Wednesday, August 20, 2008

HEARTS AND BLOSSOMS

Yet another from the team of Lida Larrimore Turner and RM Stults, HEARTS AND BLOSSOMS (1925) is an intruiging study in missed opportunities.

The plot is a mindless as any musical of the mid-20s: Poor Boy loves Rich Girl. In this particular variation, we have the saga of Jerry and Marie. A promising lawyer, he isnt quite a poor boy, but her mother doesnt approve of him because... well, he's poor.

To make life worse for Mom, the summer hotel where they're staying now sees the arrival of Matthew Brandon, who was once Mom's boyfriend until something never quite stated happened, and now -- even three decades after the fact -- she still cant stand the sight of him. But it gets better -- or worse, depending on your point of view -- Matthew's nephew Philip is love with Marie's sister June. As such, Philip and June must meet in secret and communicate via such things as leaving primrose petals for each other to say "I love you". Mom is about ready to pack up and leave when Jerry and Marie hit on the successful idea of taking advantage of her belief in dreams and superstition by making up a dream involving a lost document that assures both her daughters will marry into money.

Somehow, the made-up dream becomes more "real", because now June tells Jerry he has to find this mysterious document (that he made up, I think, but anyway... no one said operetta heroines were especially bright, right?). Confusion reigns for the next seventy odd pages, with lost books and buried boxes and, of course, a scattering of primrose petals, but by the end everyone's happily coupled off, and that's pretty much that.

The pity of a work like HEARTS AND BLOSSOMS is that the author and composer, by and large, ignore some real possibilities. Mama's interest in dreams and such and Jerry's plan to create one whole-cloth is one place where you would *expect* to see something in song, but instead it's covered in a few lines of dialogue and then forgotten. In fact, most of the score is pretty pedestrian, with the usual sappy duets and a sorta-comic "I remember it well" song for Mom and Uncle Matthew, which is strewn with mis-remembered memories. Also, for something that revolves around three inter-related couples, there's little parts work -- only one somewhat uninteresting quartet for the younger couples that provides the framework for the finale, but nothing that plays on the possibilities of all six singing at once. Given that this came from the same team that wrote BETTY LOU: DREAM GIRL, it's sadly disappointing.

But it's not a complete washout, because they've also given us two highly (and you have to excuse what must appear to be a bad pun) colourful characters: the bellhop and maid, Samson and Malindy, whose relationship is almost a breath of fresh air compared to the tightly composed and predictable angst of the guests. Samson and Malindy are both black, and the author and composer give them a truly showstopping sequence: a ragtime duet, "Heartbreakin' Gal", followed by a banjo strum dance. Unlike other musical numbers in the show, where things just come to a full stop so Jerry can sing to Marie, the dialogue, music, and lyrics for Samson and Malindy's big number all work in tandem to create a great scene. Further, although saddled with lines that are almost embarrassingly awful -- one has Malindy making a snap about all the monkeys in Samson's family tree -- these two share a playful yet genuine affection for each other that makes the other romantic entanglements seem all the more two-dimensional and "stagey". In that regard (and probably in that regard alone), HEARTS AND BLOSSOMS provides an interesting contrast to most of the high school operettas of the 20s and 30s, as the secondary characters are vastly more interesting and complex (well, as complex as things can be) than the people we're actually supposed to care about.

Note: I recently acquired the score to a 1931 Warner Brothers operetta, CHILDREN OF DREAMS, written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Sigmund Romberg. Starring Margaret Schilling, the film itself has been lost, but during its release, Warners apparently tried to do some second-tier marketing by publishing the movie script and score, including the incidental music. There's not a whole lot known about the film: the synopsis in the NYTimes archive seems to be the standard, because it's repeated verbatim on three other sites. Turner Classic Films apparently owns the rights but no copy. According to my friend Randy, who runs the Old Time Radio blog mentioned in my entry on BELLE OF BAGHDAD, publishing songs from a movie was a common practice, but this is the first such complete score I've seen. Because of its sheer obscurity, I'll be intruiged to see what it's about.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH SALLY?

In case you havent noticed, some of these little gems come with their own moral lessons, and it seems that the younger the intended performer, the more the lesson has to be bludgeoned. So it is with WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH SALLY? (1923) by Cynthia Dodge, a work written for elementary students, with high schoolers playing the "adults".

