Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: Encores! Cast Recording 2012
This wild song-and-dance extravaganza, based on a book by Anita Loos, focuses on Lorelei Lee, a blonde from Little Rock, who seems at first to be calculating and only interested in material possessions; but she is in fact a curious combination of incredible innocence and genuine generosity. To her almost grim instinct for security in the form of expensive jewelry, she brings a definite flair and a friendliness that are altogether difficult to resist. As the story begins, Lorelei and Dorothy Shaw, her friend from the Follies, are sailing on the Ile de France to Paris, a gift, it seems, from Lorelei’s generous “sugar daddy,” button tycoon Gus Esmond, Jr. While Dorothy, tired of Prohibition and its effects in the U.S., is eager to get out to sea where, once beyond the twelve-mile limit, they will be able to drink legally (“It’s High Time”), Lorelei seems unhappy at the idea of leaving her fiancé behind (“Bye Bye Baby”). Once the ship is under way, however, she becomes convinced that Gus’s father has unearthed some sordid details of her past (“A Little Girl from Little Rock”) and persuaded Gus to leave her. She must now find a new protector. In the confined environment of the liner, there are in fact many opportunities to meet suitably accommodating gentlemen, and in no time Lorelei finds herself the object of interest to several of them. Dorothy, for her part, claims that she could love any man, rich or poor – in fact she rather favors the poor – (“I Love What I’m Doing (When I’m Doing It for Love)”), but she finds it difficult to resist Henry Spofford, a wealthy Philadelphia bachelor, whom Lorelei has introduced to her. Soon Dorothy and Henry find they are very much in love (“Just a Kiss Apart”). As Dorothy heads back to her room she runs into Gloria, a fellow chorus girl from the Follies. Gloria is determined to make it out of the chorus and is forever practicing her dance moves. She convinces Dorothy and Lorelei to let her practice in their room since she has been chased off all of the ship’s decks (“Scherzo”). Meanwhile, Lorelei has become very attracted to a diamond tiara worn by Lady Beekman, another passenger, and, in a carefully planned and executed maneuver, she wheedles Sir Francis Beekman into lending her the $5,000 she needs to buy it (“It’s Delightful Down in Chile”). Once in Paris, Dorothy continues to enjoy the changes Henry has brought into her life (“Sunshine”) while the beauty of Paris and its inhabitants come to life (“Park Scene”). Gloria, too, is swept up in the romance of Paris (“Pas de Deux”) as the whole company revels in the beauty of the City of Lights (“Sunshine” – reprise). Back at their hotel Lorelei enjoys the company of a potential new sugar daddy, Josephus Gage, a zipper manufacturer and ruddy character (“I’m A-Tingle, I’m A-Glow”), and Dorothy is compelled to express to Henry some misgivings about becoming a Philadelphia matron (“You Say You Care”). Meanwhile, Lady Beekman, having learned how Lorelei obtained the money to buy the tiara, immediately sets French lawyers after her. And to add to Lorelei’s complications, Gus suddenly arrives and finds her entertaining Mr. Gage. Assuming she has been unfaithful, Gus breaks off the engagement and storms out with Gloria in tow (Finale – Act 1). Miffed over Lorelei’s perceived infidelity, Gus arranges for Gloria’s nightclub debut (“Mamie Is Mimi”). The act culminates in a spectacle of showgirls (“Coquette”) and Lorelei is left to muse despondently on life and love (“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”). All’s well that ends well, however, and in no time Lorelei makes up with Gus and is able to repay Sir Francis’s loan (“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”). Now, along with Dorothy, Henry, Mr. Gage, and Mrs. Spofford, the group begins to look forward to their return to dear old New York (“Homesick Blues”). Back in New York at the Central Park Casino, the wedding of Lorelei and Gus has been held up for three days as Lorelei refuses to marry without the blessing of Gus’s father. Dorothy revives the weary crowd in a happy celebration of all that’s exciting in 1924 (“Keeping Cool with Coolidge”). When Mr. Esmond Senior arrives, Lorelei sets out to secure his blessing by demonstrating the unique use of his buttons in her Paris-made couture bridal wear (“Button Up with Esmond”). It seems she had the buttons imported from America and now all the major dressmakers are using them. And to top it off, she’s arranged a partnership with the Gage Zipper Corporation. Mr. Esmond is overjoyed with Lorelei’s keen business sense and the blessing is granted (Finale – Act 2). In Celebration of Hugh Martin One of the joys of bringing to life the delightful score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Leo Robin, is getting to hear the imaginative vocal arrangements of the incomparable Hugh Martin. Martin, who passed away in 2011 at the age of ninety-six, had a long and eventful career as a composer and an arranger both on Broadway and in Hollywood. In the 1930s and 1940s he changed the sound of Broadway shows by introducing the tight jazz harmonies that were being used by popular vocal groups heard on the radio. In doing so, he