Variety (Sep 1938)

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56 VARIETY LEGITIMATE Wednesday, September 28, 1938 Plays on Broadway SING OUT THE NEWS Max Gordon, in association with George 6. Kaufmnn and Moss Hart, present two- act revue by Harold J. Rome (songs), con- ceived and directed by Charles Friedman. Settings, Jo Mlelzlner: dnncer. Ned Mc- Gurn and Dave Gould: costumes, John Hambleton: orchestra. Max Meth; orches- trations, Huns Splnlek. Opened Sept. 24, •38. at Music Box. N. T.. $5.50 premiere; regular scale, $4.40. Principals and cast: Hiram Sherman, Mnrv Jane Walsh, Ginger Manners, Daisy Dernier, Christina Llnd. Miriam Franklin, Thelma Lee, Georgia Jarvls. Jane Fraser, June Allyson. Eleanor Eberle, Madelyn While, Rosalind Gordon, Kathryn Lnzell. Michael Lorglng, Edwin Smith, Bruce Bar- clny John Harry Dudley King. Howard Warrlner, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Gallo- way. RanoIdH Dupler. Bruce Rogers, Philip Loeb, Will Geer. Leslie Lltomy. Charles Lawrence. Jooy Faye, The Virginians (8), Ben Ros>. Jimmy Lydon. Herbert Sumpter, Reg Ingram (heading large colored group). Chic Gagnon, Dorothy Fox, Burton Pierce, Joel Friend. Fred Nay, Michael Moore ,Uer- nurd Pearce. 'Sing Out the News' is a bright enough revue which will disappoint some but should find a welcome on Broadway. Those who accepted the ..charm of 'Pins and Needles' and its 'social significance' theme, due to its amateur auspices, that of the Inter- national Ladies Garment Workers' Union, may be more captious about 'Sing Out the News,' under de luxe production auspices of Max Gordon, George S. Kaufman and Moss. Hart. The 'Pins and Needles' analogy is in- evitable, considering Harold J. Rome and Charles Friedman, present au- thor and stager, first came to Broad- way attention via the labor group's intime revue of last year. Prime shortcoming of 'News' is psychological rather than actual, what generosity of audience reaction favored 'Pins' will be found wanting with 'News.' In short, the unseasoned and yet-to-be-Equityized cast of the labor union enjoyed a magnanimity of which the current entry will never get the benefit. The actual shortcom- ings, however, are likewise there. There's a paucity of socko comedy. There's a tinge of the pinko, Where— again odious comparison must assert itself—it was glossed over on 39th street, but it's something else again on West 45th. The show is a shade too clever in Its Harold J. Rome lyrics, but not sufficiently punchy in its general gusto. It starts off promisingly with Hiram Sherman presenting the gen- eral idea, backed by a group of 10 boys and"'!^ "girls'. Follow a succession of bright sketches, the first act climaxing with 'Congressional Minstrels.' The sec- ond act, in toto," is considerably bet- ter. In both acts, the colored group par- ticipating, headed by Rex Ingram, Lilyn Brown, Henrietta Lovelace and Jackie Petty, walk off with the high- light honors. 'One of These Fine Days,' in. the Harlem street scene background, is in the first stanza; *F. D. R. Jones' is the song theme of the second half, .both exceptionally well done. .'Fine Days' has a signifi- cant lyrical keynote, whereas the very absence of anything but the na- tive spiritualizing appeal of the Tranklin D. Roosevelt Jones' song, gives the latter the edge. 'My Heart Is Unemployed/ expert- ly done by Marty Jane Walsh and Michael Lorihg, is the only other 6ong outstander. It's been imagina- tively staged. Miss Walsh, last year In the Cohan show, 'I'd Rather Be Right/ bears the vocal burden. Lor- Ing has a nice voice but doesn't per- colate sufficiently strong across the foots^ Dorothy Fox and Burton Pierce are the dance toppers, acquitting themselves handsomely. Philip Loeb works hard, often, and invariably ef- fectively, as the keystone of the com- edy skits. He's alternately. Mayor LaGuardia, a "Virginia senator, Groucho Marx, L. B. Mayer, a dis- trait tycoon and a hillbilly from the Bronx, and in all an expert farceur. He's easily the No. 1 cast member. Hiram Sherman is at the helm of several numbers, and Will