Poor Sally. So rich. So spoiled. Such a product of her environment. What Sally wants, Sally gets, and her mother has somehow missed this until seeing the much-better-mannered daughter of one of her society friends. So she hits on the bright idea to ask an old school acquiantance, who now runs an orphanage, to take Sally as an "orphan" for a few weeks so she might learn a little humility towards those less fortunate than her. Never mind that Mom and Dad are headed to New York for a breather from their little darling; that's just something Sally doesnt really need to know right now.

So Sally petulantly gives in and lives with the orphans for a while. While they're all incredibly nice towards her, she returns the favour by being as snot-nosed as possible, demeaning their clothing, their toys, just about everything she can (Were I one of the orphans, she wouldnt have made it to Act Two alive, but anyway...). But Miss Jeffries, the long-suffering teacher, sees possibilities in our spoiled little rich girl -- and before long, guess what! Sally's now kind and considerate and invites all of the orphans to her house for a party as the curtain mercifully falls.

It's a simple-minded little show that merits no more nor less than passing comment, save that poor Miss Jeffries has to endure the reams of exposition laid on her by Lucy Donnelly, Sally's mom, who married well after graduation from college. Her life is so wonderful because she's so rich and her husband is so handsome and... well, you get an idea where Sally's selfishness comes from. Actually, for all its simplicity, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH SALLY has some intruiging psychological underpins, especially for the chorus of orphans. For example, in Act Two, two of the girls are playing with paper dolls and sing:

I am a Paper Doll Lady
Who lives in a paper Doll Town
My hands and face are of paper
I'm dressed in a blue paper gown

I am a very rich Dolly
Who rides in an automobile
I have houses in city and country
But nice as they are, they're not real

Paper Doll Town is the funniest place
Where nothing is real at all, at all
The church and the schoolhouse are paper you know
And even the trees so tall

Considering how this echoes back to Lucy, you cant help but wonder what's going on inside those kids' heads. There's also poor little Peter, the one boy in this menage, who provides comic relief by talking incessantly and finds himself dismissed for his pains: it's almost sad watching him looking for any kind of attention, just to see himself cast aside in favour of the mathematics prodigy Prudence or the twins Betsy and Agnes, who get the casually bitchy song cited above. There's also the interesting contrast between Lucy, who married ever so well and will tell anyone at the drop of a new Paris hat, and Celia, who obviously didnt and probably never will (She's 30 and single, and it's 1923 -- sorry, but this woman is now hopelessly marked as a spinster.). Lucy gets to run amok in the creme of society; Celia gets to deal with its dregs, the cast off children.

Of course, it shouldnt come as any kind of surprise that everyone's attitude changes when Sally tells them she's throwing a party and giving them all of her terribly nice toys (Give a kid a toy, and apparently s/he's your friend forever.). And you cant help but notice the element of slight concern when Lucy returns from New York and finds her selfish little daughter has now turned into a raging socialist -- you can almost hear the withering tone in her line "I will be very happy to see your friends happy".

A side note about the publisher: Willis Music Company is still around, publishing mostly instructional books for band instruments and the nascent rock-n-roll star. But I was surprised to see that they've kept most of their operetta catalogue intact in what looks like print-on-demand formats. But everything's there, including the ads on the back covers for works such as SAFETY, another hit-'em-over-the-head morality play. They also carry works for older students, a couple of which I'll talk about later on. As far as I can see, the prices arent that much more than they were back in the 20s and 30s (SALLY was originally 60 cents; now it's two bucks), and they havent renewed the copyright on these things, which seems a very generous gesture on their part in preserving this rather unique theatre form.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

THE MOON MAIDEN

There are some pieces that, like THE PENNANT, are played as broadly as possible, and then you get something like THE MOON MAIDEN (1935) that's written so minimally as to be positively hypnotic. I have to admit that, when I first got it, I read through it in about fifteen minutes and then set it aside as not even worth mention in the blog. On second look, there's far more, and that merits attention.

Written by Elsie Duncan Yale (book and lyrics) and Clarence Kohlmann (music), this is one of those musicales that seems much older than it actually is. I'd guessed that the Presser edition was a reprint of something from the 1910s, because it just *feels* like it's from that era: the play seems almost derivative of the old silent movie "A Journey to the Moon and Back", with its gushing line of chorines prancing into a bottle-shaped rocket. Still, the minimal information I can find out about its authors says the date's accurate. Kohlmann, for example, was born in Philadelphia in the late 1880s and made his name by writing piano and organ transcriptions of hymns. In 1929, he recorded four organ works for Thomas Edison (although the recordings were never released). Elsie Duncan Yale also wrote mostly religious pieces: cantatas and religious plays for Christmas and Easter. The fact that these two very devout people would write something like THE MOON MAIDEN makes the thing even more incongruous, in a way.

