Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's I Married an Angel is one of a handful of shows from the 1930s that was yearning to perfect a new kind of musical — more sophisticated and innately theatrical than the average vaudeville-inspired productions of the Jazz Age that were beginning to fade in popularity. Oklahoma! would eventually find that elusive of alchemy in 1943, but the decade of bold experimentation that preceded it laid the foundation for the American musical tradition.
In the case of I Married an Angel, adapted from a Hungarian play, the innovation was to combine a drawing room comedy with substantive and extended dance sequences, for which Rodgers and Hart turned to George Balanchine 10 years before he established New York City Ballet at City Center. The angel of the title is just that — an emissary from heaven who descends to Earth to melt the dyspeptic heart of an unscrupulous banker. Balanchine cast his then-wife, Vera Zorina, as the angel and created a series of spectacular dances to show her off. Alas! The Balanchine originals have been lost, but in a happy bit of symmetry, director-choreographer Joshua Bergasse has created new dances to the old tunes for his wife, New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns. Among those old tunes is the beloved standard "Spring Is Here," along with a heavenly array of lesser-known Rodgers and Hart gems that marry celestial beauty with the irrepressibly human.