Sunday, 28 July 2013

Show Tunes

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THERE'S NO TUNE LIKE A SHOW TUNE by Peter Pinne May 2013

There's a line in the script of 42nd Street when Julian Marsh, the producer, says to Peggy Sawyer, the understudy he's trying to convince to go on in the show, "think of musical comedy – the most glorious words in the English language." Or as Jerry Herman so succinctly put it in the song he wrote for his 1960 Off-Broadway revue Parade "There's No Tune Like A Show Tune." Everybody's heard one. Some people can hum, sing or whistle one, and some are addicted to them. Count me in the latter.

thumb IMG 000I could not have imagined my life without musical theatre. Growing up on a diet of MGM musicals, the Tivoli and J.C.Williamson, I've been in love with the genre since I was a child. And with that love came my passion for collecting the music from it. Ever since I learnt to play the piano when I was eleven I have been collecting music sheets from every type of musical show. In the early days I bought them from the ordinary music retailers, but in later years I discovered flea markets, opportunity shops and secondhand stores as a wonderful source for those hard to find gems. I haunted them, not only in Australia, but around the world. I was lucky I had a career that took me to other countries so I was able to indulge my passion in the U.S., the UK, Europe and South America. This has resulted in a wide-embracing show music collection of over 3,500 pieces.

Collecting sheet music today is a very different hobby to what it was when I started. With the advent of the internet and the demise of the traditional music retailer, the sole source of new sheet music with show covers is in theatre lobbies when a musical is playing. It is still possible to find older sheets in secondhand shops but the rare titles are harder to come by.

The 'Pinne Collection' as it is informally known, was acquired by the National Library of Australia in 2004 and is one of the largest collections of its type in Australia, encompassing single sheets, vocal selections, piano selections and vocal scores from Broadway, the West End, Europe, Australia, Television (mainly musicals that were written for the medium), and Movies. It is divided into three sections; sheets that were published in the U.S., the UK and Australia, and covers a period from the early 1920s to the present. From the hits to the flops, the songs which were dropped out-of-town, the title and cast changes, are all documented in the collection which is essentially a history of the musical theatre throughout the world.

thumb IMG 0001All of the famous American and English theatre composers are represented, along with the obscure. The same can be said for the performers. There are the stars, the popular matinee idols and the divas, along with the one-shot wonders and the forgotten. Some sheets have been easy to find but most are rare and several are extremely valuable. As the fashions changed so did the musical theatre and so did the cover artwork. Moving from the heady Charleston era of the twenties, to art-deco in the thirties, war influences in the forties, psychedelic in the seventies, to the iconic show logos of today. It's not only a history of the musical theatre but also a history of fashion, fads, and the changing times.

Australian names abound throughout the collection on Broadway and the West End and it is possible to chart a composer, lyricist, performer, choreographer, musical director or designer's international career through the sheets that are represented. Charles Zwar, a composer born in Broadford, Victoria, had the distinction of having J.C.Williamson's produce his first show Blue Mountain Melody (1934) one of only two original Australian musicals the 'Firm' ever mounted. Albert Arlen's The Sentimental Bloke (1961) was the other. He later went to London and became very successful writing for intimate revue and the musical theatre. His West End credits include the Arthur Askey and Julie Wilson vehicle Bet Your Life (1952), and Marigold (1959), a show which starred Sophie Stewart and Jean Kent.

Blue Mountain Melody (1934) also starred Australia's answer to Astaire and Rogers, Cyril Ritchard and Madge Elliott. Their careers took them to London and New York where Ritchard, working solo after Elliott died, had a major Broadway career. It began when he directed John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953), and followed with a career-making turn as Captain Hook opposite Mary Martin in Peter Pan (1954), the lead in The Happiest Girl In The World (1961) with music by Offenbach, and then top-starred with Anthony Newley in Newley and Bricusse's The Road of the Gresepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1964). Ritchard also appeared in many original U.S. TV musicals and graces the cover of the music sheets for The King and Mrs Candle (1955) which had a screenplay written by another expatriot Australian, Sumner Locke Elliott whose most famous work was the hit play Rusty Bugles (1948).

thumb IMG 0002In 1950, Sydney pharmarcist Edmond Samuels premiered his musical The Highwayman at the Kings Theatre, Melbourne, which was the original version of a musical he'd had produced in the West End titled At the Silver Swan (1936) which starred the popular French actress Alice Delysia. Two music sheets survive from the original London production. Samuels however was not the first Australian composer to have his musical presented in London. That honour goes to Dudley Glass whose The Beloved Vagabond (1927) opened a decade earlier.