This little fantasy piece takes place on the moon, where we meet Moon Maidens aplenty, as well as the Moon Witch and a Moon Man. Their moonish existence is changed when an airship from the Earth, caught in a tremendous storm, lands, and we're introduced to a quartet of neatly paired off couples. While the Moon Maidens welcome the guests, the Moon Witch sees them as an intrusion and, for a giggle, takes a stolen Silver Lamp of Romance and mixes all the couples up. "Much confusion results", but it all gets straightened out when the Lamp is retrieved and returned to its rightful owner, the Moon Maiden herself. With a few farewells and promises to exchange phone calls via that new-fangled device, the "radio", the Earthlings leave.

Curtain.

Now that may seem like I've condensed it all down, but truly that's it. The "confusion" lasts less than a page and a half. The dialogue in general feels almost sketched, and the characters arent even marginally two-dimensional. But all that sets aside for the music and lyrics: this is indeed one of those works that puts the "opera" back into "operetta" because the play is nothing but a clothesline for Kohlmann's score.

And what a score it is. The piano reduction includes some indication of the orchestration, and from what I can see, Kohlmann designed this to sound as lush as possible within the limits of the kind of orchestra he knew would be performing. The unusually long overture doesnt go the typical route of a medley of songs from the show: instead, it's a medley of themes, set out with a real sense of connection from one to the next. Even the order of tempe is well thought out -- rather than the usual haphazard mosh of cut time, 4/4, waltz, and whatever else might be in the score, this thing moves with elegance from the initial 4/4 march to the concluding 2/4 allegro. It's a surprising piece of work, but Kohlmann continues on, with an array of chorus pieces, agitato solos, and giddy little marches for the (refreshingly, non-country-specific) crew of the Earth airship. There's also a great little comic number for the Poet, who's very proud of the fact that he can rhyme "moon" with "June". The Moon Man hopes their accident will inspire some great epic, to which the Poet improvises:

We did not come to any harm
Because we landed in a palm.

And in response, one of the crewmen adds the enjoiner:

The sailors gave a mighty shout
"Come on, let's heave the Poet out!"

There's also incidental music (a rarity for these things!), a specialty dance, and some fairly complex parts writing that all builds to a rousing finale of "'Tis a Grand Old World". Truly, as much as I can see, this is a stage version of one of those silly late 20s/early 30s science fiction films like "Flash Gordon" or "Just Imagine", but turned into a musical revue by George White or perhaps Ziegfeld in a slumming mood. It fairly screams for big stage pictures and tableaux vivants. To be sure, you'd want to use highly stylized, Art Deco sets for the Moon Desert and the Moon Garden, and glamorous, Erte-esque costumes in white and silver, with enormous headpieces. It's almost as though the authors custom-designed MOON MAIDEN to give schools a chance to create their own versions of the Scandals or Follies.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

THE PENNANT

One of the oldest pieces in my collection, THE PENNANT (1912) has had a longer shelf life than most of these little works. Apparently wildly successful on its release in the Presser catalogue, it's mentioned in several school's histories, which pretty well assures that it was one of those mainstay warhorses of the high school operetta canon. The copy I have is from a glee club production in 1936; from the notations in the score, it looks like this one was used by the music director.

The catalogue describes it as: "Year after year sees many productions of this clever musical play which introduces pretty tunes, amusing situations, well set up young men, bright girls in smart frocks, a dance here and there, and a real school spirit." And by and large, it's not... well, *that* far off.

Written by Frank Colville (lyrics) and Oscar Lehrer (music), and taking place on the campus of some unnamed college (and an interesting point about that in a moment), we're in the midst of an (offstage) football championship. The boys' chorus, all dressed in football uniforms, roar on giving the school yell and then loudly inform us:

We're a merry, merry bunch of
Rah rah guys.

Ah, but they're not convinced they're gonna win, because it seems their captain, Jack, has his head all full of roses and "Huylers" because he's a poor boy in love with a rich girl (shockingly, from another campus! -- I think...) named Doris. But he cant marry her because he has no money -- and worse, he finds out that a shady bunco man named Levi Lender is trying to set his beloved Doris up with some English fop named Lord Woodby Rich (say it slowly...).

