old haunt, the Princess Theatre. The production began its out-of-town tryout in December 1919 in Worcester, Massachusetts, where it closed a few weeks later — never making it into New York. However, for as fast as it came and went, the score did manage to include several Kern gems, including a rewrite of “Bill,” which was first written and cut from Oh, Lady! Lady!! and of, course, ended up rewritten again to great success in Show Boat (1927). Also, both “Whip-Poor-Will” and the excised “Look For The Silver Lining” were each used the following year in Sally (1920), where they too became famous. (Listen to them both in our 2014 post on that iconic Marilyn Miller show here).

The rest of the score has remained fairly obscure, and there have been no complete or even semi-complete recordings of the work, although McGlinn conducted a concert in 1985. (For subscribed readers interested in obtaining a copy of this unreleased audio, please comment below!) From this audio, here’s the bouncy “Telephone Girls” (above) with some great fun lyrics, and the iconically Kern “You Tell ‘Em” (below).

George Dvorsky and Alix Corey recorded the cute (and again, uniquely Kern) “A Business Of Our Own” on the Early Kern album. Here’s their rendition below.

And we’ll close today’s post with another esoteric tune, “The Mandolin And The Man,” performed by Robin De Leon, Peter Halverson, and Julie Wright.



Come back next Monday for the start of a new forgotten musical series: Scores By Schwartz! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the third season of The Golden Girls!