John Taylor began his writing career at Sydney's Phillip Street Theatre writing topical revue material for Two To One (1955) a show that featured Max Oldaker. He later went to London where he coauthored with David Heneker the wildly successful Charlie Girl (1965) which starred Anna Neagle, Derek Nimmo and Joe Brown. He later musicalised two of Noel Coward's one-act plays, Fumed Oak and Still Life as Mr and Mrs (1968) which featured Honor Blackman, John Neville and Hylda Baker. He also wrote additional songs for the Jeannie Carson musical Strike A Light (1966).

Ron Grainer, born in Atherton, Queensland, is best remembered for his outstanding light-operatic score for Robert and Elizabeth (1964) a musical version of The Barretts of Wimpole Street. It starred two Australian perfomers who had built their careers in the West End, June Bronhill and Keith Michell. Prior to Grainer's theatrical success he had composed the popular television themes to Steptoe and Son, Maigret and Dr Who and several film soundtracks. He followed Robert and Elizabeth with the pop piece On the Level (1966) but without the same success. Michell had previously scored in Vivian Ellis' And So To Bed (1951) and opposite Elizabeth Seal in Irma La Douce (1956).

thumb IMG 0003Australian choreographers abounded in the West End in the 50s. Freddie Carpenter had many credits, such as Noel Coward's Ace of Clubs (1950), Harry Parr Davies' Dear Miss Phoebe (1950), and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1958), which introduced pop star Tommy Steele to the musical theatre. Robert Helpmann likewise had the South African themed Golden City (1950), and Noel Coward's After The Ball (1954), a musicalisation of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, whilst George Carden worked on Charles Zwar's Bet Your Life (1952). Later Noel Tovey choreographed the revival of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend (1967), a chore he also did for the Phillip Theatre revival of the show in Sydney in 1968.

Loudon Sainthill, the acclaimed Australian set and costume designer, also worked on Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1958) in London, and followed with David Heneker, Monty Norman and Julian More's cynical take on the pop industry, Expresso Bongo (1958), which starred Paul Schofield in his only musical appearance; David Henker's Half A Sixpence (1963), with Tommy Steele; Noel Coward's Sail Away (1961), with Elaine Stritch; and Wolf Mankowitz and Monty Norman's music-hall pastiche Belle (1961) with Rose Hill in the title role.

Musical Director, Ray Cook, who started his career playing piano at Sydney's Phillip Street Theatre, also has numerous West End credits which included working with Ginger Rogers in Jerry Herman's Mame (1969).

Robert Chisholm, who had been a leading man in Australia playing opposite Gladys Moncrieff in three shows, The Maid of the Mountains (1921), Sybil (1923), and Collits' Inn (1933), also had a substantial Broadway career starting with Jerome Kern's Sweet Adeline (1929), then followed with two Rodgers and Hart shows, Higher and Higher (1940) and the revival of A Connecticut Yankee (1943), Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's groundbreaking On The Town (1945), and again with Comden and Green in Billion Dollar Baby (1945) which had music by Morton Gould, and in Harold Rome's Bless You All (1950).

thumb IMG 0004Maggie Fitzgibbon after appearing as Bianca in J.C.Williamson's Australian production of Kiss Me Kate (1952), had a successful London career which began with Leslie Bricusse's first show Lady At the Wheel (1958), and followed it with Jule Styne and Comden and Green's Do Re Mi (1960) where she starred opposite Max Bygraves. Joy Nichols, popular on radio in Australia in the forties, also made it big in the UK on the BBC's Take It From Here. At the height of her popularity she top-starred in the London production of Adler and Ross' The Pajama Game (1955) with Edmund Hockridge and Max Wall. Lewis Fiander got his chance in I And Albert (1972),a musical about Queen Victoria and her consort by the American composer Charles Strouse. Kevin Colsen was part of the principal 'menage au trois' in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love (1988), Bruce Barry became D.W.Griffith for The Biograph Girl (1980), Jason Donovan fresh from his Neighbours soapie, raked in the audiences and the cash in Webber and Rice's Joseph And the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1991), as did Craig McLachlan from the same soap who headlined a revival of Grease (1993) with Debbie Gibson.

Before Barry Humphries made an impression as Mr Sowerberry, the undertaker, in the original London production of Lionel Bart's Oliver! (1960), he appeared in the short-lived The Demon Barber (1959) a pallid version of the grisly Sweeney Todd tale by South African composer Brian Burke.

