Première Preview: mercredi 16 octobre 2002Première: mercredi 16 octobre 2002Dernière: samedi 26 octobre 2002
The Times - Saturday 19th October 2002:
SEVERAL of the tastier offerings in Cardiff’s International Festival of Music Theatre are "concert performances", which must mean that folk in evening dress will be singing Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle, Porter's Jubilee and (too expensive and American a show to get the British premiere it merits) McNally and Flaherty's Ragtime. But Rodgers and Hart's Babes in Arms is receiving the full treatment.
That's to say, the decor is up to British touring if not Broadway standards, and the cast, though a bit raw, is young, spirited and hugely likeable.
Though the musical dates from the late 1930s, it represents the end of an era, not the start of a new one. And that's ironic, for the plot is supposedly about the theatre's future. The "babes in arms" are the youthful flotsam and jetsam working in a playhouse in Cape Cod, hoping to produce a show introducing New York to a brave new generation.
And how to achieve this? Their triumphant closing number, packed with girls in gold swimsuits, demonstrates how. By wowing the Great White Way with exactly the sort of jaunty show that had been wowing it for two decades. You might almost say that Babes in Arms marks the death-throes of the kind of musical the war and Oklahoma! Would sweep away.
But who cares? If you enjoy escapist 1920s and 1930s musicals, you'll enjoy this. The plot is sappy, key events are ill-motivated, but it's fun, fun, fun. It's fun to meet Rose Owen, the ex-child star who comes from Hollywood to launch a stage career in a doleful saga called The Deep North. It's fun to see this play's pretentious Southern author made to look a fool by the "babes in arms" when he dons a Davy Crockett hat and spouts lines about “facing the perils of the wind and snow". It's fun when, in a preposterously curt denouement, everything thespian and romantic turns out well.
The songs include Babes in Arms itself, Johnny One Note, My Funny Valentine, The Lady is a Tramp, which in its proper context is what it should be, a ode to freedom and wanderlust. With the delightful Alexandra Jay singing that, and Alicia Davies, Joshua Dallas, Simon Coulthard and Tiffany Graves also making quite an impression, I don't see why Martin Connor's production shouldn't go far.
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A group of teenagers, whose parents are out of work vaudevillians, stage a revue to keep from being sent to work on a farm. Unfortunately, the show is a flop. Later, when a transatlantic French flyer lands nearby, they are able to attract enough publicity to put on a successful show and build their own youth center.Synopsis complet
Génèse du musical
Babes in Arms opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on April 14, 1937, transferred to the Majestic Theatre on October 25, 1937, and closed on December 18, 1937 after 289 performances.
In spite of rave opening-night reviews, the ticket agencies showed little interest in Babes In Arms, maybe because of the verdict rendered by Variety's out-of-town correspondent: "No nudity, no show girls, no plush or gold plate may mean no sale," a put-down not dissimilar to one that would be pinned to the first Rodgers and Hammerstein show some years later. During April and May, receipts were just about the break-even mark, sometimes below it.
In June, Wiman cut fifty cents off the top ticket, but sales continued to slide. Then all at once, as if by divine intervention, every competing show on Broadway folded. On July 17, Babes in Arms became the only musical on Broadway. The following week's takings jumped 50 percent; after that, the show never looked back.
The Revival: Rodgers and Hart's Babes In Arms has never been quite what everyone thinks it is. It was the hit of the season when it opened in 1937, running nearly 300 performances, but essentially vanished thereafter. Little thought was given to the preservation of musicals in the 30's; a show either hit or missed and it was on to the next one. Between 1934 and 1940, three years to either side of Babes In Arms, Rodgers and Hart wrote nine Broadway musicals and four film scores, so there wasn't much time for looking back. Most of us were introduced to Babes In Arms by the 1939 Mickey & Judy movie, which retained only the title and two songs from the Broadway original (and one of them merely as underscoring). In the late 50's an entirely new book was written with the songs reordered, and that version has been performed ever since. Several attempts have been made to rework the original book into a more contemporary view of the 30's, but have either failed or never seen the light of day. Last year we were approached by Aubrey Berg, Chair of the Musical Theatre Department at the esteemed University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
He wanted to present the original 1937 version of Babes In Arms, as he so succinctly put it, "in all its unwieldy splendor." Berg hadn't determined what the musical should be but wanted to rediscover what it really was. That notion appealed to us immediately. CCM musical director Roger Grodsky, with restoration expert Larry Moore and R&H Director of Music Bruce Pomahac, began coordinating and assembling Hans Spialek's original 25 piece orchestration, a meticulous process that took the better part of a year. When a few of us trouped out to see the show in January of ‘98, it proved to be quite a revelation. We knew that this quintessential "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" musical boasts one of the greatest scores ever written, including such standards as "My Funny Valentine," "Where Or When," "The Lady Is A Tramp," "Johnny One Note" and "I Wish I Were In Love Again." What we didn't know was that the book, which is wildly satirical, surprisingly topical and a bit peculiar, still works like gangbusters.
