Artistic director, writer, arranger and host David Loud was at lectern off to the side onstage and passionately delivered his erudite and informative commentary at length. Mr. Loud grew up with musical theater aficionado parents and he was raised with devotion to the form and he fondly reminisced about them. His mother’s favorite show was Where’s Charley? and his father’s was Guys and Dolls.
Loud offered brilliant musical analysis, choice biographical details and droll quips that all imparted the magnitude of the accomplishments of Loesser’s career. “ Particularly noted was Loesser’s use of slang and of surprises.
“A scavenger hunt of rarities” is how he described the period of the mid-1930’s to the mid-1940’s when Loesser toiled away in Hollywood at Universal Studios and later at Paramount Pictures as a contract lyricist. His collaborators included Hoagy Carmichael, Jule Styne, Burton Lane and Jimmy McHugh. Dancing on a Dime (1940), Variety Girl (1947), The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939), Sweater Girl (1942), Happy Go Lucky (1943) Seven Days Leave (1942) and A Song is Born (1938) were among the forgotten films Loesser worked on then that yielded songs for this event.
These were performed by the sparkling company of vocalists that was comprised of Farah Alvin, Lewis Cleale, Laura Darrell, Samantha Massell and James Snyder. All had outstanding solos and were dynamic together in various combinations and during group numbers.
“I Get the Neck of a Chicken” had comic patter that cleverly became a love song, “Bloop Bleep” was about being kept up at night by a dripping faucet, “Hamlet” was a hilarious synopsis of the tragedy and “Snug as a Bug in a Rug” was a dizzying collection of intricate rhymes.
“Why Do They Call a Private a Private?” was a delightful highlight as it was represented by a W.W. II era short film with Ethel Merman in all her belting glory and the audience joining in by following the bouncing ball as the lyrics were shown. The first act concluded with a slow “Heart and Soul.”
“Fugue for Tinhorns” from Guys and Dolls was freshly done as an all-female version. “If I Were a Bell,” “Guys and Dolls” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” were also from “that perfect show.”
The Most Happy Fella’s “Ooh, My Feet,” “I’ll Know,” “Somebody, Somewhere,” “Big D” and “My Heart is So Full of You” were given lovely renditions.
From How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying there was a rousing “Brotherhood of Man.” Greenwillow’s “Never Will I Marry” and “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So” from the 1947 film The Perils of Pauline were tenderly realized.
The band replicated the twinkling vintage sound of old movies with their terrific musicianship. Conductor Paul Masse was on piano, Robert Zubrycki on violin, Sarah Seiver on cello, Dave Noland on woodwinds, Bill Ellison on bass and Bruce Doctor on drums and percussion.
Director and choreographer Luis Perez’s crisp staging and adroit dances added visual polish and pizazz. Throughout the production on the back wall’s large screen were projected illustrative photographs of Loesser’s life and career and fanciful images that accompanied the songs such as cocktail glasses and New York City in the past.
Frank Loesser (1910-1969) was born into a cultured German-Jewish family in New York City and rebelled against their stifling sensibility. After his pianist father’s death in 1928, he supported the family with a series of odd jobs and in the 1930’s became a Tin Pan Alley songwriter. He received an Academy Award for Best Song for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a Tony Award for Guys and Dolls and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
David Loud’s performance background dates back to being the onstage pianist in the original 1981 production of Merrily We Roll Along, creating a role as an actor in Terrence McNally’s Master Class and an extensive career as a music director, conductor and arranger for numerous notable productions. Mr. Loud’s commanding grasp of theatricality informed this absorbing, entertaining and insightful presentation.
92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: Frank Loesser: Lyricist (June 2 – 4, 2018)
92nd Street Y
Kaufman Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-415-5500 or visit http://www.92y.org
Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission