For Ira Gershwin, it was his goodbye to Broadway, a ‘smart’ musical intended to be a change from period shows such as Oklahoma!, but it flopped so badly, it now barely makes the reference books.
His opening lyric tells us, “We live in an age that’s the pinnacle of the cynical”, but a single joke about the ticklish subject of divorce was stretched too thinly over three hours, and in 1946 American audiences were looking for more substance.
Viewed at this distance as a ‘Lost Musical’, Ira’s contribution is as brilliant as ever, turning a droll chorus number about cyclical break-ups into a sweet ballad The Dew Was on the Rose, or penning a deft Calypso for a male line-up of Park Avenue-stuffed shirts celebrating America as a land of opportunity.
Arthur Schwartz’s tuneful score also sounds like a winner. The problem was a book which stuck too closely to Nunnally Johnson’s original short story and an interminable second act unravelling the plot in words instead of melody.
While this is primarily a showcase for the musical, Ian Marshall Fisher’s cast in evening wear deliver some delightful performances, led with starry glamour and boundless energy by Elizabeth Counsell as a society hostess with a friendly line-up of ex-husbands, each a daddy to her daughter Madge.
Madge, attractively played by Helen Anker, is in love with tenor Stephen Carlile’s Southern beau, who finds her family’s enthusiastic divorce ethic a good reason to pack his bags before their wedding on the morrow.
Special delights include Peter Gale as a nimble-footed divorce lawyer, plus a glorious trio of oft-married wives, portrayed with style by Andrea Miller, Valerie Cutko and Nuala Willis. Catch these delicious performances while you can.