Geer, Lor- ing, Joey Faye and Leslie Litomy are prominent in the skits. The first act impresses as a moder- ately pleasant sequence, with 'One of These Fine Days' the highlight. Its large colored contingent comprises Rex Ingram, Benjamin Wailes, Trav- erse Crawford, Otto Gaines, Harry Lewis, Elmaurice Miller, Mae Wil- liamson, Elizabeth Dozier, Lucille Wilson. Lvdia Holmes, Hazel Scott, James Lillard. Warren Coleman, Louie Williams, Estelle and Elizabeth McDowell, Maude Simmons, William and Allen Tinney, Ray Harrison. Her- bert Sumoter, Lillyn and Ethel Brown, Musa Williams. Add Bates, Richard Huey, Sally Ellis, Bertram Holmes. Wanda Macy, Shirley Macy, Sibol Cain, Sadie McGill, George Jones; Jr., Gus Jones. Henrietta Love- lace, Jackie Petty, Emmett Mathews, Carrington. Lewis, Grant and Sonny Timmons. Portia Patterson, Mrs. Pety, Will Brown and Clarence Wheeler. The satire on 'I Married an Angel, captioned 'I Married a Republican'; TJd. Fiorello/ 'Ordinary Guy/ 'Gone With the Revolution' (travesty on Hollywood and 'Marie Antoinette') and Congressional Minstrels have more or less significance attached to their ribbing. Dorothy Fox does an expert job in the satire, 'Peace and the Diplomats/ with Burton Pierce as the No. 1 dip- lomat and Joel Friend, Fred Nay, Michael Moore and Bernard Pearce tap-steoping (to Will Irwin's ballet music) in smart style. Miss Fox winds up a very much beat-up sym- bol of 'Pax' in this grimly humorous terp highlight. 'Cafe Society* is a very bright in- terlude next to closing. Thence Con- gressional Minstrels, which features such phrases from the President as 'Go to hell, Congress' and Congress retorting, in repeated unison, 'Go to hell, Roosevelt/ The second act, by far the best, is a switch on present-day choristers, with 'Tell Me, Pretty Maiden/ as the theme. Mary Jane Walsh allows as how the 1938 Floradoras are aware of international strife, domestic eco- nomics, picket lines, etc., and that stagedoor Johnnies must offer some- thing more than just candy and flowers. Hiram Sherman clicks with his best solo opportunity, and among the revue's highlights, 'Plaza 6-9423/ a smart lyric on the collegiate escort service. *A Liberal Education/ by Will Geer and Joey Faye, is equally cxDert. The F.L.O.P. Plan, with the Marx Bros, running the government, is an- other comedy pepper-upper. Here again a screen is utilized, the sec- ond time in the evening; once be- fore, a°t the tee-off, with a medley of newsreels shots of dictators, march- ing feet, symbols of war, etc. Mary Jane Walsh's 'Entre Nous' Is a personal click, ribbing the cafe chanteuses. 'International Mountain Climbers' finales into Philip Loeb as Uncle Sam. Hiram Sherman per- sonates Chamberlain, torn between the dictator and democratic nations, in an Alpine scene, and, while as topical as today's latest radio press flash from Prague or Godesburg, it's more printer's ink than mask-and- wig, as a manifestation of the liberal arts. Kaufman and Hart, co-billed as co- managers with Gordon, for the first time, are said to have had a creative refurbishing hand in this, as well as managerial, since the Philadelphia tr-yout. What is theirs, if any, is, of course, eclipsed by the general tenor of the Rome-Friedman original. The production is handsome, the talents varied and effective. Abel. DAME NATURE Comedy In three acts presented at Booth, N. Y Sept. 20 by Theatre Guild; written by Andre Blrabeau; adaptation by Patricia Colllnge; staged by Worthlngton Minor un- der supervision of Theresa Helbura and Lawrence Langner; $3.30 top. Max Thomas Coffin Cooke Beer..... Charles Bellin Second Schoolboy Frederick Bradlee Third Schoolboy...,. Edwin Mills Concierge.. Edwin Cooper Doctor Faridet Harry Irvine V* 0 ," 16 ^ e " ot Lois Hall Andre Brlsac .....Montgomery Clift Ba tton...... Morgan James fourth Schoolboy peter Miner Canine Kathryn Grill Marie Grace Matthews Madame Brisac Jessie Royce Landls Monsieur Brlsac Onslow Stevens Unc e Luclen ; „ .Forrest Orr Paul Marachal Wilton Graff .When 'Dame Nature' was tried out at Westport, Conn., early in the sum- mer it was