"Youth will arrive!" sing the vaudeville orphans trying to prove themselves in Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms, and on Nov. 16 the Encores! concert cast album of the musical comedy appeared on store shelves.
DRG recorded the hit-filled 1937 score and company Aug. 30-31. Rob Fisher is musical director, Hugh Fordin the disc's producer.
The first of the 1999 series of "Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert," Babes in Arms ran Feb. 11-14 at City Center, featuring veterans Donna McKechnie, Thommie Walsh, Don Correia and Priscilla Lopez as vaudevillians who leave their kids behind to go work during the Depression. In the concert version's conceit, the quartet danced during the overture of the concert, directed by Kathleen Marshall, but the kids -- the "babes" -- remained the focus of the show, singing such Richard Rodgers Lorenz Hart standards as "Where or When," "Johnny One-Note," "My Funny Valentine," "The Lady is a Tramp" and "I Wish I Were in Love Again."
The cast includes Australian singing star David Campbell, Perry Laylon Ojeda (On the Town), Erin Dilly (Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight), Melissa Rain Anderson (making her New York debut), Matthew Ballinger (The Sound of Music), Kevin Cahoon (The Lion King, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Christopher Fitzgerald (Corpus Christi), Scott Irby-Ranniar (The Lion King), nine-year-old tap wonder Cartier Anthony Williams, Shaun Powell (A Flea in Her Ear) and Jessica Stone (How to Succeed...). Most were under 30.
Once the kids' folks disappear in the cameo opening, the kids try to convince local authorities they can be more than slackers by putting on a show. *
The original 289-performance production in 1937 was such a hit partly because it starred unknown performers (Mitzi Green, Ray Heatherton) in their teens or early 20s. The story concerns kids of vaudeville performers who put on a show to stop from being sent to a work farm during the Depression, while their parents are performing with the Federal Theatre Project.
The song list for the score also includes "Way Out West" and "Johnny One Note" (both sung in Encores! by Melissa Rain Anderson, as Baby Rose)," "I Wish I Were in Love Again" (sung by Fitzgerald and Stone), "Imagine" and "You Are So Fair."
The Encores! script was a slightly altered version of the original rather than the stock and amateur version (which interpolates "You're Nearer"). "Encores!" stages classic, seldom-revived or neglected musicals in concert form.
The Encores! Babes in Arms included a lyrically-revised version of a song called "All Dark People," now listed as "Light On Our Feet," performed by African-American dancers Irby-Ranniar (as Irving DeQuincey) and Williams (as brother Ivor DeQuincey). That song, originated by Harold and Fayard Nicholas, has the line "all dark people is light on their feet," and was not included in the definitive studio cast recording conducted by Evans Haile. The revised version of the song is part of the CD.
-- By Kenneth Jones