Following its release of a new cast recording of the rare Vincent Youmans musical, Through the Years, and with a handful of American popular song discs under its belt, ps classics, the label devoted to the heritage of theatre music, will record Rodgers and Hart's 1929 musical comedy, Spring Is Here.
Producer Tommy Krasker announced the new studio cast recording — the recording premiere of the score — May 1. He's aiming at a fall record date with a cast yet to be announced, and a spring 2003 release on the label he founded.
The little-known musical ran 104 performances in the spring of 1929, but three of its songs would have a future: "With a Song in My Heart," "Why Can't I?" and "Yours Sincerely." There are nearly a dozen forgotten tunes in the show, including "There's Magic in the Cup," "Spring Is Here in Person," "We're Gonna Raise Hell," "You Never Say Yes," "Baby's Awake Now," "Oh, Look," "This Is Not Long Island," "Red-Hot Trumpet," "What a Girl!," "Rich Man! Poor Man!," and more.
Krasker pointed out that the score does not include the famous Rodgers & Hart song, "Spring Is Here"; it was written for 1938's I Married an Angel.
Aaron Gandy will music-direct the project, as he did Through the Years. The score's original orchestrations are missing, so the score will be accompanied by two pianos, much in the style of Victor Arden and Phil Ohman, who played the original production, Krasker said. A piano duo is being sought.
"I first got a look at the score to Spring Is Here about 15 years ago, when I was working for music historian Robert Kimball on a catalog of the American musical," Krasker told Playbill On-Line. "You never know why, when you're poring through dozens of scores, some will strike you more than others, but I instantly took to Spring Is Here. It had qualities of charm and wit that I always like — it was bright without being too hard sell — much the way I felt about the Gershwins' Tell Me More."
Because none of the orchestral materials survive, except to one song, Krasker said he "never knew what you'd do with the score."
He explained, "That was at a time where the obvious scores to record first were the ones that could be accompanied by an orchestra. But I always felt that a score should be worth hearing even if the original charts don't survive. I mean, the composer wrote the score at the piano — that's the score, not what the orchestrator then did with it. Sometime around 1995, I spoke with Ted Chapin, executive director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, about doing a simple recording of the score with singers and two pianos — since the original show had featured the two-piano team of Arden and Ohman, best known for accompanying Gershwin shows like Lady, Be Good!, Tip-Toes and Oh, Kay! Ted thought it was a good idea, but we never got past the talking stage. This year, the idea came back to me, and Ted kindly gave me the permission and the access that I needed."
Although the plan is to record with two pianos, Gandy and Krasker are both mindful that there's one existing orchestral chart, and hope to record that as well. "Plus there may be a few other orchestral surprises," Krasker added. "Our goal is to include all surviving material, including at least one song that was dropped out of town."
The show includes 10 principals.
"The leading man in the original show was Glenn Hunter, an actor doing his first, and as far as I know, only musical — he's best known, I think, for playing the lead in the Kaufman-Connelly play Merton of the Movies, a role he repeated on film. It'll be fun to find someone who can deliver the songs while mastering the comedic requirements of the role. And the heroine's family is very much in the vein of a '30s screwball comedy — with the exasperated father, the daffy mother and the contrasting sisters. So, it'll give me a chance to pursue some wonderful character actors who might not normally be heard on these kinds of recordings."
On the horizon for ps classics are two releases currently being offered in pre-sale at www.psclassics.com: Jessica Molaskey's "Pentimento" and Darius de Haas' Billy Strayhorn tribute, "Day Dream: Variations on Strayhorn." Street date for the discs is June 4.
Also available from the label are "Philip Chaffin: Where Do I Go From You?," evoking the era of the big-band vocalists; and "Windflowers: The Songs of Jerome Moross," a collection of songs by the composer of The Golden Apple, with singers including Molaskey, Chaffin, Alice Ripley, Jenny Giering, Richard Muenz.
Producer Krasker is known for producing the treasured-by-fans Gershwin recordings of Strike Up the Band, Pardon My English, Girl Crazy, Oh, Kay! and more. As a producer for Nonesuch, he has helmed discs by Audra McDonald, Mandy Patinkin, Dawn Upshaw and others. He was Grammy Award-nominated for the live Sweeney Todd concert starring Patti LuPone and George Hearn with the New York Philharmonic. His credits also include the recent Dreamgirls live concert cast album.