favorably regarded and it looked like the Theatre Guild would start its 21st subscription sea- son with a click. Premiere, however, did not impress nearly as well and a limited engagement is indicated, although the play provides interest and diversion in the third act. Those who saw the country pre- sentation thought it was a better performance, despite the polishing and attention given the piece since then. Perhaps there is too much of the adolescent in the story; also, it is too repetitious, principally in the first half. Play mostly has to do with kids of highschool age, but does not be- gin to measure up to 'What a Life' in providing merriment. Only when the grown-ups go into action late in the play is it really funny, but that seemed too late. Locale is Paris' and it would seem that the youngsters are' well behind Americans of sim- ilar age in knowledge of the facts of life. . In that respect, 'Nature* may seem dated, but there is a well intentioned background planted by the author. Andre Brisac. 16, becomes attached to Leonie Perrot, who is a year younger. The lass conducts a shop patronized by school kids, running the place alone since the death of an aunt. Because she is lonesome and he has an unpleasant home life, they find happiness together. Leonie soon learns she will have a baby. There is so much mention of the expected event that it becomes rather tiresome. The boy, coddled by his mother, is given scant attention by the father and, since the parents quarrel continuously, Andre sees escape only in the* companionship of Leonie. Gabrielle Brisac, his mother, is of the possessive type and neither she, nor her husband, ever realized that the lad was growing up and needed guidance. In the last.act, upon learning what has happened, they snap into further realization that Andre hat become a man. Parents come to the shop, the mother believing her husband had the affair with the child-wife. The father's conversation with the boy, who tells him why he had been un- happy at home, is almost tender. On the mother's side, when she discov- ers she is a grandmother, it is the funniest bit in the show. As they exit, the idea of marriage is men- tioned, but the father says it would look like a first Communion, what with the- lad still in short pants—at mother's insistence. She does say he'll have to have long ones now. Montgomery Clift is the actual lead as the boy Andre and he gives a clever performance. His anxiety when Leonie is about to give birth may seem strange, but it is believ- able in that he is afraid to tell his parents. At the time he is kept at home for a kids' party. Morgan James as his buddy, turns in a very good performance. Lois Hall, as Leonie, looks the part of the child- wife, a sweet, pleasant girl. Jessie Royce Landis plays the mother, giddy in the second act, then working up the comedy values in the third. Onslow Stevens is the father, also a well handled assign- ment. Harry Irvine quite okay as a doctor and Thomas Coffin Cooke makes a small part stand out dis- tinctly. Jbee. HELLZAPOPPIN' Revue In two acts, presented by Olsen and Johnson. Staged by Edward Duryea Darling; dances by Bob Alton and Mar- Jorie Fielding, Features Olsen & Johnson, Barto & Mann, Radio Rogues (3), Hal Sherman, Kay Kinney & Aloha Maids (3), Bettymae & Beverly Crane, The Chariot- eers (4), Theo Hardeen. Others: Walter Nllsson, Reed Sisters, Joe Wong, Shirley Wayne, Billy Adams, The Starlings. At 40th Street theatre, N. Y., opening Sept. 22, '38: $3.30 top. _—_ t Olsen and Johnson, plus a dash of the Shuberts and a large sprig from the old NVA roster, total the mad- dest cocktail fed the NeW York thea- tre since Clayton, Jackson and Du- rante first wrecked the Palace stage some years back. Its heavy hoke, zany slapstick and blank-cartridge explosions must leave the audience quite shell-shocked; if only mode- rately received, it will at least be heard during its Broadway run. 