Songs by Harold Arlen Will Be Re-Imagined for New Broadway-Aimed Musical

News   Songs by Harold Arlen Will Be Re-Imagined for New Broadway-Aimed Musical Harold Arlen, the stage and screen composer whose songbook includes "Over the Rainbow," "Blues in the Night" and "Stormy Weather," may be heard again on Broadway.
Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen

Producers Christopher Allen and David Caldwell are working with music director Michael Brennan (Avenue Q in Las Vegas) to create a new musical that would bring the late Arlen's classics into the 21st century in an original conceit that would be heavy with dance, Christopher Allen told Playbill.com.

The Arlen Project, as it's currently called, is being explored with the participation and blessing of Arlen's son, Sam. Expect a mix of classic, beloved songs (with lyrics by Arlen's many collaborators, including Johnny Mercer and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg) and obscurities.

Buffalo-born Arlen, whose 1905 birth name was Hyman Arluck, died in 1986. His last original score for the Broadway stage was Saratoga in 1959. For it, he and Mercer wrote the standout (yet still little-known) "Love Held Lightly," a lambent ballad.

Despite retirement and his passing, Arlen has been well represented on Broadway in recent years. His tunes have been interpolated into a number of revues and concerts, including Barbara Cook's Mostly Sondheim (2002); Swing! (1999), Dream (1997), Black and Blue (1989), Barbara Cook: A Concert for the Theatre (1987), Uptown…It's Hot! (1986), Blues in the Night (1982) and A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (1980).

The Arlen Project will be a "completely different kind of a show using the Arlen" catalog, producer Allen said. It's a "show that is driven by the Arlen library with song and dance. Sam Arlen has allowed us to really have fun with the music and take a contemporary spin of these standards." A workshop in Las Vegas in October was encouraging, Allen said. The creative team is being assembled, and Allen said the show is Broadway-aimed.

Buffalo-born Arlen's best-known score may be for the film, "The Wizard of Oz," which spawned "Over the Rainbow." He also wrote songs for "Cabin in the Sky."

Among his Broadway scores are Jamaica, Bloomer Girl, House of Flowers, St. Louis Woman and Hooray for What! For the little-known 1932 flop The Great Magoo, he composed "It's Only a Paper Moon," also known as "If You Believed in Me."

His songs include "Get Happy," "Push de Button," "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe," "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," "I Never Has Seen Snow," "A Sleepin' Bee," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "I Had Myself a True Love," "Right as the Rain," "Evelina," "One for My Baby," "Ac-cent-u-ate the Positive," "Out of This World," "That Old Black Magic" and more.

Arlen's contributions to revues at the Cotton Club included "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," "I've Got the World on a String," "Ill Wind" and "Stormy Weather" (all with lyrics by Ted Koehler).

For more information about Arlen, whose centenary is being celebrated in 2005, visit www.haroldarlen.com.

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Las Vegas-based Allen is one of the producers of a revised version of the Lerner and Loewe musical, Paint Your Wagon, which had a 2004 test run at Geffen Playhouse. Allen and his partners are exploring various scenarios for the show, including another resident theatre production, a tour and Broadway.