Babes in Arms
|Babes in Arms|
Original Broadway Logo
|Book||Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart|
Babes in Arms is a 1937 musical comedy with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart and book by Rodgers and Hart. It concerns a group of small-town Long Island teenagers who put on a show to avoid being sent to a work farm by the town sheriff when their actor parents go on the road for five months in an effort to earn some money by reviving vaudeville.
The film version, released in 1939, starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and was directed by Busby Berkeley. Its radically revised plot retained only two songs from the original stage version — "Where or When" and "Babes in Arms". The film is credited with popularizing the "kids putting on a musical show for charity" trope.
The original version had strong political overtones with discussions of Nietzsche, a Communist character and two African-American youths who are victims of racism. In 1959 George Oppenheimer created a "sanitized, de-politicized rewrite" which is now the most frequently performed version. In the new version, the young people are trying to save a local summer stock theatre from being demolished, not trying to avoid being sent to a work farm. The sequence of the songs is drastically changed, the orchestration changed, and the dance numbers eliminated.
The sanitized version was the only one available for performance until 1998 when the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music presented the original version (with a few race references slightly re-edited.)
Babes in Arms opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on April 14, 1937, transferred to the Majestic Theatre on October 25, 1937, and closed on December 18, 1937 after 289 performances. The production, under the auspices of Dwight Deere Wiman, was staged by Robert B. Sinclair with choreography by George Balanchine. Settings were by Raymond Sovey, and costumes by Helene Pons. Hans Spialek created the orchestrations and Gene Salzer led the orchestra which included pianists Edgar Fairchild and Adam Carroll. The cast featured Mitzi Green, Ray Heatherton, and Alfred Drake, as well as the Nicholas Brothers
A studio cast recording starring Gregg Edelman as Val, Judy Blazer as Billie, Jason Graae as Gus, Donna Kane as Dolores, Judy Kaye as Baby Rose, Adam Grupper as Peter, with JQ and the Bandits as the Quartet and featuring the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra was released by New World Records in 1990.
On 20 July 2016 All Star Productions revived the original version at Ye Old Rose and Crown Theatre Pub, London. It was the first staging of the musical in the UK in almost 15 years. Theatre critic Darren Luke Mawdsley described the work as 'outmoded' stating that he "understand[s] why it has not been staged here in 15 years."
Plot of original 1937 version
Babes in Arms opens in Seaport, Rhode Island in the 1930’s. Val and Marshall’s vaudeville parents leave them behind to do the circuits. Val then meets Billie, a girl who has driven from the coast, only to have her car break down. They then sing a love song about how they feel as though they have met before (Where or When).
The Sheriff then visits them to inform them that they have to work at the work farm because they are not yet 21. They then decide that they will stick around instead and find another way to support themselves (Babes in Arms). The “kids” form a group with Val as the leader. After deciding nothing, except that violence is good, they disperse. Dolores, the Sheriff’s daughter, talks to Gus, her ex, who tries to woo her, failing. They then sing and flirt about how they do not care that their relationship is over (I Wish I Were in Love Again).
Marshall then arrives, jealous. Then Val enters mentioning that he has also kissed her, a fight begins and escalates when others enter. The sheriff comes in and the kids pretend to be dancing. This causes Val to decide to put on their own follies. The Sheriff decides to give them two weeks to put on the show (Babes in Arms Reprise).
Later, Val enters and tells Irving and Ivor to practice their number (Light on Our Feet). Lee then arrives and chastises his brother, Beauregard, for hanging out with “the blacks”. Billie then uses her womanly guiles to convince Lee to invest his money in the show. Lee then smears some of her lipstick on his cheek and convinces the boys that she kissed him. They then bring on “Baby Rose” a former child star to be in their show who performs a number she learned (Way Out West).
Billie then enters with a jealous Val. After calming him, they discuss the show. Lee does not want Irving and Ivan in the show, After learning this, Val leaves in a huff. Billie reflects on her romance with Val (My Funny Valentine). They transition into the day of show and show the final number of the follies performed by Baby Rose (Johnny One Note). Backstage, Lee and Val fight over letting Irving and Ivan go on despite their race. Val punches Lee and Irving and Ivan go and do the big dance finale (Johnny One Note Ballet).
Act 2 opens on the gang sitting despondently trying to cheer each other up because they are at the work farm (Imagine). Val comes in and calls them away to lunch, staying behind to inform Billie that his parents will be away for 3-4 more months. They talk and Val mocks Billies beliefs on luck and her immaturity (All at Once).
For the gang’s first night off, the sheriff is throwing a party in a field on Val’s property. The former communist Peter enters, having won money in a raffle, and proclaims that he is to travel the world and not share his money to which the gang is upset (Imagine Reprise). Cut to a surprisingly long ballet dream sequence of his travels (Peter’s Ballet). Continuing pre ballet he decides to invest the money (Imagine Reprise 2). Later at the party, the Sheriff attempts to make good with the kids. Billie tells Val that she plans on leaving The Farm for the road. Val insists on going with her before being called back to the kitchen. Billie sings about how she doesn’t mind driving around. She also talks about how she likes living on her own terms (Lady is a Tramp).
Peter returns to the party informing the crew that he lost all the money. The gang leaves following the radio for news of a cross atlantic flight and Deloris tells Gus that she will come work on the farm to be with him. He reacts by telling her how she doesn’t return his affections and drags him along (You are so Fair). After pretending to not care about each other they admit that they like each other.
