What do these songs have in common? -- "What'll I Do?", "Let's Face The Music And Dance," "Cheek To Cheek," "Puttin' On The Ritz," "Always" and "Blue Skies."
Not only are they all by Irving Berlin, they're all in a new revue of Berlin's life and work, The Melody Lingers On, that opened July 31, at the Blowing Rock Stage Company in Blowing Rock, NC.
The Melody Lingers On runs through Aug. 9 (closing the Blowing Rock season), and is conceived, directed, and choreographed by veteran Broadway dancer/choreographer, Karin Baker, around a feast of Berlin songs and reminiscences about his personal and professional life from A Daughter's Memoir by Berlin's daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett. The show follows Berlin's career on Broadway and in Hollywood, including his working relationships with Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman (Call Me Madam, Annie Get Your Gun) and Moss Hart.
A six-piece band and ten-person cast will comprise Melody, whose arrangements and musical direction are by Broadway veteran Donald Johnston. Some of the rarer tunes in the revue include "I'm Getting Tired So I Can Sleep" (written for This Is The Army), "You'd Be Surprised," and "The Girl On The Magazine Cover."
Though revues of songs by Broadway composers, including Berlin, are ubiquitous, Melody is something of a first, in that it includes biographical material on Berlin -- previously a taboo subject. Said director Karin Baker (Aug. 1), "It's the first revue that gives an audience certain personal aspects of Berlin's is life. There have been whole evenings of just his music, but this is the first time his three daughters have been given permission to show his life." How did the show come about? "It started at Trinity School," said Baker, "where Donald Johnston (the arranger) have been working with the high school kids there putting on revues. I told the kids we'd do a revue on Berlin. They said, `Who's that?', so it was definitely time. It's great that Barrett has given her permission, as well as the Rogers & Hammerstein people, who deal with Berlin's work.
"Tom Briggs [of R&H] was the go-between between Mary Ellin Barrett and myself. We talked about what should be said and how it should be said. At first I thought, she's being so careful, but then I thought, if these were my parents, I'd be careful, too. She wanted everything said EXACTLY as it had been said in conversation, as opposed to taking dramatic license. She was a real stickler about every event that happened in his life, but I appreciated that."
It's been a bustling, industrious summer for Blowing Rock Stage, with world premieres of The IT Girl, sub-titled "a silent movie musical"; Pilgrimage, a "Southern" comedy; and the regional premiere of Zombies from the Beyond, the 1995 Off-Broadway musical.
For tickets and information on The Melody Lingers On -- The Music And Lyrics Of Irving Berlin call (704) 295-9168.