Sweet Little Devil, Jazz Age Musical From George Gershwin and B.G. DeSylva, Will Get Premiere Recording

News   Sweet Little Devil, Jazz Age Musical From George Gershwin and B.G. DeSylva, Will Get Premiere Recording PS Classics, the label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and American Popular Song, has begun pre-production on its next vintage restoration and studio recording: composer George Gershwin and lyricist B.G. DeSylva's 1924 musical Sweet Little Devil.

George Gershwin
George Gershwin

Playbill.com has learned that the label will assemble cast and orchestra in a recording studio later this spring. No release date has been announced. No cast has been announced.

The 120-performance Broadway show that few people have heard offers a score that PS Classics co-founder has always loved, he told Playbill.com.

"Back when I was working as an archivist for Mrs. Ira Gershwin, back in the mid-1980s, one of my first jobs was to go through existing materials, and write a few pages about each show: what survived, and what the potential was for restoration or recording or performance," Krasker explained. "I took to Sweet Little Devil right way. It's early Gershwin, so he hasn't yet fully mastered the style that would come to define him, but hey, a good song is a good song, and Sweet Little Devil is full of them. And the lyrics by Buddy DeSylva are top-notch; to my mind, he's one of the most underrated lyricists from that period. In fact, in the years before Larry Hart and Ira Gershwin got going, I might go so far as to call him the best lyricist in town."

Sweet Little Devil opened on Broadway at the Astor Theatre on Jan. 21, 1924, and ran to May.

The book was by Frank Mandel and Laurence Schwab. It starred Constance Binney, "a film and stage actress so popular at the time that she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame," Krasker said. Sweet Little Devil was her last stage show. Krasker added, "Part of what makes doing Sweet Little Devil irresistible is that we have a set of orchestra parts from 1924. And for a change, it's not from the Warner Music Warehouse in Secaucus. I can't remember the exact turn of events, but it was music historian Ron Spivak, who was serving as musicals editor and archivist for the rental library Samuel French back in the 1980s, who discovered boxes and boxes of old musicals in their archives: musicals that had been licensed for performance following their Broadway runs in the '20s and '30s. They included an original ten-piece orchestration for Sweet Little Devil. Those materials were then donated to the Ira and Gershwin Trusts, and Michael Owen, the archivist there, made the materials available to us last year."

PS Classics is also working on the new two-disc Broadway cast recording of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. Is the timing of these recordings related?

"Pure coincidence that we're now working on both Sweet Little Devil and Porgy and Bess," Krasker said, "but there's something fitting and symmetrical about it: early Gershwin and late Gershwin."

According to Steven Suskin's book "Show Tunes," Sweet Little Devil's songlist includes "Hey! Hey! Let 'Er Go!," "The Jijibo," "Someone Believes in You," "Under a One-Man Top" and "Virginia (Don't Go Too Far)." The show's pre-Broadway title was A Perfect Lady.

PS Classics' previous restorations have included the forgotten Con Conrad/Gus Kahn musical Kitty's Kisses, the Arlen-Gershwin-Harburg revue Life Begins at 8:40 and its 2011 releases of the 1930 version of the Gershwins' Strike Up the Band and Vernon Duke & Ogden Nash's Sweet Bye and Bye.

The upcoming new Broadway cast recording of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess is now available for pre-order at the label's website at www.psclassics.com.

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Krasker was a co-producer of studio recordings of a number of Gershwin scores on the Nonesuch label in the 1980s and early '90s. They include Lady, Be Good!; Pardon My English; Strike Up the Band; Girl Crazy; and Oh, Kay!

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