Everything's Coming up Roses

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"Everything's Coming Up Roses" is a song from the 1959 Broadway musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne. Introduced in the musical's inaugural production by Ethel Merman, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" became one of Merman's signature songs.

According to Sammy Cahn, the song had its genesis in the 1947 musical High Button Shoes, for which he was the lyricist. Cahn wrote lyrics for a song sung by a female character who can't decide between two men; the lyrics began:

I'm betwixt and between,
Have to make my mind up which way to lean.
Shall I stop? Shall I go?
I simply must make my mind up!
I'm between and betwixt,
Running in a race someone has fixed.
Is it to? Is it fro?
I wish I knew how I'll wind up!

Jule Styne, who was that musical's composer, wrote music for it, but the director decided the song didn't fit well into the show and removed it. When composing Gypsy, Styne decided to re-use the music for what became "Everything's Coming Up Roses", with new lyrics by Sondheim. It took Sondheim a week to come up with the title, the composer recalling: "The point was to [coin] a phrase that sounded as if it had been in the language for years but was in fact invented for the show." (The similar phrase, "come up smelling like roses" has in fact been in general usage since the early 20th century.) The show's director Jerome Robbins response to Sondheim's lyric was: "Everything's coming up Rose's what?" prompting Sondheim's assurance that "if anybody else has that confusion - anybody connected with the production, in the audience, any of your relatives - I will change the title".[1]

"Everything's Coming up Roses" is performed at the end of the first act of Gypsy by stage mother Rose, who has just learned her daughter June has eloped and in effect left the vaudeville act Rose has devoted her life to without a star. Rose's plain Jane-daughter Louise and Rose's longtime fiancee Herbie are relieved, believing Rose will now marry Herbie and the three can lead a settled life: Rose's reaction in fact is to make Louise the object of her dubious star-making abilities. The title "Everything's Coming up Roses" is a pun: besides "roses" representing happiness, the title is referencing the possessive "Rose's" as in Rose's way or "Rose" as in Rose becoming a star herself, through her daughter.

Ethel Merman biographer Brian Kellow notes that while objectively "Everything's Coming up Roses" seems "a big, brassy paean to the power of positive thinking...done in the old, electric Merman style", within the context of the show "the song becomes a chilling illustration of blind ambition mixed with megalomania". Kellow quotes Stephen Sondheim to the effect that while Merman's comedic prowess was "nonpareil" as showcased in Gypsy's first act she lacked the dramatic precision to be fully effective as the play grew darker; thus, Sondheim says of "Everything's Coming up Roses": "I wrote a song of the type that [Merman] had sung all her life, like [the Anything Goes number] 'Blow, Gabriel, Blow', which only requires a trumpet-voiced affirmation." However Sondheim adds that Merman performed the song with an "intensity [which] came as a surprise".[2]

The emergence of "Everything's Coming up Roses" as a Broadway anthem was evidenced by the song's melody being utilized to open and close the 14th Tony Awards ceremony held April 24, 1960 (ironically Gypsy took none of its eight Tony nominations).[3]

Jack Paar used an instrumental version of this song as the theme to The Tonight Show during the time that he hosted that show, as well as for his eponymous weekly prime time series that followed his tenure on Tonight.

In 1974 Ethel Merman appeared in a television advertisement singing new lyrics to the tune of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" to promote the Colgate-Palmolive dishwashing liquid Vel. That same year Merman recorded "Everything's Coming Up Roses" for her album Merman Sings Merman recorded with Stanley Black & the London Festival Orchestra. In 1979 Merman again recorded the song for her album Ethel Merman Disco Album. In her final film appearance, a cameo in the 1980 film Airplane! as shell-shocked soldier Lieutenant Hurwitz who believes he is Ethel Merman, Merman sings a few bars of "Everything's Coming Up Roses".

Other versions of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" include:

Cultural references[edit]

  • A 1986 Welsh movie was titled Coming Up Roses.
  • In the 1991 film The Fisher King, Michael Jeter sings an altered version titled "Everything's Coming Up Videos".
  • The tune has often been used by Paul Shaffer in his duties as bandleader for David Letterman.
  • A 1997 song by Jule Styne A Simple Wish Movie.
  • On the hit show Family Guy, Peter’s song “I’m Gonna Make You Famous” is a parody of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy: A Musical Fable.
  • The character Stuart Smalley listens to the song while jogging through the park in the film Stuart Saves His Family.
  • This song was also featured in the end of the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "Ben's Birthday".
  • In the Simpsons, season 9 episode 20, "The Trouble with Trillions", Waylon Smithers, Jr. is singing the song when Homer and Mr. Burns arrive to enlist his assistance in smuggling themselves and their fugitive trillion-dollar bill into Cuba. Eventually Fidel Castro steals it from them and they end up adrift on a raft, rueing their crime but with Mr. Burns promising to "bribe a jury" to ensure that they face no consequences for their bout of treason.
  • A 1971 album by Jack Wild was entitled Everything's Coming Up Roses taking its title from the track (Holy Moses!) Everything's Coming Up Roses which is a Biddu composition.
  • Rosemary Clooney had a 1977 album release entitled Everything's Coming Up Rosie. (Clooney had recorded "Everything's Coming Up Roses" as "Everything's Coming Up Rosie" for her 1960 album ''Clap Hands! Here Comes Rosie! but her Everything's Coming Up Rosie album does not feature any version of "Everything's Coming Up Roses".)
  • Stevie Wonder utilized the title "Everything's Coming Up Roses" for a composition which Eddie Murphy introduced on his 1985 album How Could It Be
  • The title "Everything's Coming Up Roses" has been utilized by composer Colin Vearncombe: Vearncombe's composition was introduced on the 1987 album Wonderful Life by Black, Black being Vearncombe's pseudonym as a singer. This song was also recorded by Lyriel whose version is featured on the extended edition of their 2012 album Leverage.[5]
  • Elliott Smith introduced his own composition "Coming Up Roses" on his 1995 self-titled album: another song entitled "Coming Up Roses" was recorded by Curve for their 1998 album Come Clean.

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Citron, Stepen (2001). Sondheim and Lloyd-Webber: The New Musical. New York City: Oxford University Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-19-509601-0. 
  2. ^ Brian Kellow. "Merman: A Life". Large print ed. Thorndike Press, Waterville ME (2008) ISBN 978-1-4104-0508-1 p.395-6
  3. ^ Caryl Flinn "Brass Diva: the life and legends of Ethel Merman" University of California Press Berkeley & LA CA (2007) ISBN 978-0-520-22942-6 p.309
  4. ^ Dick, Bernard F. (2006). Forever Mame: the life of Rosalind Russell. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. p. 209. ISBN 1-57806-890-8. 
  5. ^ "Leverage". Lyriel official homepage. Retrieved 13 April 2012.