Could SWEET BYE AND BYE be the greatest theatre score no one's ever heard? It certainly boasts an amazing pedigree: music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by Ogden Nash, a book by S. J. Perelman and Al Hirschfeld. It crashed and burned during its pre-Broadway … see full wiki
Sweet Bye and Bye, a 1946 musical that never made it to Broadway, was a disaster despite a pedigree that had music and lyrics written by Vernon Duke and Ogden Nash and a book by S. J. Perlman and Al Herschfeld. From what I’ve read, it deserved its fate. Not only was it set in the future, it labored under the need to be a light hearted, sardonic, humorous and even gentle satire about business…but the four creators didn’t add up to Brecht and Weill. As it happened, the two book writers had one kind of musical in mind and the songwriters had another. Songs were cut, including the best ones. Casting was awful.
What we only have now to go by is the new release on CD by psclassics of the complete score as it has been reconstructed. If you like old Broadway musicals and Vernon Duke, this is an album worth getting. Duke was a good friend and protégé of George Gershwin. Not too many people may remember him, but many of his songs have lasted, especially the great score for Cabin in the Sky, and the songs April in Paris, Autumn in New York and I Can’t Get Started. He was a sophisticated, intelligent composer and his songs reflect that.
The score for Sweet Bye and Bye, in my opinion, is variable. There are a number of patter songs and recitatives that most likely were set after Nash wrote the lyrics. I found them interesting the first time I listened to them, but after that I wasn’t entranced by the lyrics and the music didn’t stimulate much interested. (I’ve listened to them several times since and my opinion hasn’t changed.)
But Duke and Nash came up with three extraordinary songs that have been – and shouldn’t be – forgotten. This album is worth the price just for these three.
Sweet Bye and Bye sets the musical, describing a future that will be wonderful. It doesn’t take long to realize the description is nothing but clichés. Duke’s music is clever.
Round About is sad and poignant: You go round about and round about And round about you go For an olden spell is wound about the game. Then it’s ring around and swing around Your partners as you go But the more they change, the more they are the same…
Born Too Late, so plaintive: Born too late, No more worlds to conquer. Born to late, All the deeds are done. Long ago, somewhere around the corner, Slumbered a princess Waiting to be won. The sky was bright with fiery dragons, Mermaids filled the softly singing sea. Now the sea and the sky are humdrum, And the princess, where is she? Faint and far, I can hear the music Fade and die. Leave me with my fate. Faint and far, I can hear the princess sighing, You were born too late.
You’ll never know just how good these songs are unless you hear Vernon Duke's music.