[As usual, notes to myself to remember shows I've seen but maybe of interest you] 

Dearest Enemy Rodgers & Hart VLOGThe first show I wanted to go to was at the Haft Theater at the Fashion Institute of Technology. For the show, Rodgers & Hart's Dearest Enemy, I was sitting towards the front and in the center about seven rows from the stage. The auditorium was functional but pleasant ; the sound was unamplified and natural and straight, with about 50 musicians and about 50 chorus singers. The show is based on Mrs. Murray's tea party at Murray Hill to detain Howe and the other British generals while the American army escapes from Brooklyn Heights to Harlem and New Jersey - and Mrs. Murray invents the Manhattan cocktail.

There is only one song that's become a standard, "Here In My Arms" [it's adorable, it's deplorable that you were never there], in a small fast downloading midi file with a LONG introduction; and click here to hear it in RealAudio [in a stiff 1920s version] and here for a 1930s' English version. The other numbers are listed below.

I don't know what the original production was like but in this one that song appeared four different places: twice in the overture; in a full production in the first act; several reprises in the second act and then one more time in the epilogue. Probably because it was being played so much, it began sounding more and more like "Liebling, Mein Herz Läßt Dich Grüßen" from about the same period.

The show had been billed as a Rodgers and Hart musical, set in the Revolutionary War, that hadn't been performed in 60 years. I should have noticed that it was being put on by the Village Light Opera Guild, but that didn't really register.

The show wasn't at all like the Rodgers and Hart musicals from the '30s: The Boys from Syracuse or Jumbo or Pal Joey. The lyrics weren't the sharp, witty, pun filled lyrics that you connect with Hart. There was very little wordplay and very little sound play compared to what he wrote in his lyrics. At first I thought that the show was good but not what you expect from Rodgers and Hart. But since their other plays from the 20s [which also are seldom produced] do have songs with witty "Hart" lyrics [The Girl Friend, Mountain Greenery, Thou Swell, Manhattan, You Took Advantage of Me], I couldn't figure out why this music was so different - until about a quarter of the way into the show.

Dearest Enemy Rodgers and HartThe reason was that in spite of the billing this wasn't a musical comedy, it was an operetta, the other big form of the 1920s. That would explain the big chorus, the historical theme, the reverent and patriotic appearance of George Washington - also no doubt connected with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Hart probably had to write lyrics to fit the genre and wisecracking and puns don't fit too smoothly into operetta.

As an operetta it had many big choral numbers; a male chorus of about 25 and female chorus of 20 or 25 with a lesser number of solo songs by a half-dozen principals. There was no real dancing but only "make believe dancing" or movement and pattern-forming. The diction of the chorus, especially the male chorus - everything was natural and unamplified - was great as was that of the male solos; but many times the female soloists were hard to understand.

As the show went on, it sounded more and more like the Viennese operettas by Lehar, Künnecke, Stolz after the First World War, in both plot and musical style.

Dearest Enemy Rodgers and Hart Village Light Opera GuildThe similarity reached a high point with the appearance, hallowed and awe-inspiring, of George Washington in the Epilogue, parallel to, for example, Franz-Josef coming on the stage "Im Weißen Roessl". As an aside I just realized that when I was a teenager and half the audience in the Graz Opera House stood up when "Franz-Josef" came on the stage in that operetta [the rest were, no doubt, socialists or fascists], it had been 42 years since the fall of the monarchy; now it's 40 years since I saw the operetta. Since I remember the operetta clearly, the audience must have remembered the Empire clearly -- something which was incomprehensible to me at the time.

The orchestra and both choruses were very good in the music; many of the secondary actors, actually chorus members, were pretty poor in secondary roles as actors. The character of the Irish son was played terribly by someone who is probably in his middle 20s acting very poorly at being someone 13 or 14 years old. The two main leads, acting and singing, were an Irish sister who was professional, trained and slick and the British officer, her lover, who was very good as a singer, baritone, and sort of adequate as an actor. Unfortunately, he had a very obnoxious and loud claque with him that was irritating. Click for cast list

Dearest Enemy Rodgers and Hart Village Light Opera GuildWhen George Washington made his appearance, it was embarrassing and the audience began to titter. You have to have a lot of poise and gravitas to carry off playing an historical figure like Washington or Franz-Josef suddenly dropped into a musical entertainment and this actor didn't have that poise. He looked artificial and uncomfortable, declaimed poorly and really wasn't even acting. The audience began getting restless after the titters but were pulled back into shape by the lowering of the Grand Union Flag, the raising of Old Glory and a reprise of Yankee Doodle Dandy. The scene sounds terrible but except for Washington it was done well.

The performance was sold out. Since it was a matinee I expected there to be mostly retirees. But the audience was a mixed age group. The group sitting next to me was a mother, grandfather and grandson, apparently bringing the grandson to his first show.

The play ended around 4:45 and I walked over to the 23rd Street Tube station and took [the jammed packed] Tube to Pavonia.

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