And what are the gems, the ultra rare and 'pieces de resistance' of this extensive collection? By far the most prized sheets are from Rodgers and Hammerstein's tryout of Oklahoma! When the show opened out-of-town in New Haven it had the title Away We Go (1943) and five songs from the score were published under this title before the title of the show was changed to Oklahoma! The Away We Go sheets with brown and yellow covers were only sold in the theatre lobby and when the show's title was changed they were immediately withdrawn. Each sheet is now worth in excess of $1000. Four sheets grace the collection, "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top", "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "People Will Say We're In Love", and "Boys And Girls Like You And Me" which was ultimately cut. Rodgers and Hammerstein later kept adding it to several scores but it was always dropped until it was finally used in the stage version of their hit movie musical State Fair (1996).

thumb IMG 0005Also extremely rare and worth the same as the Away We Go sheets is a song from Cole Porter's London disaster Nymph Errant (1933) a show that starred the enchanting Gertrude Lawrence and expatriot American, Elizabeth Welch. Of all of the songs in Porter's ouvre "The Physician" is probably one of his wittiest and with the original thirties show artwork on the cover the sheet is indeed a gem. Another rare Porter piece is a copy of an original edition of "Begin The Beguine" also with its thirties artwork from the hit musical Jubilee (1935).

Jerry Herman had his first Broadway success in 1961 with Milk And Honey but at the same time he also had Madame Aphrodite (1961) playing Off-Broadway. This show turned out to be a 13 performance flop. Four songs were published from the score, three of them in this collection and all autographed by the show's book writer Tad Mosel, "The Girls Who Sit And Wait", "Only Only Love" and "Take A Good Look Around". With an eye-catching design of a woman's bejewelled hand putting drops into a cook pot on a red background, the sheets have a distinctive look. There are also five rare sheets from Herman's Off-Broadway success Parade (1960), "The Next Time I Love", "Your Hand In Mine", "Two A Day," "Your Good Morning", and "There's No Tune Like A Show Tune", a song he later reworked and which became "It's Today" in Mame (1966). When Ben Franklin In Paris (1963) was in trouble out-of-town Jerry Herman was called in as a show doctor and wrote two songs, both credited to the original composer Mark Sandridge Jnr. Of all of the songs published from the score Herman's contributions, "To Be Alone With You" and "Too Charming" ended up as a single sheet and as part of the Vocal Selection but without giving him credit.

thumb IMG 0006Also in the extremely rare category is the title song from Stephen Sondheim's 1948 college show Phinney's Rainbow. Josiah T.S. Horton had a co-lyricist credit. The three songs published from the score by Broadcast Music represent the first published work of the esteemed composer.

Similarly to Oklahoma! some shows have a title change out-of-town and this was the case with Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach's Roberta (1933). Out-of-town it was titled Gowns by Roberta (1933) and the collection boasts five sheets with this title including "Armful Of Trouble", a song which was ultimately cut. Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Fields Up In Central Park (1944) out-of-town was simply called Central Park. There are four sheets with the out-of-town title and six from the Broadway edition. The sheets are notable in that they all use a distinctive Currier and Ives drawing on the cover which is perfect for a show set in turn-of-the-century New York. Carol Channing's Delilah (1955) also had a title change before it hit Broadway as The Vamp (1955) but the delicious cover artwork of Channing in a Theda Bara pose stayed. When Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin's The Firebrand of Florence (1945) opened out-of-town it was called Much Ado About Love (1945). There are music sheets with both titles.

When a show is on the road, music publishers, in anticipation of a Broadway opening, print songs from the show, but sometimes the shows don't make it. This is what happened with one of songwriter Jimmy McHugh's rare Broadway ventures Strip For Action (1955). The same fate dogged Vernon Duke's Zenda (1963) which closed out-of-town in Los Angeles and Andrew Lloyd Webber's WhistleDown the Wind (1996) which closed in Washington. Whistle Down the Wind however did have a successful London production directed by Australian Gail Edwards in 1998. When Kurt Weill died in 1950 he was working with Maxwell Anderson on a musical version of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn (1950). Some songs were published from the score and one of these, "This Time Next Year" features in the collection.

Sometimes a road tour uses different artwork which was the case when Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's Jekyll And Hyde (1995) toured before coming to Broadway. Three songs were published from both versions. The tour artwork has a Jekyll and Hyde drawing on all three, whilst the Broadway edition uses a Jekyll & Hyde word logo.

Booed by the first night audience and slaughtered by the critics, John Osborne's only foray into the musical theatre The World of Paul Slickey (1959) had a hasty demise from the Palace Theatre in London six weeks after it opened. Osborne, working with composer Christopher Whelan wrote a score that was labelled 'yellow-and-grey' and the only thing that survives from their creative marriage is an album containing five songs from the score. A five song album with a striking white and green cover with a cartoon of a rabbit is also all that survives of the London revue Share My Lettuce (1957).

thumb IMG 0021-tesArthur Askey's popular piece for the West End, The Kid From Stratford (1948) was tailor made for his talents yet little remains from the six month season. One of the rare song sheets from the score, "As For You", written by Manning Sherwin,the composer of the wartime hit "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square", features a cheeky drawing of the star dressed in Shakespearian attire.