'Hellzapoppin' stems from the tall corn districts, but could have been a 100% wow for'the metropolis. While in its present form it looks destined for greater - success in the sticks, a dash of more class and at least one whistleable tune would have put it in the standout hit class on Broad- way. As is, it's merely a glorified -version and composite of - the numer- ous Olsen and Johnson vaudeville units—entertaining, racy, fast, loud, but possibly not a $3.30 buy for very long. O. and J. are billed as presenting as well as starring in the revue, but they are not holding the full finan- cial bag. Also interested in putting up the production coin, as well as providing the theatre, are the Shu- berts, although the backdrops are cheap and the costuming unimpres- sive. From start to finish, 'Hellzapoppin' makes no pretentions of being any- thing else but lowest of vaude's low comedy. Little more could have been expected along these lines from O. and J., whose expert slapstick didoes in the picture houses are now known from coast to coast. Cast is. strictly vaude wth only a couple of radio ,exceptions, the Radio Rogues (3) and the Charioteers, male Negro quartet. Barto and Mann, knock- about comedy team, only a few weeks ago at Loew's State, on Broadway; Hal Sherman, hoofer; Bettymae and Beverly Crane, sister dance team; Ray Kinney and the Aloha M'aids (3), Hawaiian s. and d. turn; Walter Nilsson, cyclist; Hardeen (Houdini's brother), magician; Reed Sisters, singers; Billy Adams, colored hoofer, Shirley Wayne, comedy fid- dler,, and Joe Wong, Chinese tenor, all hail from variety and nitery ranks. In the main, they comprise a good vaudeville show, but it's non- name vaude stretched almost to thei breaking point to fill out this rev -'s two and a half hours. Show has three .distinct standouts. First is the opening film trailer, a tongue-in-the-cheek piece of com- edy that's a surefire howl. Depicts President Roosevelt extolling 'Hell-; zapoppin', the dubbed-in wordage perfectly fitting; then Hitler speak- ing in a Hebe dialect, John L. Lewis and finally Mussolini, with a deep- South drawl, that had the first-night audience screaming. It should make the German and Italian legations in N. Y. quite purplish. No. 2 sock are Bettymae and Beverly Crane, young, graceful tap and toe dancers, who will add class and personality to any setting, nitery, revue or vaude. Third is the femme singing duet billed as The Starlings. They lend an op- eratic touch to a couple of the show's tunes and are good enough to almost sing the mediocre songs into the hit class. Otherwise, it's a series of weak blackouts and^ wild roughhouse, with O. and J. pacing and taking part in almost everything. Stooges run wild in the audience; there's a guy trying to sell good seats to *I Married An Angel'; a dame goes through the au- dience shouting for her 'Oscar'; a worried florist carrying a small plant, which eventually grows into a large tree, keeps looking for a 'Mrs. Jones'; balloon and peanut salesmen; gorillas chasing femmes in Plays Out of Town A Woman's a Fool—To Be Clever Philadelphia, Sept. 21. Comedy by Dorothy Bennett and Link Hannah; presented by John Wlldberg, Staged by Frank Merlin. Settings, Don- ald Oenslager. Features Ian Keith, Vera Allen, Hulla Stoddard. At the Eiianger, Philadelphia, Sept. 20. '38. Christine Foster ....Vera Allen Jeff Foster Ian Keith Eddie Sommers Edwin Phillips Major , Ed Green Minerva Hlmmel Sandra Stanton Nina Suffleve Holla Stoddard Lew Lerner Donald Foster Josephine Lerner Edith Melser Rosemary Llttleproud. Margie Ann Kaufman First non-musical tryout of the year to hit Philadelphia is 'A Wom- an's a Fool—To Be Clever/ which was attended by a generally favor- able press-.opening night. John" Wildberg, the producer, has given this comedy a neat physical production and a better-than-aver- age cast. In the old days, the show would have been characterized as 'a nice little show' and would, under that rating, have won moderate suc- cess. 