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THE OTHER DO RE MI By Peter Filichia

And speaking of Comden and Green – which I did last Tuesday – J2 Spotlight Productions will present their 1960 musical DO RE MI this week and next.

Make no mistake: DO RE MI has nothing to do with THE SOUND OF MUSIC – although the sound of Jule Styne’s music complements Comden and Green’s lyrics extraordinary well.

You may well wonder why the three would select DO RE MI as their title only 13 months after Rodgers and Hammerstein had debuted one of their most famous, beloved and clever songs. Styne, Comden and Green knew that that familiar phrase had already made its mark on Broadway. So, why choose it?

For that matter, the three songwriters had a more obvious title staring them in their faces. They must have sensed early on that they had a hit song in “Make Someone Happy.” Styne’s strong melody nicely complemented Comden and Green’s tender advice that “Once you’ve found her, build your world around her.”

One can even hear Comden, in Styne’s Park Avenue home, saying, “This will be our biggest hit song since ‘Just in Time’!” Perhaps Green would add, “Even bigger than ‘The Party’s Over’!”

(Both of those, back in 1956, helped the trio’s BELLS ARE RINGING to a 924-performance run.)

MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY wasn’t chosen as the show’s title because DO RE MI was based on a Garson Kanin work by that name. He wrote it in 1955, four years before THE SOUND OF MUSIC brought the R&H song into the mainstream.

Kanin was the power behind the show. He didn’t hand over the book duties to Comden and Green, who had routinely written their own libretti. This time they’d “only” do lyrics. How could they object when Kanin said he wanted to write all the dialogue and direct as well, for who knew his novella better than he?

Hmmm, perhaps “novella” is too grandiose a term. Kanin’s work is all of 89 pages long – and 22 of them are filled with Hirschfelds.

Is that how our all-time favorite caricaturist got the job of doing the logo? You can still see it on the original cast album, as star Phil Silvers is tipping his hat with a semi-smile that shows a bit of insecurity.

Silvers played Hubie Cram, whom Kanin originally conceived as a small-time semi-hood who’d served six-to-ten months at the Manhattan Correctional Center for carrying concealed weapons. The musical wisely dropped all that and just made Hubie “a dreamer, a schemer.” His lack of success consternated his wife Kay who urged him to “Take a Job.”

It’s a witty song enhanced by the star who sang it: Nancy Walker. If you don’t know her, DO RE MI provides you with one of the best introductions you could have to this remarkable talent. She gets another showpiece later when she gladly concedes that living with Hubie provides “Adventure.”

The plot had Hubie learn that those who owned jukeboxes received 100% of the quarters the machines swallowed; restaurant and bar owners who accommodated them got nothing. So, Hubie decided to go into the business and give the boites 10%. How could they say no to him? And, as he told his seedy friends in the show’s big number, “It’s Legitimate!”

(By the way, Phil Silvers’ trademark quip was a jaunty “Hello, hello!” which he’d already established in many movies and TV shows. Comden and Green were careful to put these two words in the song, which undoubtedly amused theatergoers who were then familiar with him.)

John Henry Wheeler, who’d been monopolizing the jukebox business, isn’t at first threatened by his new competitor. Indeed, Hubie’s initial foray into a pancake house is a bust because management is pleased with its folksinger who can “Cry Like the Wind.”

She’s Tilda Mullen, who has no “Ambition,” much as Hubie tries to instill some in her. “Don’t you have the urge to make it?” he demands to know. Only when she realizes that the money she’d accumulate could help her depressed Virginia town, does she agree. Soon she’ll have a romance with John Henry Wheeler, who’ll ask her to “Make Someone Happy” – namely, he.

Tilda’s recording of “What’s New at the Zoo?” becomes a hit. In an age where both young and older Americans enjoyed such songs as “The Witch Doctor,” “The Purple People Eater” and “Monster Mash,” here was a spoof of such novelties. This parody of rock ‘n’ roll (as rock was called then) has animals in captivity grousing about their crowded conditions:

“‘Ouch! You’re stepping on my pouch!’ to the bear said the kangaroo.

‘Oh! You’re stepping on my toe!’ to the kangaroo said the gnu.”

Many years after DO RE MI’s 400-performance Broadway run, What’s New at the Zoo? became a 9-by-12-inch children’s picture book. Phyllis Newman, Green’s widow, had an artist named Travis Foster illustrate each lyric. So not only did Foster make sure that the bear, kangaroo and gnu were represented, but he ensured that a chimpanzee, elephant, giraffe, goose, moose, porcupine, swine, seal and wolf were also in the mix, each one colorfully emblazoned on 35 pages.

Children had so much to take in that they probably didn’t notice that tiny picture of the window card that DO RE MI issued soon after its excellent reviews were published. Walter Kerr’s assessment in the Herald Tribune was stated first and foremost: “Grand fun! Delectable!” Robert Coleman’s belief in the Mirror was there to anoint DO RE MI as “a smasheroo!”

Actually, producer David Merrick had plenty of quotations from which to choose. DO RE MI was also called “a great big razzle-dazzle of a musical” (Chapman, News), “a brassy and bountiful blockbuster” (McClain, Journal American) and “tuneful, funny and delightful.” (Watts, Post).

“Funny and delightful” were adjectives often bestowed on Comden and Green, who were famous for their quirky song ideas. (Exhibit A: “One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man” from their WONDERFUL TOWN.) They certainly came up with a sensational notion with “The Late, Late Show.”

When the inevitable confrontation between Hubie and John Henry occurs, Hubie is of course terribly frightened, but he needs his partners to think that he’s brave enough to take on the mogul. So, Hubie has a marvelous brainstorm. He’ll ask John Henry if he watches “The Late, Late Show,” which was then a staple of all three networks. Old films got their second lives in the wee small hours of the morning. Many of them were gangster movies. So, Hubie – by quoting some threatening lines such as “Listen, punk” and “All right, wise guy” – could make his pals who overheard him assume that he was pressuring John Henry, while the jukebox titan assumed that he was merely reminiscing on the films of yore.

The real surprise came at the end, where Hubie has his own moment of introspection in “All of My Life.” It will remind you of a Styne song that Broadway had first heard 18 months earlier: “Rose’s Turn.” Here, too, Comden and Green wrote for their star, adding his other trademark phrase: “Funny? Funny?”

But hear how Hubie meant it quite differently, be it on the original cast album or through the upcoming production. DO RE MI – which we can at least fancifully call “Broadway’s first jukebox musical” – plays April 19-28 at the AMT Theatre at 354 West 45th Street. Performances are Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $60. Visit and make yourself happy.

Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on His new book – BRAINTEASERS FOR BROADWAY GENIUSES – is now available on Amazon and at The Drama Book Shop.