The gang re-enters and listen to the radio. They realise the Aviator must make a forced landing, and in their field none the less! After much scrambling, they call the airport to get reporters to come, and Val decides to impersonate the aviator. The reporters believe his impersonation and the city decides to throw the aviator a party. After concocting a scheme, Billie takes control of the unconscious and tied up aviator and relishes in the fact that the gang treats her as an equal (Lady is a Tramp Reprise).
At the party, the gang repeatedly interrupts the mayor introducing the aviator to delay it. Performing a variety of musical numbers (Specialty: You are so fair, Imagine, My Funny Valentine, Light on Our Feet, and Lady is a Tramp). After The Aviator successfully does the speech the entire chorus performs a rousing closing number (Finale Ultimo).
Later revivals of original 1930s version
In addition to the revival of the 1930s original mentioned above, a City Center Encores! staged concert version of the same ran in February 1999, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall with Erin Dilly, David Campbell, Jessica Stone and Christopher Fitzgerald. 1976 Reconstructed 1937 Production under the supervision of Richard Rodgers. choreographed by Dennis Grimaldi and directed by David Kitchen and Dennis Grimaldi at The Cohoes Music Hall.
Other performances of the 1950s version
The musical was produced at the Chichester Festival Theatre from June 7, 2007 through July 7, 2007, and cast Judy Garland's daughter Lorna Luft as the domineering mother of former child star Baby Rose Owens. One reviewer complained that the musical seemed to have lost its legendary political bite, evidently unaware that this was the revised 1950s de-politicized version. She was given two new songs from neither the stage version nor the film in which her mother appeared. In 1985, Ginger Rogers directed a production in Tarrytown, NY that starred Randy Skinner and Karen Ziemba. Skinner also choreogaphed the show.
Characters and original Broadway cast
- Billie Smith – Mitzi Green
- Val Lamar – Ray Heatherton
- Marshall Blackstone – Alfred Drake
- Peter Jackson – Duke McHale
- Baby Rose – Wynn Murray
- Gus Fielding - Rolly Pickert
- Dolores Reynolds - Grace McDonald
- Ivor DeQuincy – Harold Nicholas
- Irving DeQuincy – Fayard Nicholas
- Lee Calhoun - Dana Hardwick
- Sheriff Reynolds - George Watts
Overture [including the Lamars’ act and the Blackstones’ act] — Orchestra
- "Opening Act I" — Orchestra
- "Where or When" — Billie & Val
- "Babes in Arms" — Val, Marshall, Billie & The Gang
- "I Wish I Were in Love Again" — Gus & Dolores
- "Babes in Arms - Reprise" — Marshall, Sheriff & The Gang
- "Light On Our Feet" with dance (originally the racially insensitive "All Dark People Are Light On Their Feet") — The DeQuincy Bros.
- "Way Out West" with dance break — Baby Rose & Men's Quartet
- "My Funny Valentine" — Billie
- "Johnny One Note" — Baby Rose
- "Ballet - Johnny One Note" including: — Orchestra
- Section 1: Tango and Jazz Ballet
- Section 2: The Scene Moves Backstage
- Section 3: Move Back to Ballet
- Section 4: Finale - Act I
Entr'acte — Orchestra
- "Imagine" — Men's Quartet, Baby Rose, Peter, & Marshall
- "All At Once" — Val & Billie
- "Imagine - Reprise #1" — Peter & The Men's Quartet
- "Peter's Journey (Ballet)" — Orchestra
- "Imagine - Reprise #2" — The Men's Quartet & Peter
- "The Lady Is a Tramp" with encore — Billie
- "You Are So Fair" with 2 dances — Gus & Dolores with Orchestra
- "Reprise: The Lady is a Tramp" — Billie
- "Specialty #1 (Light On Our Feet) & Specialty #2 (Imagine)" — Orchestra
- "Finale Ultimo" — The Gang with Val & Billie
- "Bows (Johnny One-Note)" — Orchestra
- "Exit Music (Where or When)" — Orchestra
- "Many Hit Songs in Babes in Arms". The Ottwawa Journal. 11 March 1961. p. 40. Retrieved 2 September 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Babes in Arms- staged concert production". 1999. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
- "UCLA Music workshop presents". Retrieved 3 August 2013.
- "Babes in Arms". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Babes in Arms All Star Productions, accessed July 23, 2016
- "Ye Old Rose and Crown Theatre Pub" yeolderoseandcrowntheatrepub.co.uk, accessed July 23, 2016
- Mawdsley, Darren Luke. " 'Babes in Arms', Ye Olde Rose and Crown – Review", everything-theatre.co.uk, July 2016
- Brantley, Ben."THEATER REVIEW; Ageless Fun, With the Beat And Bounce Of Springtime",The New York Times, February 13, 1999
- "The Spotlight" (PDF). Bethlehem, New Scotland. December 16, 1976. p. 7.
- What's On Stage, accessed May 12, 2009
- Liner Notes to cast recording with detailed synopsis of original 1937 version
- Detailed synopsis of revised 1950s version
- Internet Broadway Database listing
- "Babes in Arms songs, plot, production notes"
- "Babes in Arms" production information, Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization
- The Judy Garland Online Discography "Babes In Arms" pages.