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BWW Blog: Jordan Grubb and Noah Plomgren of Goodspeed's GUYS & DOLLS - Frank Loesser Fantasy Jukebox

What's up BroadwayWorld?! Welcome back to my weekly blog here at the Goodspeed Opera House! Last week I gave you a bit of an inside look at the rehearsal/production process of our show. This week, I thought it might be fun to get to know a bit more about the Composer / Lyricist of this masterpiece: Frank Loesser.

Frank Loesser is the composer not just of Guys and Dolls, but of quite a few other hits including the Pulitzer Prize winning How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Most Happy Fella, Greenwillow, Where's Charley? and many others. He was born in New York City in the year 1910 into a very musical family, his father was a pianist. Before becoming a composer, Loesser worked a number of odd jobs growing up, including sketch writing for vaudeville shows and drawing political cartoons for a newspaper.

Then Loesser got his start in songwriting with Tin Pan Alley - the name refers to songwriters and publishers who made up the majority of the popular music of that era. He spent the next few years writing various songs for different revues and films and continued to do so while serving in the Air Force during World War II.

In 1948, his first Broadway musical, Where's Charley? hit the boards. It was a giant hit and ran a whopping 792 performances. His next big hit was with a song called "Baby Its Cold Outside" (ever heard of it?). Loesser would perform this song at parties with his then-wife Lynn Garland. MGM wanted it in one of their next movies, so in 1949, it showed up in the film "Neptune's Daughter" where it went on to win that year's Academy Award for Best Original Song.

His next big hit was Guys and Dolls (which we are lucky enough to be performing eight times a week out here in Connecticut) in 1950 - it swept the Tony Awards that season. Frank went on to write a great big handful of hits, including the shows mentioned above. The last musical of his ever produced was a show called Pleasures and Palaces which unfortunately closed out of town. When he died from lung cancer at the age of 59, he was working on a musical entitled Señor Discretion Himself or as his wife Jo likes to call it, "The Mexican Show". The show was not produced until the year 2004 at Arena Stage, where our very own cast member Carlos Lopez was lucky enough to be a part of it.

Now, I must admit that I am not incredibly familiar with the Frank Loesser canon, so to explore it more, I thought it might be fun to talk to our cast about their favorite Loesser songs in a "game" I like to call "The Frank Loesser Fantasy Jukebox".

I asked each of our cast members what their favorite tune of his was and why. Interestingly, the most overwhelming response I received was the song "My Time of Day" from our show, Guys and Dolls. Michael Bullard loved this song because "It's the black sheep of the show. It doesn't follow the format or structure of any of the other songs and it's when we finally see Sky let his defensives down - a really beautiful moment- it's really interesting, dissident melody, and provides a great opportunity for the actor/singer to let vocal expression do the work." My hilarious partner in crime Scott Cote (Nicely-Nicely) loved this song because "It encapsulates so well the feeling of being awake and walking around the city at dawn and for me every time I hear it I can almost smell the rain washed pavement. It's just that good." Carlos Lopez loved this song as well, in particular, Peter Gallagher's performance in the 1992 Broadway revival (which Mr. Lopez was also lucky enough to be a part of). And finally, Ian Saunders loved "My Time of Day" because "I've actually been singing this song since High school and really enjoy the great imagery the lyrics hold as well as the jazzy melody. It wasn't until during this show, when I heard how the overture starts with the solo saxophone on the melody that I heard my favorite rendition. Hearing that saxophone every performance before I go on stage sets the right mood and it just embodies the Jazz genre of music." Here's a clip of Peter Gallagher recording the song for the '92 cast album.

One of my favorite clips to watch is from a movie called "Happy Go Lucky" that Loesser wrote this next song for. Betty Hutton sings a song called "Murder, He Says" and she is WILD. I'm obsessed with her performance. Check it out here.

Loesser also wrote the songs for the movie "Red Hot and Blue", in particular, this brilliant song where Betty Hutton gives us the entire synopsis of Hamlet in just a few minutes. This is another one of my favorites.

Speaking of Betty Hutton, fellow cast member Christine Cornish Smith (who I believe is the next Betty Hutton) loves the song "Slow Boat to China" especially this rendition sung by Peggy Lee and Bing Crosby.

Our lovely Manna Nichols, who plays Sarah Brown, loved the song "Warm All Over" from The Most Happy Fella because "I love how the song SOUNDS warm and just blossoms!!! And how can you not love the lyrics 'Please always let me keep feeling the way I do, so warm all over with a tender love for you'" Here's a wonderful rendition sung by Jo Stafford.

Our wonderful Kim Sava had quite a few favorites, one of them being "Coffee Break" from How to Succeed... which I share a giant love for as well. Scott Cote loved "It's Been A Long Day" from this same score because "The lyrics are great, the tune is infectious and I think it's a perfect example, in song , of what two people who are attracted to each other, think about what the other is thinking about them." Here's a great clip of that song from the 1967 film version of the musical.

Michael Biren also loved this show, in particular this gospel arrangement of "The Brotherhood of Man" from the 1995 revival of How to Succeed... Lillias White sounds RIDICULOUS on this.

Our brilliant dance captain Michael Callahan's favorite Loesser song is "Once In Love With Amy" from Where's Charley? "This is one of the first songs I had to learn for an audition in NYC. It is charming; however, musically, it is more difficult than it appears." Here's a fun clip of The Muppets performing the song.

Before I sign off, I'll leave you with an interesting tidbit that Michael Bullard shared with me: "In the 40's - 60's, there was rumored to have been a lot of ghost writers for certain musicals. In Meredith Wilson's The Music Man, it was rumored that Frank Loesser wrote the beginning and end of 'My White Knight', one of the most iconic soprano ballads in the musical theatre canon. There is a lot of debate about whether or not this is true, but even skeptics admit that Loesser at the very least recommended to Wilson to make it a ballad rather than the patter song he had in mind. I like to think that, again, with 'My White Knight' being the black sheep of that show, Loesser had a bigger hand to play in its development. But that will probably stay one of the great mysteries of show-biz!"

Thanks so much for reading and I'll see y'all again next week! And if you get a chance, come check us out in Guys and Dolls running here at the Goodspeed Opera House through June 20. Peace out!

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