Okay, we've already seen how blacks were portrayed in these works, but now we get one of the rare opportunities to see how Jews were seen -- and it aint much better. Levi is costumed as a "shoelaces Jew" (which I gather means the *appearance* of being impoverished, although hopefully someone will let me know for sure), with a top hat and a frock coat and lines such as:

Koosh! Dont get a cold foot now, Meester Lord Rich. Remember that there is just as good fish in the sea as ever was shot.

... while Lord Woodby responds with:

But it all seems so beastly commercial. I marry a Yankee's daughter, get a little slice of his bally tiny and then go through the rest of my life with a freak from the States tagging at my heels. Oh dash it! I say.

Ah, but Jack's best friend, a country bumpkin named Green, arranges to replace Doris with Mrs. Reno Grass, a widow who's been pretty much stalking him for months now. Jack then assures Doris that he has plenty of money coming from a New York syndicate for an article he's going to write about the big game. Green's plan kicks into action when he engineers for Lord Woodby to meet Reno ("who is very homely" -- yuk yuk), whom he thinks is Doris, remember. Levi tells him who she really is, and Lord Woodby's reaction is one of surprise:

Mrs. Reno Grass, whose pictures are in the papers?

Uh, bud, hate to break it to ya, but... pictures in the papers? Doesnt that suggest you know what she looks like? Ah well, anyway... Lord Woodby is thankful that Levi saved him from a life of misery and runs off to find the *real* Doris, while Levi tells us how sad and pathetic his life is -- oy oy oy:

I'm attending strictly to bees-ness
I'm just figuring up the percent
Of my part of the boot
If the lord wins his suit
With the heiress as is his intent.

In essence, he loans the lord ten thousand dollars and expects eighteen thousand in repayment. Just bees'ness, you understand. To make sure there's no more screwups, Levi introduces the lord to Doris' parents, and we find out (1) she's a foster child and (2) Mama expects her to marry well to repay all the money they've spent on her. In a near-operatic finale to Act One, Jack's teammates loudly announce their support for him since he helped them win the game, the spurned Reno turns her attentions to the now-available Jack, Levi rubs his hands with glee that his plan has succeeded, Lord Woodby condescends to ask for Doris' hand, Green complains that he doesnt have a girlfriend -- and then all five sing:

Let's all be happy, all be gay
Let tomorrow bring what may

to a counterpoint from the chorus:

We'll all be happy when the bright sun rises,
Although for many there may be surprises
There are many parts to this game of hearts
And we masquerade in some queer disguises
But after all when the plot's completed
You'll find some schemers have been defeated
And love will triumph, on this you can depend
We'll be happy happy happy
In the final end.

... all of which sorta makes Act Two unnecessary, right? Frankly, Act Two is pretty much unnecessary: Jack and Doris elope right at the start (after she complains that it wont be a big church wedding like she's always dreamed). While we wait for them to come back with the happy resolution, Lord Rich serenades Doris' hat, Reno takes another shot at Green, Doris' mother waxes about how her daughter is marrying a peer, while her father tells us he's a self-made American business man and has no use for this contracted marriage nonsense (I'm not surprised, actually). After each of their star turns (It's more like a vaudeville at this point), Jack and Doris return, with Jack brandishing the marriage certificate (Her father is delighted she's married to an American!). Levi moans he's out ten thousand plus interest, and we rampage blithely into the finale as everyone, regardless of resolution, sings:

O the happy happy school days
Golden time of life
Just before the din of battle
In the world's broad fields and strife
O the joyous ties of friendship
How our happiness they crown
As tonight we sing the praises
Of the good old college town!

Gads. Although just as facile as anything else heretofore presented, I have to admit I had a real problem following the main story for the libretto's sixty-some-odd pages. For example, I had real trouble sorting out exactly *when* the Big Game was being played: I *think* (and I say that advisedly) it was going on concurrently with the events in the first act, with Jack occasionally leaving the field to come back to the stage to sing a song or do whatever, then racing back to score the Big Touchdown. But, as I say, that's only a guess.

It's also a little tough figuring out what to make of Reno, a "straw widow" who's been married six times and lost them all. She's stalking Green in an almost frightening way, then turns one-eighty to when the opportunity to get the Englishman arises. I know she and Green are supposed to be comic characters, but there's something about her that seems... I dunno... odd, maybe? In the end, she apparently *does* get Green (again, I think - I'm not sure, still, after three reads), and everyone's just peachy keen about it (Echoes of Betty Lou: were we really that lax about March-December romances back then?).

