By Peter Filichia —
It’s one of the worst-kept secrets of musical theater. Many a song that was written for one musical wound up dropped – but some time later wound up in another show.
I’m not counting interpolated songs that went into already existing properties; for example, when 42nd Street came to the stage in 1980, it added plenty of songs that weren’t in the original 1933 film. Nor do I mean A Class Act. There, excellent songs that Edward Kleban had written decades earlier wound up in his life story that Lonny Price and Linda Kline later wrote. And I’m not talking about scores like Kismet, which mainly consists of Borodin’s music that was later adapted (albeit wonderfully) without his knowledge.
No, I’m citing songs that a composer wrote for one property and then, when the song failed to make the final cut, he himself decided to use it in another.
For example, Rodgers and Hammerstein originally wrote “Loneliness of Evening” for Lieutenant Cable in South Pacific. It didn’t make it to Broadway, but about sixteen-going-on-seventeen years later, Rodgers put it in the 1965 remake of Cinderella.
“Steam Heat” was a pop song that Richard Adler (alone) had written when he was a starving artist and living in an apartment that had very noisy steam heat. He put it in The Pajama Game some years later. Frank Loesser had fashioned “Take Back Your Mink” as a pop song, too, long before Guys and Dolls saw Broadway.
Jerry Herman’s “The Man in the Moon (Is a Lady),” now a Bea Arthur showcase in Mame, was originally earmarked as a song to be sung by some Harmonia Gardens entertainer in Hello, Dolly! Can anyone disagree that Herman had a better idea in having the waiters sing as Dolly entered?
And here’s a truth: Lena Horne didn’t introduce “Ain’t It the Truth?” in Jamaica in 1957; she’d recorded it 14 years earlier for the film version of Cabin in the Sky.
Actually, there is at least one case where a song DID make the first show and yet was used in a second one, anyway. Those who saw Fade Out—Fade In in 1964 heard a Jule Styne/Comden and Green melody called “Call Me Savage.” Three years later, the Styne melody was back in Hallelujah, Baby! — although Comden and Green had to do additional work to change it to “Witches Brew.”
That often happens: the composers sit back and rest on their melodies while the lyricist must return to work. Lee Adams had written “You Rat You” for the film The Night They Raided Minsky’s, but that didn’t stop composer Charles Strouse from handing his melody to lyricist Martin Charnin when they were writing Annie. Charnin turned it into Daddy Warbucks’ plaintive “Something Was Missing” albeit at a much slower tempo than the razz-ma-tazz one Strouse originally gave it.
When The King and I was in New Haven – and needed a charm song for Anna to sing when she was getting to know the Siamese children — Mary Martin suggested that Rodgers and Hammerstein adapt “Suddenly Lucky,” another song Lieutenant Cable had lost in South Pacific. Wasn’t the team suddenly lucky that Martin had visited the show during the tryout? “Getting to Know You” was the result. But once again, the lyricist had to go to work while the composer only had to pop his head into the lyricist’s hotel room and say, “Hey, Oscar – how’s it coming?”
Gypsy is often considered to have the best overture ever, and yet, for the record, its first two Jule Styne melodies are recycled ones: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” started life with a Sammy Cahn lyric: “I’m Betwixt, I’m Between.” As for “You’ll Never Get Away from Me,” it originated in a TV musical version of Ruggles of Red Gap, and was called “I’m in Pursuit of Happiness” with a lyric by Leo Robin. It was up to Stephen Sondheim to do the work, and do it well he did.
And speaking of Gypsy, Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh desperately wanted to write that score, and did a few songs on spec. One they penned for Baby June – “Dimples” – later showed up in Little Me.
Even if the melody isn’t changed, the composer sometimes can’t take it easy — if he’s the lyricist, too. When Jerry Herman was writing La Cage aux Folles, he thought the melody for “Beautiful” from his 1961 musical Madame Aphrodite would be just fine for Albin/Zaza in “A Little More Mascara.” And it was. Herman didn’t just revamp the lyric, but also a bit of the music, too, of “No Tune Like a Show Tune” from his 1960 revue Parade. It became “It’s Today” in Mame.
Sometimes the shows for which the songs were written were never produced. Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz originally had written “Before I Kiss the World Goodbye” for a musical version of Paul Gallico’s Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. When that show didn’t pan out, they thought the song would be just fine for their next musical. That one – Jennie — did make it to Broadway (at least for 10 weeks). Kander and Ebb had penned “A Certain Girl” for Golden Gate, a musical that took place the day after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. When that show failed to shake up producers’ interest, it was put aside and dusted off only years later for The Happy Time.
And given that Leroy Anderson was the original composer of Wonderful Town before he was removed in favor of Leonard Bernstein, one must wonder how many of his Wonderful Town melodies showed up five years later in his Goldilocks. The answer may well be none, for Anderson’s work was found wanting in Wonderful Town, and most every one of those Goldilocks songs is terrific.
But what songs emerged as the biggest hits the second time around? Certainly we’d have to include “Once upon a Time” from All-American. It was originally in a revue called What’s the Rush? that only played Long Island. It became a million-selling 45 r.p.m. record for Tony Bennett – well, at least in a manner of speaking. Virtually everyone bought the record for the song that was on the other side: “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” But obviously enough people turned over the disc, discovered the tune, and played it over and over again – for it made one of Tony Bennett’s Greatest Hits albums.
“The Man I Love” had been in three shows, but never could survive till opening night in any of them. It had to become a pop hit on its own. That leaves “Bill” to be the best-known cut song that eventually did thrive in a Broadway show. The torch song had had a very hard time of it before it took up permanent residence in Show Boat in 1927.
First it had a lyric by P.G. Wodehouse in 1918’s Oh, Lady Lady! Dropped from that show, it reappeared in Zip Goes a Million in 1919 with a new lyric by Buddy DeSylva, but was zipped from that show, too. There was even a version of “Bill” somewhere along the line where “bill” referred not to a man, but to a dollar bill. Not until Oscar Hammerstein took over did “Bill” fit the bill.
Should we chide composers and lyricists for taking a discarded song and using it again? No; writing a musical is hard enough, so songwriters deserve any break they can get. Let’s instead consider them pioneers in the recycling movement.
Peter Filichia also writes a column each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at www.theatermania.com/peterfilichia. His new book Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit & the Biggest Flop of the Season, 1959-2009 is now available through Applause Books and at www.amazon.com