Ben Bagley Lives! His Decline and Fall Revue Begins to Beguine in Florida Aug. 23

News   Ben Bagley Lives! His Decline and Fall Revue Begins to Beguine in Florida Aug. 23
 
The legacy of the late Ben Bagley, the quirky revue producer who might be best known for his eccentric series of show tune recordings, lives on with the Caldwell Theatre Company's revival of The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter.
The cast of The Decline and Fall... plays the Caldwell Theatre Company's stage.
The cast of The Decline and Fall... plays the Caldwell Theatre Company's stage. Photo by SIGVISION, INC.

The resident Equity company in Boca Raton, FL, presents the revue Aug. 23-Sept. 17.

For the show, featuring hit (and lesser-known) songs by Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes composer-lyricist Cole Porter, Caldwell employs its video projection system, enhancing the elegant set designed by Tim Bennett.

The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter played Off-Broadway at the Square East Theatre for 15 months (273 performances) in 1965 and toured.

Directed by Caldwell artistic and managing director Michael Hall, Decline and Fall features Elizabeth Dimon, Terrell Hardcastle, Suzy Jackson, Bruce Linser and Connie SaLoutos. Musical direction is by Eric Alsford.

Originally directed and conceived by Bagley, Decline and Fall is "a tongue-in-cheek historic cavalcade from the rare jewels of Cole Porter's vast musical treasure trove," according to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which licenses the property. "The 'world' under scrutiny is that between 1919 and 1945 when, indeed, some considerable declining and falling went on. Here, the generally unsuspected meanings behind many of Porter's songs indicate that during times of chaos and destruction, he saw the world with an impudent, highly sophisticated and indomitably euphoric gaze. Porter created a world of his own through his songs, and made ours richer in the process." Songs in Decline and Fall include "I've a Shooting Box in Scotland," "I'm Unlucky at Gambling," "Wake Up and Dream," "You've Got That Thing," "Hot House Rose," "Leader of a Big-Time Band," "I'm a Gigolo," "Red, Hot and Blue," "I've Still Got My Health," "Find Me a Primitive Man," "I Loved Him But He Didn't Love Me," "Let's Fly Away," "I'm in Love Again," "Ridin' High," "I Happen to Like New York," "Tale of Oyster," "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love," "At Long Last Love," "Come On In," "Tomorrow," "A Little Skipper From Heaven Above," "But in the Morning, No," "Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please," "After You, Who?," "Farming," "Something for the Boys," "Her Heart Was in Her Work," "I Worship You," "I'm in Love With a Soldier Boy," "Thank You So Much," "By the Mississinewah," "Missus Lowsborough Goodby," " When I Was a Little Cuckoo," "Experiment" and "Down in the Depths."

For more information, call (877) 245-7432 visit www.caldwelltheatre.com.

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The late Bagley's "Revisited" recordings on LP (and re-released on CD) on his own Painted Smiles label are cherished by fans of theatre music. Most of the discs focus on a songwriter or team ("Rodgers and Hart Revisited," "Cole Porter Revisited," etc.) and reveal a trove of often obscure or previously unrecorded gems, along with some hits. Where else might you hear tunes from Rodgers and Hart's Garrick Gaieties?

The artists represented over the many recordings range from Dorothy Loudon and Blossom Dearie to Ann Hampton Callaway to Tony Perkins to Mercedes McCambridge to Katharine Hepburn (as well as old pals from Bagley's days producing Shoestring revues in the 1950s). Hardly scholarly and sometimes downright unpleasant to listen to (note the antic, drowsy, caffeinated, tinny arrangements and uneven voices — a festival of sharps and flats), the discs are nonetheless embraced by fans hungry to explore old, mothballed material by extraordinary songwriters.

Bagley's liner notes and photos on the discs are odd and iconoclastic. They contain bitchy asides, naughty jokes and references to pets. (Some ad libs and off-color remarks are also interpolated into the songs — Oscar Hammerstein's "Tennessee Fish Fry," for example, has one singer remarking, "I wouldn't want to get the crabs," apparently not from the hand of the master lyricist.)

According to Bagley's bio from The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, he was born in Vermont during the Great Depression, and his grandmother introduced him to the theatre with annual trips to Broadway. In 1955, at age 22, he produced his first hit, Shoestring Revue, featuring the songs of Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, Sheldon Harnick and June Carroll. The following year he produced The Littlest Revue, written by the same team along with Ogden Nash and Vernon Duke. In 1957 Bagley presented Shoestring '57 with a score by Strouse and Adams, Carolyn Leigh and the pre-Fantasticks team of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, among others. In 1965 Bagley turned to the lesser known songs of Cole Porter to create one of the most successful revues of all time, The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter."

Over the years, Bagley produced 48 albums including, the "Revisited" series discs featuring the songs of Rodgers & Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Harold Rome, Arthur Schwartz and many others.

(L-R):
(L-R): Photo by SIGVISION, INC.
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