'Nice little shows' now have a small part in the theatrical scheme of things, and for that reason play doesn't rate exceptional chances on Broadway although, it demonstrated enough stuff in its original 1938 strawhat presentations (Great Neck, N. Y., and Stony Creek, Conn.) to warrant this commercial production. Plot of this collaborative effort of Dorothy Bennett and Link Hannah (both associated in other theatrical enterprises) concerns a retired, ma- turing actor and his playwrighting spouse, who have left Broadway flat and retired to what they fondly hope and believe will be a peaceful and comfortable middle-age in Bermuda. Peace and comfort might have been possible if Jeff and Christine Foster hadn't insisted on writing plays during their Caribbean calm. The writing of one play, however, resulted in a near breakup of their domestic bliss. A young lady with stage aspirations, hailing from Brooklyn, for the sake of 'original- ity/ masquerading as an emotional Russian star by the name of Nina Suffieva, comes all the way down to Bermuda in the hope of winning a leading role in the Fosters' new play. Beguiling in appearance and not unendowed with gray matter, she decides to try her feminine wiles on Jeff. Being an ex-matinee idol, he's extremely susceptible and, for a while, it looks as if the Foster house- hold would be disrupted. However, Nina overreaches her- self; Jeff finds out that he is too old for midnight flirtations, and Chris- tine, by letting wifely sagacity take precedence over normal, green-eyed jealousy, defeats her younger rival and keeps her husband's love and devotion. The play improves as it carries on, last act being decidedly the best. Better-sustained pace and dialog that holds to the intended epigram- matic and 1 ironic mood is needed, though" Subtle and polished wisecracks, when spug_.ov6r a comedy's usual two and-^r half hour period (inci- dentally, this one. is short, with open- ing night's curtain upping at 9 and falling at 11), need a Coward or a Lonsdale to produce a full flavor of satisfaction. But the authors of this piece can't hold that pace. The authors are more successful with their characters, however. The aging author, Jeff Foster, still stage- conscious and trying, perhaps un- consciously, to fight against en- croaching middle-age, is solid and believable. So, too, is his wife, Chris- tine, although the authors have given her some of the play's weakest and most uninspired lines. The role of Nina is, to a certain extent, overwritten, but it provides meaty opportunities. Two of the sub- ordinate characters, a languid Broad- way producer and his brittle, wise- cracking wife, have a Philip Barry touch and provide much of the play's amusement. Ian Keith, making his first Phila- delphia stslge appearance in some time, scores as Jeff. Vera Allen triumphs over the ineptitude of her role of Christine. Haila Stoddard, as Nina, is effective. Edith Meiser, Eddie Green, Edwin Phillips, and Donald Foster also play capably. Di- rection, although generally able, could be sharpened. Waters. The Land That God Remembers Hollywood, Sept. 27. Musical drama wltta prolog, two acts, by Gordon D. Ayres; presented and directed by Ayros. Songs, 'The Land That God Remembers,' 'Fancy of My Hoart.' 'Broad- way Blues,* 'Prairie Stars,' and 'Room In My Heart for Rent,' by Peggy Montgomery and Splko Fcatherstone. At the Wllshlre- Ebcll. L.A., opened S*>pt. 23, '38. Cast: Gordon Ayres, Robert Howell Terry, Ken MoMUlnn, Lorraine Ardon, Barbara Boudwln, Charles . Bancroft, Peggy Montgomery, Wade Dinning, Jimmy Boudwln. Good story basis that fails to regis- ter due to cast weakness. Musical contains considerable dialog, five catchy tunes, and presents a grown- up 'Baby Peggy' Montgomery. Lack- ing pace, coordination between or- chestra and singers, and sadly in need of a stronger romantic lead, musical drama will be short-lived unless changes are made. Plot has a new York legit pro- ducer taking cast of his western musical to Montana to awaken troupers to feel of the open spaces. Pl-|7, opens with prolog to plant the characters, then moves into first act, where scene is changed to the west. Introduction of one of the tunes, 'Broadway Blues/ was muffed when loudspeaker fizzled. Orchestra failed to supply proper accompaniment, lagging behind several bars in in- stances. Idea