Babes In Arms is about a group of youngsters who ply their showbiz aspirations in an attempt to avoid being sent to a work farm for the summer. One of its many fascinations is the way in which the more raucous virtues that typify musical comedies of the 30's are peppered with socio-political satire that has continued to resonate for six decades. For instance, the son of a wealthy Southerner agrees to bankroll the kids' production on the condition that the two black kids (roles created by the legendary Nicholas Brothers) not appear in the show. Of course the rich kid gets his comeuppance. And in an ongoing and hilarious riff on socialism, one of the boys is all for "sharing the wealth" when he's broke, denounces the notion as soon as he has a couple bucks, and ultimately returns to his Bolshevik convictions when his fortunes fade once more.
The Cincinnati premiere of the new/old Babes In Arms was greeted with cheers by critics and audiences alike. The Cincinnati Enquirer enthused, "The show is charming, the numbers sizzle, what more can you ask?" while Playbill-On-Line opined, "We're lucky to have a ‘new' version of Babes In Arms." We thought everyone should be so lucky, and are therefore making the original version of Babes In Arms available for production for the first time. It's possible that another show this fresh and youthful may come along some day, but who knows where or when?
Liste des chansons
"Babes in Arms"
"I Wish I Were in Love Again"
"Light on Our Feet"
"Way out West"
"All At Once"
"Johnny One Note"
"The Lady Is a Tramp"
"My Funny Valentine"
"Where or When"
"You Are So Fair"
Liste des rôles
THE PRESS AGENT - Introduces us to the theatre, the company and to the revue at the close of the show.
TERRY THOMPSON - Young apprentice who is sexy and tries a heavy seduction routine on first Lee Calhoun and then Steve, as though she were a mature woman - but she is still a kid in her affections toward Gus.
GUS FIELDING - A clumsy, daffy but endearing apprentice, who is a naive, romantic kid in Terry's eyes.
PETER, BETTY, BOB, LIBBY, ANN, DON, NANCY - Young starry-eyed apprentices who work in terrible conditions for the love of the theatre.
VALENTINE WHITE - Mature, responsible apprentice, to whom the others look up, and not just because he has written and composed their revue. He is very attractive to the girls and though dazzled by Jennifer, he eventually realises that Susie is his real love.
SUSIE WARD - A young apprentice who is totally devoted to Val. She idolises him in a real younger-sister way. But the optimism and determination with which she succeeds in getting the revue performed proves she has a very mature side, which eventually wins Val over.
SEYMOUR FLEMING - A hard-hearted, penny-pinching man who makes enemies easily, while trying to ingratiate himself with important people.
BUNNY BYRON - A mousy lady who is pushed around by Fleming but very popular with the kids and secretly harbours ambitions to act and generally 'let rip'.
LEE CALHOUN - A small-town Southern playwright who is alone in thinking a lot of himself. He hams his way through everything and alienates everybody with his conceit.
JENNIFER OWEN - Beautiful young actress, ex-child movie star, she is smothered by her mother and fights for the time and space to be herself - preferably in male company.
PHYLLIS OWEN - A real 'stage mum' living her life through her daughter, while totally disregarding her. She herself is a melodramatic actress, often faking sickness to get sympathy and her own way.
STEVE EDWARDS - A young producer who uses his great charm to full effect. The brother of Susie, he has an open heart and is very supportive of the revue.
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