It's that time of year again when Scott Siegel goes to Town -- Hall, that is -- with a bunch of performers to offer his Broadway by the Year series. While he's had triumphs these past few seasons by singing the praises (and songs) of 1933, 1940, 1943, 1951, and 1964 (all now available on disc, thanks to the indefatigable Bayview label), he's really taking on an enormous task by opening with The Broadway Musicals of 1925.
A whopping 40 musicals opened on the Great White Way that year. Can Siegel possibly give us even one number from each? Here's betting that we won't hear "The Window Cleaners" (The Greenwich Village Follies of 1925), "The London Bank Clerk Blues" (By the Way), or "Who Bites the Holes in Schweitzer Cheese?" (Oh! Oh! Nurse!). Still, I hope he finds room for "Whoa, Emma!" (Mayflowers), "The Chow Mein Girls" (Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1925), or "The Lady Osteopath" (Puzzles of 1925).
We've learned by now that, for better or worse, Siegel loves to give us the hit songs. So expect "Manhattan" (The Garrick Gaities), "All Alone" (George White's Scandals), "Looking for a Boy" (Tip-Toes), and, from Dearest Enemy, "Here in My Arms" -- though I'd egocentrically prefer to hear "Sweet Peter" from that show. We'll probably hear two songs from No, No Nanette -- "I Want to Be Happy" and "Tea for Two" -- and perhaps as many as four from Big Boy: "California, Here I Come," "If You Knew Susie," "It All Depends on You," and "Keep Smilin' at Trouble." I also predict that he'll do "Kicking the Clouds Away" from Tell Me More, though I much prefer "Mr. and Mrs. Sipkin."
We'll probably also hear Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "Who?" from Sunny, but will we hear Jerome Kern and Anne Caldwell's "Why" from The City Chap, which opened all of 33 days later? I guess not, for the latter tune was dropped in Philadelphia, though I don't know why "Why" was cut. The excision, though, may be the reason that Kern never went on to write "What," "How," or "Where or When," which he left to Rodgers and Hart.
But what else will we hear? "I'm Home from Algeria" (The Love Song)? "There's a Great White Way in China" (China Rose)? "I'd Like to be a Gardener in a Garden of Girls" (The Ziegfeld Follies of 1925)? I know I'd certainly want to hear a tune entitled "The Best Song of All" from Sky High to hear if it is indeed the best song of all.
A look at 1925 spurs some fascinating questions. It was the year that the Marx Brothers opened in The Cocoanuts, so which of the cast of five singers -- Howard McGillin, Nancy Anderson, Justin Bohon, Stephanie J. Block, and Walker Jones -- will play the crazy quartet? (I'll say this: Natja has a song called "Entrance of the Czarina," and I think that would be appropriate for Ms. Anderson, who's a czarina of talent.) Will Siegel choose a song called "Merrie, Merrie" from Bad Habits of 1925, or does he worry that we'll all leave the theater thinking that we just heard the title tune from Merry, Merry? What song do you think Lucky Sambo's composer and lyricist had in mind when they wrote "Alexander's Ragtime Wedding Day"? Where do the rhymes come in "Oranges" (The Florida Girl), given that it's one of those words that has no perfect rhyme?
Siegel could give us a chance to hear songs from young songwriters who'd certainly go on to make their names in the business. "Washington Square" (Artists and Models) has a Cole Porter melody, though the lyrics were by two other men. Captain Jinks' had "The You-Must-Come-Over Blues" with a lyric by Ira Gershwin, though the melody was not by his brother. Conversely, George, without Ira, did some melodies from Song of the Flame, which we just might hear. And then there's "Anytime, Anywhere, Anyhow" by Rodgers and Hart, from June Days (which, by the way, didn't open on a June day, but on August 8).
Perhaps Siegel will opt to give us songs that have titles we know from completely different songs from completely different shows, just to see if we prefer the ones to which we've become accustomed, or if we'll be seduced by the "new" ones. Is "Crossword Puzzle" from Louie the 14th as delicious as the Maltby-Shire song? Is "Love for Sale" from The Vagabond King as good as the Cole Porter standard? Will "She Loves Me" from When You Smile make us forget the Bock-Harnick title tune from the 1963 musical? Will we prefer "I Love Them All" from Princess Flavia to "I Love 'Em All" from Bring Back Birdie? In a little while, will we better appreciate "In a Little While" from Holka-Polka to the song we know from Once Upon a Mattress? Is "Tomorrow" from Mercenary Mary as good as the same-named song from Annie, Leave It to Me, or The Good Old Bad Old Days? Whatever the case is with those, here's betting that "Beautiful Girls" from Gay Paree isn't nearly as good as the same-titled song from a 1971 musical.
What else? I don't know what Siegel will choose from The Grand Street Follies of 1925, but I wish he'd sneak in one from The Grand Street Follies of 1926: "Aurory Bory Alice." For that matter, we might hear something from Charlot Revue of 1926, which, despite its namesake, opened in 1925. Wouldn't you know that a show called Louisiana Lady (Sounds like something Julian Marsh would present, don't you think?) would contain a song called "Mardi Gras"? There's potential pathos in "We Hope to Make a Hit" from Bringing Up Father, for the show wasn't a hit at all, but succumbed after only 24 performances. I'd like to hear "Mia Luna" from Naughty Cinderella because its melody is by Giacomo Puccini -- even though he wasn't the Giacomo Puccini who had some big opera hits, but another composer who thought it'd be fun to take the more famous composer's name. And while I lust to hear the title song for Kosher Kitty Kelly, I'd most like to hear the title song from a show that didn't quite play Broadway, but was an amateur show done at the Lambs' Club: The Dashing Belles of Yesterday and the Dumbbelles of Today.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]