Broadway composer Albert Hague, returning to the New York cabaret stage with his wife, Renee Orin, admits he once wrote a song for Chevrolet called “I’m in Love With a Lovely Chevro-Lady.”
Because Hague never sells his industrial and commercial pieces outright, he owns the song. But his cult of fans will be more interested in his show tunes from Redhead and Plain and Fancy , played and sung by Hague and Orin in three performances of Still Young and Foolish, at Eighty Eight’s in Greenwich Village. The final performance of three is 8 PM Nov. 8. Previous dates were Nov.1 and 4.
Berlin-born Hague, 76, is also known at Prof. Shorofsky, the music teacher from the TV series “Fame,” and wrote the score to the animated TV classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Actress-singer-writer Orin told Playbill On-Line the cabaret shows will include anecdotes about their 46-year marriage and careers, plus such songs as “Merely Marvelous,” “Herbie Fitch’s Twitch,” “Look Who’s in Love” (from 1959’s Redhead ) and “Young and Foolish” and “It Wonders Me” (from 1955’s Plain and Fancy ).
“The show is really about our lives,” Hague told Playbill On-Line. The seeds of Still Young and Foolish are in their earlier act from 20 years ago, when they once billed themselves as Hague & Hague: His Hits and His Mrs. “We do change the show because we have new ideas about the same subject matter,” Hague said.
The pair met in Cleveland when Hague was scoring an ill-fated rewrite of Turandot. The show was called The Reluctant Virgin, but producers in Cleveland thought that was too racy, so it was changed to The Reluctant Lady.
Orin, 70, born in Slatington, PA, remembers the moment she first met Hague during rehearsals for The Reluctant Virgin : “He was just walking over to the piano. I had just graduated Carnegie Tech, and I knew that if I was coming to New York the most exciting thing that could happen to me would be to meet a composer, somebody who is doing big shows in New York. I happened to be dating my leading man at the time, and here was this tall, skinny, almost cross-eyed European guy who had enough energy for 10 people. I was sunk.”
Hague admitted he’s still looking for material to musicalize, but the goal is to find something economically viable: A small-cast show, for example.
“It’s very difficult to find material worthy of wanting to be a musical,” Hague said. “I am looking. Somebody just a couple of day ago told me they were going to send a script. I’ve been reading scripts. Ideally, you’re looking for a good show, but one you can tell with six or seven people in it.”
Hague said he’s “extremely happy” with current Goodspeed Opera House revival of Redhead, continuing through Dec. 13. Despite its Best Musical Tony Award in 1959, the star vehicle for Gwen Verdon (and showcase for director-choreographer Bob Fosse) hasn’t enjoyed a major revival until now.
“The difference between Plain and Fancy and Redhead is that Plain and Fancy is constantly being done all over the country, much to our pleasure, because it’s the kind of a show that has eight principal roles,” said Hague. “Redhead needs a major star, and there are very few people of the caliber of a young Gwen Verdon.”
Hague and Orin loved Dorothy Fields, his lyricist for the musical comedy mystery, Redhead. “Dorothy is one of the few geniuses I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” said Hague. “One of the little secrets she tried to keep is that she never went to college, and she had an incredible use of language.”
Orin added, “Dorothy broke the ice for women to write lyrics. Up until she came along, there was really nobody. She was somebody who managed to get through a man’s world and do it like nobody else.”
Of Hague’s ill-fated 1974 musical, Miss Moffat, the Bette Davis vehicle which closed in Philadelphia, Hague said, “Miss Moffat was one of the most horrendous experiences I ever had in my life. Bette Davis is a genius, but she just was not of the theatre. If Bette Davis made one syllable wrong, she got so mad at herself. She couldn’t say, ‘Cut!’ ”
Hague said Davis, who would drink heavily after performances, made an “edict” that prevented Hague from working with her at a piano, despite the fact that he was one of the most sought-after vocal coaches in New York. “I had to hire an assistant to talk to her about my songs,” Hague said. “She wouldn’t talk to me about the songs.”
Could she sing?
“She was not a musician, but she sang perfectly all right,” Hague said, adding that she once wrote him a note saying she thought his score was among the best she’d ever heard.
Is Miss Moffat, based on Emlyn Williams’ The Corn is Green, revivable?
“I have to make up my mind what I want to do with my life: Go back rewriting the old stuff or write new stuff,” Hague said.
The bespectacled, impish Hague said he never foresaw his acting career: “Absolutely not,” he said. “It was completely out of the blue. It was very meaningful both to Renee and myself. It was, economically, an enormous jackpot to us. And it made us move to the West Coast. We always lived in New York.”
Will Hague & Hague return to The Big Apple to live?
“Everybody knows I can be bought.” said Hague. “Just give me a hit show and I’ll be back in a flash.”
-- By Kenneth Jones