Okay, here's the show's gimmick -- and probably one reason why this thing continued to play for two decades and a bit. It's arguably the world's first musical that can be rewritten with complete freedom for your personalized needs. Are your school colours brown and orange while the libretto specifies blue and red? No problem! Just insert your own and find a new rhyme for "orange", and you're on your way! Does the lyric say "college"? Change it to "high school" and make it all your very own! Truly, you can change the school cheer, the name of the town, the kind of trees (from maple to whatever you happen to have, even if it's sagebrush)... just about anything and everything can be modified to suit your every whim. Your town doesnt have a villanous Jewish money lender? Again, no problem! Change him to any ethnicity you want to ridicule and hit the boards! Truly, it's an all-purpose musical that would be completely different in Muncie as it would be in Fairbanks.

There's also a great deal of era-specific dialogue that, now, is somewhat incomprehensible, such as the early mention of "Hurleys". You dont want to get Jack upset because he'll be "up in the air". I know what they mean, more or less, but it'd be interesting to know what they mean. For those curious, the phrase "well set up young men" in the catalogue entry doesnt mean they're rich. It means, in today's parlance, they're hot.

I dont know anything about Colville, but Lehrer is far better known as the creator of the modern half time show. From the turn of the century to about 1920, he was the music director for the University of Oklahoma and created the patterned march steps we see on football fields every fall. His work, which was geometric shapes that changed and moved across the field, was apparently breathtaking for its time, but his successor pushed it even further and created the idea of spelling out words and creating letters. I imagine his successor -- and indeed marching band directors across the country -- pushed the envelope even more. And all of this led, in its own way, to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

Hmm. From a play that has no real core identity to a vacuous pop singer with a nipple pasty. Indeed, another of life's mysterious connections.

Friday, August 1, 2008

THE WILD ROSE

The British, of course, invented the operetta, so it should come as no surprise that they too had their own version of the early high school musical. While ours were performed in the main by both boys and girls, the British approach was tailored to the needs of, mostly, all-girl schools, with an overwhelming female cast and perhaps one or maybe two "trouser" roles for the unlucky alto.

The example here is THE WILD ROSE (1915), "an operetta in two acts for ladies' voices", by Edith Burrows and W. Rhys-Herbert. His is another name that shows up frequently in this art form, but -- as with Clark and so many others -- there's scant little information about him, save that he was a prominent composer of his time. He provided the score for another in my collection, THE NAUTICAL KNOT, which appears to be a comic G&S pastiche. KNOT was performed several times on both sides of the Atlantic, mostly by small community theatres, but I have yet to turn up a copy of the libretto. It looks like a thoroughly engaging work, so if you know of one anywhere, please let me know.

"Engaging", however, is not a term that leaps to mind with WILD ROSE. Truly, this is the operatic version of "Dont hate me because I'm beautiful", the Pretty Young Thing Victim of Her Own Loveliness.

Act One is in the reception room of Rose's city home. We find out that she's not only young and beautiful and rich enough to have an entire chorus of maids, but she's also bored and jaded and alienated by the very fact that she's young and beautiful and rich enough to have an entire chorus of maids. It's not that she's self-obsessed... well, not really... but, according to the chorus of maids:

All the day
She mopes away,

Her life in endless sighing.

When night falls,

Then sadness calls,

We find her crying.

She is pretty,

Also witty,
Yet she still is sad.

She has health

And great wealth.

Surely 'tis too bad!


Rose herself sweeps in (in a "rose-coloured gown, with a hat trimmed with many roses and a rose-coloured parasol" -- okay, we get the point) and languishes centre stage:

I'm a Rose that blooms in a hothouse
In an artifical way
And instead of fair golden sunshine
Electricity's my day
For it's up in the morning early
Into the hands of my maid
Then it's shopping or to do business
And stupid calls to be paid.

And indeed, the visitors arrive -- adoring debutantes, then her social secretary, who sets up her morning schedule:

Newspaper reporters first
From the "See and Say".
Miss Talkalot, the suffragette
Who wants you to want to vote,
And Mrs. Doingood, who hopes
That you on charity dote.
The dressmaker, the milliner,
And your perfume-maker,
The man who sells the collie dogs,
The laundress and the baker,
The --

... at which point Rose stops her and, resigned, begins her work day. The reporters first (Miss Putemdown and Miss Writemup), who interview her but tell her at the outset that they really dont care what she has to say, they've already written the story. Then the suffragette and the charity lady who stick around long enough to give her a few pamphlets. *Then* Miss Sewseams and Madame Fathertop, who bring dresses and hats in the same relentless shades of pink and rose. *Then* Madame Smellsweet, who brings her a new perfume that smells like...

