Friday, July 27, 2007

Vanishing Musical

Hard to believe it could be so hard to reassemble a Lerner and Loewe musical, but if people don't make an effort to keep records together, stuff vanishes:
In February, Jim Morgan, the producing artistic director of the York Theater Company, was having a casual lunch with Floria V. Lasky, the president of the Frederick Loewe Foundation and the lawyer representing the Loewe estate. Talk turned to “Musicals in Mufti,” the York’s series in which rarely produced musicals are presented as concert performances. They pondered possible shows, and both hit upon “The Day Before Spring,” a lesser-known Lerner and Loewe musical that played on Broadway in 1945.

Mr. Morgan received permission to produce it, brought on the creative people, and all was well. Then he discovered a problem: nobody had the music.

...Moving ahead to 2007: It was not until Mr. Morgan had brought on Aaron Gandy as his musical director and David Glenn Armstrong as director that he discovered how little music there was to work with. Mr. Gross gave Mr. Morgan the score from the 1990 production, but everyone involved decided that it was so sketchy as to be essentially unusable.

“There was a point where I thought we may have to come up with something else because it was sort of dead end after dead end,” Mr. Morgan said.

Mr. Gandy called someone whom he thought might be able to help: Mark Horowitz, a senior music specialist at the Library of Congress. Mr. Gandy and Mr. Horowitz go back to the 1990s, having met when Mr. Gandy was doing research in the library’s Vincent Youmans collection.

Mr. Horowitz has been at the library since 1991 and specializes in its extensive music theater holdings; if anyone would know where to look, Mr. Gandy figured, Mr. Horowitz would.

And he did. As it happened, in November 1999, nine years after Mr. Bell’s production of “Spring,” the library bought a trove of Loewe documents at a Christie’s auction in Los Angeles. The material, which included additional songs for “Brigadoon,” songs written but unused for “My Fair Lady” and songs and sketches written for “Spring,” was described in the Christie’s catalog as having been a bequest from Mr. Loewe to “John Morris, artist and friend,” then a bequest from Mr. Morris to the unnamed owner who had put it up for auction.

Mr. Gandy went to Washington and combed through documents, sometimes solving puzzles that the library itself had yet to figure out: this page belongs with this song; this section goes here.

“Every song had a different set of materials that survived,” Mr. Gandy said. There were scores intended for rehearsal pianists, lead sheets and scribbled notes in pencil, songs that were missing lyrics but had stage directions. After five or six weeks of painstaking restoration work, Mr. Gandy was able to come up with what he said was nearly the entire original score.

And that is what people will hear tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at the York.

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