Thursday, February 28, 2008

Look At Hon and Dearie!

Since I called attention to that terrible Herbie theme song with the terrible "nyah-nyah-nyah" theme, I should note that one of my favorite musical-theatre songs also uses that motif at the beginning (and runs it in counterpoint through the whole number). But when composer/lyricist Harold Rome wrote "Certain Individuals" for the musical Wish You Were Here, he actually had a point in doing that: the song has the secondary female lead, Sheila Bond, and the female chorus making fun of the heroine (Patricia Marand) for being so obviously in love.

Rome is a very underrated figure in musical theatre history. Most of the great Broadway songwriters were urban and Jewish, but they rarely wrote songs, let alone whole shows, about the urban Jewish experience. Rome, whose first hit was the union-sponsored revue Pins and Needles, wrote a lot of songs about urban life and New Deal politics (one of his biggest hit songs was called "Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones"), and worked a lot of "ethnic" expressions into his lyrics. And while he wrote musicals that followed the post-Rodgers-and-Hammerstein fashion for shows set in the past (like Fanny, based on Marcel Pagnol's films, and Destry Rides Again, a musical Western), his best scores were for shows about New York Jewish characters: I Can Get It For You Wholesale, which introduced Barbra Streisand, and Wish You Were Here, based on Arthur Kober's play about a singles' resort in the Catskills.



2 comments:

Noel Katz said...

Fanny is Rome's masterpiece, unexpectedly gorgeous music coming from a man better known for cute comedy songs, the type of homey material your clever uncle might come up with.

I picture David Merrick, with the rights to the Pagnol films, knocking on the doors of every Broadway songwriter before getting a "yes" from Rome. It was an extraordinary leap of faith to believe he'd be the right match for this passionate love story. And it paid off extraordinarily well.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

I picture David Merrick, with the rights to the Pagnol films, knocking on the doors of every Broadway songwriter before getting a "yes" from Rome.

That's pretty much what happened -- Rodgers and Hammerstein turned him down, I think Harold Arlen, and several others. Rome got the job because Josh Logan had worked with him on Wish You Were Here and there was nobody else left.

I can't really agree that Fanny is Rome's masterpiece, though. But I do love a lot of the songs and really hate Logan, one of the worst movie directors of all time, for dropping all the songs from the film version.