Other striking covers include New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno's brilliant caricature of Ethel Merman on the original song sheets from Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam (1950), and Richard Addinsall's "A Jabberwocky Song" from the London revue Tuppence Coloured (1947) with the show title in various colours on a yellow/gold background.

Original television musicals are a rare breed, and music sheets from them even rarer. In the days before videotape it was one performance and no repeat. Therefore to find a sheet from Stephen Sondheim's only work for the medium, Evening Primrose (1966) was like striking gold. "Take Me To The World" has of course been published in various forms since the show aired but to have it in its original publication with the purple filigreed tree and show title and credits in yellow is a bonus.

Other rare television sheets include two songs from Cole Porter's Aladdin (1957) which had a London stage production in 1960 with Doretta Morrow, Bob Monkhouse and Ronald Shiner, and six songs from Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen's musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1955) which starred Frank Sinatra.

As the collection grew there were songs that no matter how hard I searched I simply could not find. One was the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart song from the Bing Crosby movie Mississippi (1935) called "Down By The River". As a child I'd had a 12" 78 recording of a selection by George Melanchrino and his Orchestra from the film Words and Music (1948) about the life of the famous writing duo. The melody was pretty and it remained embedded in my memory for years but I could not find the music. Finally, I did come across it in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a Spanish and English lyric. That was also where I found a vocal version of Leonard Bernstein's theme from the film On The Waterfront (1954) with a lyric by the underrated American poet and muse, John Latouche. Brussells, Belgium, was where I found "People In Love" a song from the British musical version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" titled A Girl Called Jo (1955). The thing that's unusual about this song is that no one knew it had been published. It was not listed on any of the other song sheets from the show so it became one of the prized pieces in the collection.

Rare entries from Australian musicals include three of Lance Mulcahy's songs from early Phillip Street revues, "To Have And Hold" from Merry-Go-Round (1952), and "Begone The Beguine" and "You Came From Outer Space" from Top of the Bill (1954), plus the "Tintookie March" from the large-scale Marionette musical The Tintookies (1956). The gem of the Australian section however, and the sheet that brings us full circle, is "Shadows" from Charles Zwar's Blue Mountain Melody (1934) with its green bush-setting artwork by the show's book writer J.C.Bancks, better known as the creator of the Ginger Meggs comic strip. It's a fitting finale to the joy to be found in this comprehensive show music collection.

The complete "Pinne Collection" can be accessed at 

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Read 3810 times Last modified on Saturday, 10 August 2013
Peter Pinne

Peter Pinne's musical theatre career reached a peak in 1995 when his and his longtime collaborator, Don Battye's musical Prisoner – Cell Block H The Musical opened a season at the Queen's Theatre, London and became a cult hit subsequently touring the UK in '96 and '97.

Prior to that he and Battye had written many musicals produced in Australia that included CarolineA Bunch of Ratbags, Red White & Boogie, and Sweet Fanny Adams. Their musicals for children, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Tin Soldier, The Shoemaker & The Elves, Jack & The Beanstalk, Beauty & The Beast, Rumpelstiltskin and Billabong Bill have become a staple of the children's theatre scene since they were originally produced at the Alexander Theatre, Melbourne.

Peter Pinne's other musical collaborations include; A Bit O' Petticoat with Ray Kolle, Pyjamas In Paradise with John-Michael Howson, and Mavis Bramston – Reloaded and Suddenly Single with Paul Dellit.

He has also had a high profile career in television where he worked for the Grundy Organization on such iconic shows as Neighbours, Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, The Restless Years, The Young Doctors, and Secret Valley amongst others. He has also worked in the U.S., Latin America and Indonesia producing television drama, game shows and sitcoms for Pearson Television and Fremantlemedia.

From 1999 until the end of 2007 Mr Pinne was the owner and president of Bayview Recording Company, Los Angeles, USA, a boutique label who newly recorded and reissued CDs aimed at the show music market. These included over twenty recordings from New York Town Hall's concert series Broadway By The Year.

Apart from scripting television drama, he also wrote, with Battye, the theme song for the series Sons and Daughters. Other music credits include the score for the award winning movie A City's Child. He is the author of the discography Australian Performers, Australian Performances, and currently writes for On Stage and Stage Whispers.

In late 2019 he released The Australian Musical: from the beginning, a definitive history of Australian musical theatre, co-authored with Peter Wyllie Johnston, and published by Allen & Unwin in association with the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

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