energized the theater and helped lead musicals forward into a new era. Hugh Martin is probably best remembered for composing some timeless songs for the 1944 MGM musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” brought him much acclaim and also helped forge his long friendship and musical partnership with Judy Garland. Martin, with various collaborators including Ralph Blane, also composed five Broadway musicals, including Best Foot Forward (1941), High Spirits (1964), and the stage adaptation of Meet Me in St. Louis (1989). As a vocal arranger, he worked on more than twenty Broadway shows, arranging the music of Richard Rodgers, Vernon Duke, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, and others, including Jule Styne, who provided the tuneful score for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Born in Alabama in 1914, Martin started the piano at an early age and came to New York as a young man in the 1930s. He soon met one of his earliest influences, the singer and arranger Kay Thompson (who also earned fame later in life as the author of the Eloise books). Thompson hired Martin as an accompanist and later as a singer. In his 2010 memoir, Hugh Martin: The Boy Next Door, Martin writes, “When I tell interviewers that ninety-nine percent of what I know about vocal arranging I learned from Kay, I am not whistling Dixie.” If one listens to both of their work, it’s clear that Martin absorbed Thompson’s inventive playfulness and wit as an arranger. Martin was interested in bringing the modern sound of Hollywood and what he was hearing on the radio to the stages of Broadway. In the 1930s, the sound of Broadway was still largely rooted in the European operetta tradition, and even the lighter scores of Rodgers and Hart or Cole Porter often employed utilitarian and straightforward choral arrangements. There weren’t a lot of musical “surprises,” as Martin once said. Martin’s technique in choral writing was to use the close, tight jazz voicings employed by popular vocal groups of the day such as the Modernaires. The arrangements in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes are typical of his method of writing in eight-part harmony, in which the men sing the same four harmony parts as the women, but down one octave. The result is a thick, textured sound that resembles a saxophone or brass section in a jazz band. On top of that basic harmonic approach, Martin employed rhythmic variations, syncopations, tempo shifts and even the use of nonsense syllables to further decorate the tunes. Unison lines unexpectedly explode into blasts of harmony. The keys he chose put the voices in exciting ranges. Broadway hadn’t heard anything like this before he came along. In an era long before microphones, this new style required singers of superior musicianship, accurate in pitch and rhythm, and possessing great vocal control. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, listen to the lively syncopations and exuberant rhythms in “High Time” followed by the lush blend of the singers in “Bye Bye, Baby.” Martin has great fun with the French language in the Paris scene and the song “Sunshine,” and he uses some unexpected group scat singing in “Keeping Cool with Coolidge.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes provides a look at late 1940s nostalgia of life in the 1920s, but Hugh Martin’s fresh and innovative vocals pull the sound of the show into the 1950s. Martin always wanted to be modern, and in striving to put the sounds of popular music on the Broadway stage he recognized that a Broadway chorus could enhance the tune by being jazzy and theatrical. In doing so, he played an important part in the evolution of the Broadway musical, and it’s “high time” we celebrate him for doing so.
– Rob Berman, Music Director of Encores! Text excerpted from the full essay “In Celebration of Hugh Martin – His Vocal Arrangement Changed the Sound of Broadway”
Dorothy Shaw: Rachel York Lorelei Lee: Megan Hilty Gus Esmond, Jr.: Clarke Thorell Lady Phyllis Beekman: Sandra Shipley Sir Francis Beekman: Simon Jones Mrs. Ella Spofford: Deborah Rush Henry Spofford: Aaron Lazar Josephus Gage: Stephen R. Buntrock Frank of the Olympic Team: Luke Hawkins George of the Olympic Team: Eric Bourne Gloria Stark : Megan Sikora Pierre, the Chief Steward: Steven Boyer First Show Girl: Anna Aimee White Second Show Girl: Kristyn Pope Mr. Robert Lemanteur: Brennan Brown Louis Lemanteur, his son: Steven Boyer Steward: Brennan Brown Zizi: Shannon M. O’Bryan Fifi: Kristyn Pope Maître d’: Arlo Hill Attmore & Grimes: Phillip Attmore & Jared Grimes Gus Esmond, Sr.: Brennan Brown Ship Passengers, Olympians, Club Patrons and People of Paris: Callan Bergmann, Charissa Bertels, Sam Bolen, Eric Bourne, Kyle Brown, Robin Campbell, Brandon Davidson, Christine DiGiallonardo, Luke Hawkins, Arlo Hill, Michael Marcotte, Nick McGough, Shannon M. O’Bryan, Lindsay O’Neil, Kristyn Pope, Lindsay Roberts, Heath Saunders, Kelly Sheehan, Jessica Vosk, Anna Aimee White, Matt Zimmerman Music by Jule Styne Lyrics by Leo Robin Book by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields Adapted from the novel by Anita Loos Original Vocal Arrangements by Hugh Martin Original Dance Arrangements by Trude Rittman Music Director: Rob Berman