Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Destry Rides Where the Buffalo Rome

Gershwin, Kern, Porter, and Berlin, these are some of the best-known contributors to the Great American Songbook canon and of Broadway's history. However this season's fifth composer, Harold Rome (b. 1908), may not be as familiar.

Although you'll soon be familiar with Destry Rides Again, you may not know that, coincidental to our just completed production, one of his early successes was entitled Call Me Mister (1946) about service men returning home from war.

Rome had a number of hit shows however, with I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962), Pins and Needles (1934), and of course Fanny (1954) - the hit show starring Florence Henderson and Ezio Pinza that would debut David Merrick's talents as a Broadway producer.

Rome also introduced the world to a new ingĂ©nue in Wholesale, it’s such a shame she was lost to obscurity. I doubt any of you have ever heard of her, Barbra Streisand?

But I digress.

Rome was actually a Yale-educated architect who showed promise as a painter as well. He said, "I was an architect with no buildings to build, a painter with no patrons." So of course, he felt musical theatre would be an easier life.

Rome's music career was highlighted by truly satirical songs. He often used his musical talents to campaign against social injustice; one critic of the 1930's hailed him "Noel Coward, with a social conscience." An example is "Four Angels of Peace", which was written as a quartet for Neville Chamberlin, Tojo, Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler to sing in Pins and Needles. It seems the relevance of his lyrics has not been lost to time:
Four little angels of peace are we
Loving our neighbors so peacefully
There's really no harm if we do not disarm
For we always in close harmony

He was also fond of singing "Sing Me a Song With Social Significance" when he made public appearances throughout his life:

Sing me a song with social significance
Or you can sing 'til you're blue
Let meaning shine from ev'ry line
Or I won't love you

Rome left us relatively recently, in 1993, but his vibrant music and wonderful adaption of the western comedy spoof, Destry Rides Again will live on at the Eureka Theatre beginning October 28th.  For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.

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