SUGAR – the musical version of SOME LIKE IT HOT – has Osgood Fielding III sing “November Song.” The month that’s late in the year represents a man’s getting older and aging out of romantic contention with the younger set.
Many musicals that opened in November just so happen to deal with love that comes late in life, as well as the lack of it or the loss of it. In case you missed these songs when they debuted, catch up with them now.
BAJOUR (Nov. 23, 1964): “Love Line” has Anyanka (no less than Chita Rivera) give thirtysomething Emily a palm reading and urges her to seize her chance at happiness with Lou MacNiall before it’s too late. Anyanka is a swindler only out for money, but here she’s also on the money.
BELLS ARE RINGING (Nov. 29, 1956): “Just in Time” has Ella Peterson goofing around while Jeffrey Moss is sincere about his feelings for her. However, near the end of the song, listen to the way that Judy Holliday sings “in time”, and you’ll glean that she’s finally allowing herself to take the relationship seriously, too.
THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE (Nov. 23, 1938): “Falling in Love with Love,” Adriana realizes, was what she did instead of falling in love with the man who became her husband. He’s not been attentive and makes her mourn what she did. Hearing Portia Nelson enhance Richard Rodgers’ hauntingly lovely melody convinces us that she’s worthy of the real thing.
CABARET (Nov. 20, 1966): “What Would You Do?” is a real heartbreaker, because Fraulein Schneider had been so excited to find late-in-life love. Now she must break her engagement, because she sees what’s coming: Nazi Germany will hardly sanction any marriage to a Jew.
A CHRISTMAS STORY (Nov. 19, 2012): “What a Mother Does” offers another type of love. It’s probably the type that we sons and daughters can depend on the most.
CLOSER THAN EVER (Nov. 6, 1989): “Life Story.” No, Lynn Wintersteller doesn’t give us a late 20th century woman’s curriculum vitae, but she does detail her marriage, divorce and career. This one so impressed Jeffrey Sweet, the co-editor of THE BEST PLAYS OF 1989-90, that he reprinted Richard Maltby, Jr.’s lyric in its entirety over three pages. David Shire complemented it with a lovely melody, too.
FANNY (Nov. 4, 1954): “Never Too Late for Love” has that optimism found in many show songs of the era. Funny; Ezio Pinza was the ostensible star of the show, as a result of his triumph in SOUTH PACIFIC five years earlier. But it was Walter Slezak who got the more interesting role of a wealthy man who did still see the possibilities of marrying. What’s more, Pinza had won the Tony as Best Actor in a Musical his last time out, but Slezak emerged victorious this time.
GRAND HOTEL (Nov. 12, 1989): “Love Can’t Happen” is one of the most powerful numbers added while a show was out-of-town. Maury Yeston came to Boston and juiced up the Wright-and-Forrest score with the song that had The Baron convince The Ballerina that he honestly loved her. It spurred her to believe him, which resulted in another Yeston winner (and late-in-life love anthem) “Bonjour, Amour.”
INTO THE WOODS (Nov. 5, 1987): “It Takes Two” isn’t a love song in the usual sense. Yet having a husband realize his wife’s worth and having her see that he means it makes it love that’s soared to a new level.
KEAN (Nov. 2, 1961): “Elena” is the object of Kean’s affection. Understand that this man is, as one song goes, “The King of London,” because he’s the greatest star and everyone knows it. Thus he has plenty of women he could love, but we see why he’s made this choice.
LITTLE ME (Nov. 17, 1962): “I Love You” was the eighth of nine songs that Broadway has heard with the title. And yet, it has a sentiment unlike all the others. Discover this romance that has more strings attached to it than a harp.
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (Nov. 16, 1981): “Not a Day Goes By” has quite a different meaning when we first hear it from the second time we do. Because the musical goes backward in time, we only experience it as a genuine love song in Act Two. In Act One, it’s a reminder of a promise not kept.
MAN OF LA MANCHA (Nov. 22, 1965): Let’s face it: the sound on the original cast album is terrible. Thank heaven for this revival cast album and Brian Stokes Mitchell, whose “Dulcinea,” his love song to a woman who thought she’d never hear one, is as sweet as the title.
OH, KAY! (Nov. 6, 1928): “Someone to Watch over Me” is what Kay sings when she believes she has lost the man she loves. We never have to worry in a 1920’s musical that that will be the case. Barbara Ruick, whom we know better as Carrie Pipperidge in the film of CAROUSEL, shows her capacity for tenderness here.
ON YOUR FEET! (Nov. 5, 2015): “Everlasting Love” turns out to be truth in advertising, for Gloria and Emilio Estefan married in 1978 and are still together. Given that show business marriages are usually and notoriously short-lived, we should really consider them the way that dog years are calculated: one year equals seven. Happy 301st, Gloria and Emilio. You have a very different kind of late-in-life love – one that came long after it started early in your lives.
PAINT YOUR WAGON (Nov. 12, 1951): And while we’re on Latin-centric music, here’s “Carino Mio,” which Mexican Julio sings to Jennifer. Its composer wrote songs with a Scottish bent for BRIGADOON, a French thrust for GIGI, a British slant for MY FAIR LADY and CAMELOT – and this, too. And to think that Frederick Loewe was born in Berlin.
ROBERTA (Nov. 18, 1933): “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” tells of a lost love from a woman who now realizes that she should have known better. As popular as this ballad was when this show debuted, it had a renaissance a quarter-of-a-century later – and during the rock era yet – when a group called The Platters had a rhythm and blues rendition that reached Number One and stayed there for three solid weeks in 1958.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (Nov. 15, 2020): “Once in a While” is the musical’s least-known song, because it was the only Richard O’Brien selection that wasn’t retained for the famous 1975 film. It’s a nice soft-rock ballad – which is probably why it didn’t make the cut.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (Nov. 16, 1959): “How Can Love Survive?” is a good question where The Captain and Elsa are concerned. In fact, their love doesn’t survive once Maria “To-nun-or-not-to-“ Rainier comes on the scene. This excellent song was only heard as a snippet of background music in the famous 1965 film. It’s worth hearing in its entirety, although you may wonder if “Mer-seh-DEES-ezz” is the way Austrians pronounce the car we call “Mercedes.”
TWO BY TWO (Nov. 10, 1970): “Something Doesn’t Happen” to Rachel (Noah’s daughter-in-law) when she’s with her husband. We associate Martin Charnin with the exuberantly sentimental ANNIE, but here he has a wife ask a tough question about her marriage: “Where’s the love I’m supposed to be in?”
Once you discover or rediscover some of these, you may well continue listening to them all through December, too.
Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on www.broadwayradio.com. He’s a contributor to the new magazine Encore Monthly.