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The Broadway Musicals of 1939

Filichia speculates on what songs Scott Siegel may choose for his Broadway Musicals of 1939 evening. logo

Bryan Batt is one of the performers who will
appear in The Broadway Musicals of 1939
Well, Scott Siegel must have had a busy month. On February 17, he hosted and presented his revue The Broadway Musicals of 1925. And now, a mere 28 days later, he'll be doing the same tasks for The Broadway Musicals of 1939 at Town Hall on Monday night.

I always enjoy trying to guess what songs Siegel has chosen for his cast, which will consist of Bryan Batt, Marie Danvers, Darius de Haas, Rob Gallagher, Annie Golden, and Amanda McBroom on this occasion. So, to quote both The Hot Mikado and The Swing Mikado (yes, there were dueling updated and up-tempo versions of the G&S hit that year), "I've Got a Little List."

Siegel always seems to include the hit songs. Look for "Darn That Dream" from Swingin' the Dream, which managed to become a standard even though the show from which it sprung could only manage 13 performances. I can also see Bryan Batt portraying Danny Kaye and doing one of his first standards, "Anatole of Paris" from The Straw Hat Revue. We'll probably hear "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "I Like to Recognize the Tune" from Rodgers and Hart's Too Many Girls, as well as "Do I Love You?" and "Friendship" from Cole Porter's DuBarry Is a Lady. (Yes, "Friendship" comes from this show and not from Anything Goes, though heaven knows it's been interpolated into that other musical many, many times. Well, you know how it is with revivals: Anything goes.)

From Noël Coward's Set to Music, Siegel has probably selected "I Went to a Marvelous Party" -- which is surely the way most of Siegel's attendees will feel when leaving The Broadway Musicals of 1939. But he also might have chosen "Mad About the Boy" and/or "The Party's Over Now" from that one. And you can bet your life that you'll hear "All the Things You Are" from Very Warm for May, probably as the evening's finale. Back in early 1964, Saturday Review magazine asked the current batch of Broadway songwriters what they considered the best show song of all time. This was the one mentioned more than any other. (By the way, Very Warm for May isn't about an unusually hot spring month. It concerns a girl named May who gets into such trouble that things get very warm for May.)

I suspect that Siegel will start the show with "Places, Everybody" from Stars in Your Eyes, the musical that starred Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante and featured a score by Dorothy Fields and Arthur Schwartz but still couldn't manage more than 127 performances. Speaking of Merman, there's a good chance we'll also get two other DuBarry tunes: the marvelously melodious "Give Him the Ooo-La-La" and "Well, Did You Evah?" Yes, the latter comes from this show, and not from the film High Society, where it wound up later. The song lives on even though the Astor Hotel's Astor Bar, which it celebrates, met the wrecking ball in 1968. (Ol' timers like me remember the hole in the ground that allowed those walking down Broadway to see the side of the Shubert Theatre with a sign proudly proclaiming: "Steve & Eydie: Golden Rainbow.")

Very Warm for May is one of
the many musicals of 1939 that
Siegel has to choose from
I doubt that Siegel will choose "I Hate Spring" From One for the Money, given the horrible winter we've endured here in New York. (The big snowstorm of last month took place on the day of his Broadway Musicals of 1925, but that didn't many of us from attending.) I hope that the song he picks from One for the Money is "Kiss Me, and We'll Go Home." I always prefer funny songs to romantic ones, so I'm hoping that, from The Streets of Paris, Siegel has chosen "We Can Live on Love, for We Haven't a Pot to Cook In" or "Robert the Roué from Reading, P.A." instead of "Is It Possible?" Similarly, from The George White Scandals of 1939, I'd much prefer hearing "The Mexiconga" to "Good Night, My Beautiful" or "Our First Kiss."

In these troubled and politically charged times, maybe we need to hear "Uncle Sam's Lullaby" from Yokel Boy, "I Did It for the Red, White, and Blue" from Blackbirds of 1939, or even the ambitious and lengthy (10 minutes!) "Ballad for Americans" from Sing for Your Supper. (Note: "Sing for Your Supper" does not come from Sing for Your Supper. That song was written for The Boys from Syracuse a year earlier. You know this from seeing the Roundabout revival last year. Or have you already forgotten that production?) Anyway, the show Sing for Your Supper had some lyrics by the greatest of the least-known lyricists, John Latouche, who, for the same show, penned a song that sounds like great fun: "Leaning on a Shovel."

Actually, I would have liked to have heard a song from Nice Goin', which had music by Ralph Rainger (who wrote the beautiful "Thanks for the Memory" tune) and lyrics by Leo Robin (who provided glittering words to Jule Styne's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). But Nice Goin' didn't go nicely and closed out-of-town, thus making it ineligible as one of the Broadway musicals of 1939. Nice Goin' was a musical version of Sailor, Beware, the 500-performance comedy in which a handsome, lady-killing gob (nicknamed "Dynamite") was challenged by his shipmates to bed the local ice queen (nicknamed "Stonewall"). Actually, there were two movie musical of sorts made from this play: One in 1951 that was really a showcase for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and another in 1960: G.I. Blues, an Elvis Presley vehicle (filmed before he got as big as a vehicle).

Sailor, Beware also helped one of Broadway's biggest hits. For in 1949, when Cy Feuer was co-producing a new musical called Guys and Dolls, he found Jo Swerling's script wanting and, to improve it, suggested that it needed a bet like the one in Sailor, Beware. New librettist Abe Burrows took the suggestion, which is why Nathan Detroit bets Sky Masterson that he can't bed Sarah Brown. So I say, "Nice Goin'" to Abe Burrows -- and to Scott Siegel, too, for these charming evenings.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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