The musical opened and closed in 1946 on its way to Broadway. The script is a futuristic farce sending up big business, telecommunications, space travel, self-help groups and the traditions of courtship and matrimony, but recording producer and PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker told Playbill.com, "At heart Sweet Bye and Bye is a simple love story with some of the most beautiful ballads I've ever heard."
The studio cast includes Danny Burstein, Philip Chaffin, Sara Jean Ford, Telly Leung, Michele Ragusa, Graham Rowat, Jim Stanek and Mazzie (Ragtime, Passion and Kiss Me, Kate) in the leading role originated by Dolores Gray.
Eric Stern will conduct the orchestra; David Dabbon will serve as vocal director. Krasker, who has restored the work, will serve as album producer. Cast and orchestra will assemble in a New York studio in May. An early summer release is planned.
Grammy Award-nominated PS Classics is the label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and American Popular Song. Solo albums, Broadway cast and studio-cast albums and composer-centric discs are in its catalog.
Why Sweet Bye and Bye? Krasker told Playbill.com, "It's a score I've loved for a long time, and one that's largely forgotten. Philip [Chaffin, co-founder of PS Classics] and I had lengthy talks after Kitty's Kisses about what vintage show would be next on our 'wish list.' We wanted to do something very different from Kitty's Kisses. Kitty's is so quintessentially '20s, in many ways emblematic of its era. Sweet Bye and Bye isn't quite like anything else." The musical was a collaboration between composer Duke and lyricist Nash and librettists S.J. Perelman and Al Hirschfeld.
Krasker said, "I think it represents Duke and Nash at the very height of their creative powers. It was Duke's first attempt to write an 'integrated' musical score in the style popularized by Oklahoma!, and you can tell he brought his full talents and background and passion to bear on the project; the music is challenging and virtuosic yet deeply romantic in a way I've never quite seen in any other Broadway score I've studied.
"The show was a huge flop in 1946 — never even made it into New York — and folks have postulated the reasons for decades now. I think it was a combination of a lot of factors — some conceptual, some casting — but at the end of day, for the purposes of recording, what's left is this simply stunning score. Duke and Nash loved three of the songs so much — 'Born Too Late,' 'Roundabout' and 'Just Like a Man' — they re-used them later."
Most of the materials for this lost score came from that same Warner Brothers Warehouse in Secaucus, NJ, that housed the materials to Kitty's Kisses, "as well as a lot of other scores I've helped restore," Krasker said. "There were a lot of original manuscripts in Duke's hand, some in Nash's — a wealth of material. No orchestrations survived, so Jason Carr, with whom I'd had such great experiences working on the recordings of A Little Night Music and La Cage aux Folles, came aboard to do the orchestrations."
Krasker characterized Sweet Bye and Bye as "one of the most overhauled works I've ever seen. Duke and Nash wrote this amazing score, and roughly 70 percent of it had been discarded by the time the show closed out of town. The tumultuous backstage story is truly unlike anything I've seen: cast firings, nervous breakdowns, backstage violence, you name it. All of that pretty much decimated the score. So it's been a real effort to restore, to try to regain and stay true to Duke and Nash's original vision."
Has PS Classics found financial success with its efforts to bring light to forgotten musicals?
Krasker said, "When we brought out Kitty's Kisses, we said we'd need to sell 2,500 units to afford Sweet Bye and Bye. Well, we didn't; I think we stalled somewhere around 1,300 units. But the Music Division of the Library of Congress stepped forward to help with part of the Sweet Bye and Bye costs — as did a very kind private donor — and although, frankly, we're still not fully funded, Philip and I felt we had to do it. We're so determined to preserve these great scores before they're lost for good. It feels like our most compelling mission. And our customers are so wonderful: some of them bought four and five units of Kitty's Kisses in order to see our Forgotten Musicals series continue; how can you not be moved by that?"
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