ON THE RECORD: "Hidden Treasures" Offers a Candy Box Assortment of Sheldon Harnick

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15 Jun 2014

Next come the Smiling the Boy Fell Dead songs, with "Let's Evolve" and "Two by Two" brightly rambunctious. There are five from Bock and Harnick's 1958 debut musical, The Body Beautiful, a flawed and unworkable show with enough strong songs to earn the tunesmiths a shot at the big time (which is to say, Fiorello!). Few listeners would likely identify these as Bock and Harnick, but "All of These and More" is an explosive 'Gee, I'm in love' ballad while "Just My Luck" is a lightly bluesy torch (delectably played by Bock). "A Relatively Simple Affair" is a breezy duet which indeed looks forward to Fiorello!

The latter is one of five Hidden Treasures sung by Margery Gray, in this case with Leigh Beery. Gray appeared in Fiorello! and Tenderloin and married the lyricist in 1965; they are approaching their 50th anniversary. Most of the songs are sung by Harnick, often with Bock chirping in from the piano; others come from Charlotte Rae, Danny Meehan, Susan Watson, Michel Legrand and even the great Hugh Martin singing a 1953 Martin/Harnick collaboration.

The 1959 Fiorello! is represented by two effective songs which didn't ultimately work in their slots and were cut during the tryout: "Where Do I Go from Here" — a lovely ballad for the secretary (Marie), pining for her boss (Fiorello) — and "'Til the Bootlegger Comes." The latter is a fine comedy number that was lost when the scene in which it was contained was removed; the very same flavor, though not the melody, is apparent in "Reform" in the 1960 Tenderloin.

Fans of the 1963 She Loves Me will be especially happy with the cut songs from that cherished score. Heroine Amalia Balash — about to embark on a date with her mysterious "dear friend" — pleads with her parfumerie coworkers to "Tell Me I Look Nice." The song is perfectly lovely; Harnick explains in the notes that he wrote the lyrics with a waltz rhythm in mind, but that Jerry chose to set it in five-four time — that is, omitting the final note of every other measure — to communicate Amalia's underlying anxiety. There is also "Merry Christmas Bells" for the four subsidiary clerks as they put up Christmas decorations; Kodaly flirts with Miss Ritter, while the young Arpad and the wisened Sipos suffer through it. Harnick comments that the piece was too complicated for the slot it had to fill; those of us who know the score will recognize patches that turn up elsewhere in the finished show, including as the counterpoint patter in "Ilona."

Next comes "My North American Drugstore," for Kodaly after he has been fired. This was a grand showstopper for the actor who played the role, Jack Cassidy (who had introduced the songwriters five years earlier). The creators felt it impeded the action, though — so they wrote him another showstopper to replace it, "Grand Knowing You." The section ends with the beautifully atmospheric closing number, "Christmas Eve." They realized that the show didn't need a closing number, and the song was relegated to the heap of hidden treasures.


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