Friday, September 18, 2009
THE FIRST RODGERS AND HART AND MOSES IS HAVING A BAD DAY
On this day in 1923, the very first book musical by Rodgers and Hart opened at the Knickerbocker Theatre. Of course it featured a libretto by the amazing Herbert Fields. It's world famous song is of course "Here In My Arms". It ran for a year which back in those days was a great run. It starred the matinee idols of the time Helen Ford and Charles Purcell. Charlie Purcell was a heartthrob of an actor who was particularly popular from 1909- 1926. In this musical he sang also "Bye and Bye" This was Charlie's best known show. His last Broadway show was called "Park Avenue" The plot was rather unique. The musical was based on a true Revolutionary War incident, its heroine is Mary Lindley Murray who, under orders from General Washington, detained British troops by serving them cake and wine in her stylish Kips Bay Manhattan home long enough for some 4,000 American soldiers to reassemble in Washington Heights in September 1776. Reality gives way to fanciful fictionalization with the addition of a pair of love stories, one involving Mary's daughter Jane and British General Tyron's son Harry, the other focusing on the on-again, off-again relationship between Mary's Irish niece Betsy Burke and British Capt. Sir John Copeland. Also playing a role in the plot is a houseful of beautiful young ladies eager to engage the enemy in more than just conversation, and a group of handsome young men happy to forget their patriotic duty for refreshments, music, and flirtations at the Murray mansion. I don't think I know of another musical that actually takes place during the Revolutionary War! And then as my headline promised, there's the hard luck story of Reverend Gregory Moses, a Baptist minister who was hit in a crosswalk by a hit and run driver, on a Sunday after his church service. He then went to the hospital and while he was there, his car was stolen and his dog was kidnapped and his great big picture window in his living room (the one he used to look at that "milk and honey" landscape) was broken by an errant baseball. So you see, even Moses can have a bad day! And don't forget to read the story about the black Washington DC secretary who discovered that she was now "king" ( I guess her country doesn't believe in queens) of her native country in West Africa-- the town of Ghana. How these people select the heir after the death of a current monarch is absolutely hysterical. Here's how it went -- The town elders got together for the ritual to pick a successor. Praying, they poured schnapps --( yes, you read right!) on the ground and waited for steam to rise as they recited the names of 25 relatives of the late king. The steam would come when they reached the name of the relative the ancestors had blessed as the next king. The choice fell on the late king's niece -- Ms. Bartels, who has been working as a secretary at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington for the past 30 years learned about it in a late-night telephone call from a relative, who addressed her as "Nana" -- a title Ghanaians accord people of stature. The woman said that she spent three sleepless nights before she decided to accept her royal responsibilities. Then she traveled to Otuam for her coronation. During the ceremony, she was lifted on a litter and carried throughout town. She took the opportunity to warn the all-male elders not to assume they could push around a female king. "If you step on my toes, I will hit you where it hurts," she said.That story made my day! John and I have completed the first song in our newest musical called "Valentine". It's a beautiful song akin to "One Last Miracle" from "The Ghost Who Saved Broadway." It would be nice if Tony Westbrook could record it-- its right up his alley! I so miss his singing! Now we are working on a charm song for the same show called "Someone Could Love You"