for piece was supplied by Miss' Montgomery and executed by Gordon D. Ayres. Former baby screen star proves She is song com- poser of ability, collabing with Spike Featherstone. Barbara Boudwin, with looks, voice and talent, stands out as cast's lead. Miss Montgomery also does okay. Robert Howell. Terry, Lor- raine Arden and Jimmy Boudwin give capable support. Title tune is best of the score. the boxes; spiders (puffed rioe), snakes, eggs and clothing tossed into the audience. And there's a belly laugh when Johnson asks a femme leaving the audience during the show where she's gdjing—and she tells him,^ distinctly?" -— The Barto and Mann knockabout specialty, split up^for two sections in the show, is.aS fjunny here as in vaude, but, because of the body grabs, comprises revue's only blue stuff; Sherman clicks solidly with his panto hoofery, but the ac- tual buck 'n' wing palm must go to. the colored Billy Adams, a half- :Pint rhythmic edition of Bill Robin- son; Walter Nilsson's unicycling is \Okay, but stretched too far for a sqIo spot in a show of this type; the Radio Rogues click solidly with their imitations of he w.k.s, while the Charioteers were a complete smash at the opening with their de- livery* of three songs, notably the stylistic rendition of 'Or Man Mose' and spiritualistic singing of 'Abe Lincoln,' original by Earl Robinson and Alfred Hayes. In the Hawaiian scenes at the close of the show's first and second halves, Ray Kinney, na- tive singer, and the hula-hula Aloha Maids, three brown-skinned lookers, add a lot to the tune, 'It's Time to Say Aloha.' Hardeen's illusions are good in the hokey touch O. and J. give 'em, while the Reed sisters are fair hotcha singers. Sammy Fain and Charles Tobias are credited with writing the lyrics and music for the show, but they provided only three songs, 'Fuddle Dee Duddle/ 'Aloha' and 'Shaganola.' Another tune, 'When You Look in Your Looking Glass/ was provided by Paul Mann and Stephen Weiss. If nothing else, 'Hellzapoppin' should be viewed by the major cir- cuit heads. It's an object lesson in how entertaining vaude can be, and probably many will look at it with an eye to this show's smash- possi- bilities at pop prices if cut down to a totally mad 60 or 70 .minutes to fit with a picture. Scho. YOU NEVER KNOW Musical comedy in two acts presented at the Winter Garden, New York, Sept.. 21, by the Shuberts, In association with John Shubcrt; Clifton Webb, Lupe Velez and Llbby Holman starred; music by Cole Porter and.Robert Katscher; adapted from original of Siegfried Geyer, Katscher and Karl Farkas by Rowland Leigh; dances staged by Robert Alton; f!.30 top. Gaston Clifton Webb Baron De Romer.... Rex O'Malley Chauffeur Eddie Gale Ida Courtney Toby Wing Maria Lupe Velea Henri Ballln Charles Kempor Mme. Baltln Llbby Holman Headwalter Roger Stearns Louis Wesley Bender Geoffrey, .' Dan Harden General Carruthers Truman Galge Comptroller Ray Dennis 'You All Know/ a musical of the intimate type, traipsed around the east last spring with varying reports, mostly to the effect that it was not so hot. Same goes for the show as now disclosed on Broadway and a limited stay is indicated, despite the names in the cast, most of whom are either starred or featured in the Shubert manner. Show is based on 'By Candlelight,' of Viennese origin, which proved a fairly good draw at the Empire in 1929, with Gertrude Lawrence, Les- lie Howard and Reginald Owen top- ping. •Know' follows the original closely, too much so, with the result that it is mildly amusing at best. There are enough people present to provide mirth, but the material was not provided. Cole Porter is emphasized as top score writer, but the- songs are No. 2 stuff from the clever lyricist. Pro- duction has been brightened up over that seen on the road. Opening night performance was much too long and the second act specialties tossed in did not deter too many in the audience from taking a walk some time before the finale. Lupe Velez wasn't quite a hurri- cane, but turned in the best indi- vidual performance. Fiery little (Continued on page 58)