A-list song writer Frank Loesser began his career by, to quote his own song, “Doin' It the Hard Way.” Unlike preceding A-listers Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers, Loesser went to Hollywood without prior Broadway fame. That would come later, and with it multiple Tony awards, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Pulitzer Prize.
He was always good with words, sometimes writing lyrics to a dummy melody that would come later, perhaps by Hoagy Carmichael, Arthur Schwartz, or Jimmy McHugh. His dry wit and urban charm served him well in Hollywood, where he bounced among the studios as lyricist, then later, composer: at Goldwyn for John Ford's The Hurricane (“Moon of Manakoora”); Universal for Destry Rides Again (“See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have,” sung by Dietrich); Warner Bros. for Thank Your Lucky Stars (“They're Either Too Young or Too Old,” sung by Bette Davis; MGM for Neptune's Daughter (“Baby, It's Cold Outside”)
His longest stay was at Paramount, where he would write lyrics on assignment, like Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind (“Aboard the Nellie B”) and then compose the entire score for a variety of Betty Hutton musicals, which put him firmly on the map and led the way back to Broadway, where he had always wanted to be. He found unparalleled success on the Great White Way – Where's Charley, Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Business earned him his Pulitzer and even more Tonys.
You'll learn much of this at Paul Hope's sparkling revue Papa Don't Preach to Me, another cabaret from our own walking encyclopedia of all-things-Broadway-musical. Hope has been romping through the Great American Songbook for years now. He keeps it simple. Hire an intimate space (Ovations Nightclub on Times Boulevard in Rice Village), keep the bar open, fill the stage with musical interpreters of the finest quality, use a sympathetic pianist (Eduardo Guzman), and emcee the whole shebang with wicked flair and inprov lightness. These evenings fly by, and you get to hear some of the best pop music ever written, and rarities too, some not heard since they premiered in movies you wouldn't know unless you're devoted to Turner Classic Movies.
Poppa's cast includes Grace Givens, Whitney Zangarine, Seth Daniel Cunningham, John Gremillion, Brian Chambers, Tamara Siler, and Katie Fridsma. All bring showbiz razzmatazz to Loesser's peerless lyrics and wide rhythmic styles. An added attraction in this cabaret is a hot performance by Krissy Richmond of “Rumble, Rumble, Rumble,” from Hutton's The Perils of Pauline, a rambunctious specialty number about a noisy neighbor keeping her awake with his piano playing. Hutton – and Loesser – specialized in these manic songs, and Richmond (a Houston Theater Award-winner two years in a row for her choreography) brings her distinctive Broadway/Houston Ballet chops to this rousing comedy song. (We wish she had more to do. Well, leave us wanting more.)
Everybody shines. Siler in “Love Isn't Born It's Made” from Thank Your Lucky Stars; Gremillion in “I Wish I Didn't Love You So” (Loesser's Oscar-nominee from The Perils of Pauline); Zangerine in “Papa Don't Preach To Me” also from Perils; Givens in “Sand in My Shoes” from Kiss the Girls Goodbye; Cunningham in “On a Slow Boat to China,” one of Loesser's stand-alone numbers; Chambers in “Say It Over and Over” from Buck Benny Rides Again; Fridsma in “I Hear Music” from Dancing on a Dime; and Hope with Zangarine in “Tennessee” and with Givens in “My Darling, My Darling” from Where's Charlie?
The Great American Songbook and Frank Loesser's vernacular wit and charm is in fine hands with Hope at the helm and his cabaret friends crooning nearby.
Poppa Don't Preach to Me: Frank Loesser from Hollywood to Broadway continues at 7:30 p.m. Mondays, September 23 and 30 at Ovations Night Club, 2536 Times Boulevard. For more information, call 713.522.9801 or visit paulhopecabaret.ticketleap.com/poppadontpreach or ovationsnightclub.com. $20-$30.
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