Oh, c'mon, I dont have to tell you *everything*, do I?

Finally, the bulk of her duties discharged, Rose languishes again, centre stage, now anxiously waiting for a response to a letter she has written to a prominent playwright, Lady Grey, asking for the lead in her new play. Indeed, there is a letter in response, but it seems LG wants someone less "frivolous".

Rose is disappointed.

I want to be loved for myself alone,
And not for my fortune's fame.
I wish I could live in a foreign land
Where no one would know my name.
I'm not really frivolous -- not at all!
In spite of what people may say.
I hate the alse glamour about my life
Both when I'm at work and at play

... and so on and so on for thirty two more bars. Impetuously, she decides to leave the city and go to the country:

I'm going to leave this mad city whirl
And live on a farm -- a plain country girl.

But, naturally, so she wont be too alone, she takes her household staff with her. A girl's gotta have friends, y'know?

Act Two then takes us to Rose's country farm, specifically the garden, which is abundantly overflowing with... oh, c'mon. You know. Her maids, now transformed out of their black and white outfits into lovely little pink smocks, practically disappear into the background, but they still find it necessary to tell us:

The country life is the life for us!
We love it, we love it!
There's nothing in all the world that ranks
Above it, above it!

They proceed to share their day, which seems to have exchanged one form of non-stop labour for another. But maybe it's the air, maybe it's the water -- they *love* it out here. Rose enters (wanna guess what colour her dress is?), carrying a bouquet (of what? C'mon, give it a shot!), and exclaiming to one and all how deliriously happy she is. (Definitely, the air.)

Then, a small crisis: Rose has lost her cat. The maids search just *everywhere*, but no one can find it. Then the nice elderly lady who lives next door enters, bearing the lost animal. And who should she be but Lady Grey. Rose sees this as her opportunity to show the playwright that she's just as down-home as the next country girl with a staff of fifteen to attend to her every need, and indeed LG seems convinced. Then, horror of horrors, all her city friends descend -- the reporters, the dressmaker, everyone -- and Rose is afraid she's blown her chance of getting into LG's good graces.

Ah, but dear Lady Grey assures her that, now that she knows Rose's little secret, she's convinced even more that Rose should play the part, and the curtain descends with our Wild Rose telling anyone who'll listen that she may spend her winters in town, but in the summers she'll return, to be a Wild Rose yet again.

Lord help us all. This is one of those operettas that seems hellbent in its determination to prove to us all exactly *why* this artform died out. WILD ROSE is an interesting piece, to be sure, if only for the way its title character is portrayed. Despite her boredom with her life, here's a young lady who thinks the vote is wasted on women and that charity is over-rated -- and from the way it's written, I gather this was Burrow's take on the issues as well. The suffragette and the charity lady are both portrayed in a downright nasty light, as are the debutantes who are supposed to be Rose's best friends. Indeed, almost all of the supporting characters are sketched as viciously as possible, which makes you wonder why she stays with any of them. But instead, Rose lives in this frightfully "girlish", deliriously monochrome world of pastel femininity gone way overboard -- like JEANNIE's treatment of "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair", this is a work that, I suspect, would induce the viewers to leave the theatre and cause mayhem to every single rose bush in sight. In a perversely fascinating way, Burrows writes all of the supporting characters as symbolic as anything out of "Pilgrim's Progress", but that just leavea a question: Is Rose ready to give up her Pepto-Bismal lifestyle for something written by a character named "Grey"? Further, if Rose was to be the one character with depth, she fails miserably. She's still as spoiled at the end as she was at the beginning, except now she realizes her shallowness has stood her in good stead by ultimately getting her the thing she wanted.

Musically, however, it's far more interesting. Rhys-Herbert gives the ladies some heady challenges in terms of tempe and range, and pity the poor fool that plays Rose, onstage for virtually the entire work and hit with one fairly difficult number after another: twelve out of the eighteen listed in the score. The reporters' interview is a mini-patter song with some tricky wordplay, and the duet for the suffragette and the charity lady is a purposely sappy little waltz.

Still, I dont know about you, but this thing seems tailor made for Paris Hilton.