Sweet and Hot – The Songs of Harold Arlen

Music by Harold Arlen (1905 – 1986)sweet & Hot - the songs of harold arlen

Lyrics by Harold Arlen, Truman Capote, Ira Gershwin, E. Y.  Harburg,  Ted Koehler, Johnny Mercer, Leo Robin, Billy Rose, and Jack Yellen with additional lyrics by Mary Bracken Phillips

Director Fred Anzevino

Conceived and originally by Julianne Boyd

Produced by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

in association with Michael James

At No Exit Cafe, Chicago

Superb tuneful songfest of Harold Arlen’s music deftly sung and marvelously staged at No Exit Cafe

Theo Ubique, under Fred Anzevino’s leadership, returns to their cabaret roots by paying homage to composer/songwriter Harold Arlen. This revue contains many of the finest songs from the 30’s- 40’s and 50’s including “Over the Rainbow,” “Stormy Weather,” “Get Happy,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “I’ve Got the World on a String” among the 37 songs with music by Arlen in collaboration with many of the finest lyricists of the era.

Utilizing the intimate space in the No Exit Cafe into an “L” shaped  stage, director Fred Anzevino and choreographer David Heimann deftly created dance and movements that enhanced the six person cast’s superb understanding of their songs. This cast not only projects and enunciates their lyrics smartly without being amplified, they “sell” the meanings and themes of each song effectively. The lyrics were crystal clear. You’ll not find a finer cast of cabaret singers anywhere – Sarah Hayes, Stephanie Herman, Bethany Thomas, Eric Lindahl, Eric Martin and Kristofer Simmons sing their hearts out as they are in full command of Arlen’s tunes. It is so refreshing to see the 20-30somethings enjoying hearing and singing the terrific tunes from the late 30’s through the 50’s.  We all know many of the sings, but many don’t know about Harold Arlen’s genius.

sweet & Hot - the songs of harold arlen

Music director and pianist, Steve Carson accompanies the six performers as he magnificently plays Arlen’s music. He also sings  “This Time the Dream’s on Me” tenderly.

sweet & Hot - the songs of harold arlen

Here is the song list with my comments:

Song List

Set 1

Blues In The Night (1941, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from Blues in the Night movie released by Warner Bros.) – Full Cast- each of the six instantly won us over.

Out Of This World (1945, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from Out of This World movie released by Paramount Pictures) – Eric Lindahl – nice melody

sweet & Hot - the songs of harold arlen

It Was Written In The Stars (1948, lyrics by Leo Robin, from Casbah movie released by Universal-International Pictures) – Eric Martin – richly sung

Stormy Weather (1933, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Cotton Club Parade staged and produced by Dan Healy) – Bethany Thomas – belted with strong emotions – this lady can sing!

When The Sun Comes Out (1941, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Blues in the Night movie released by Warner Bros.) – Stephanie Herman – bluesy

sweet & Hot - the songs of harold arlen One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) (1943, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from The Sky’s the Limit movie released by RKO Radio Pictures) / Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive (Mr. In-Between) (1944, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from Here Come the Waves movie released by Paramount Pictures) – Kristofer Simmons & Eric Lindahl – nice sentimental duet

Down With Love (1937, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, from Hooray for What? staged by Vincent Minnelli and produced by the Shuberts at the Winter Garden) – Kristofer Simmons & Stephanie Herman – rich harmonies

Happy As The Day is Long (1933, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Cotton Club Parade staged and produced by Dan Healy) – Eric Martin – the man can sell a song

As Long As I Live (1934, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Cotton Club Parade staged and produced by Dan Healy) – Ladies Trio – sweet harmonies in a genuine 40’s style

Hit The Road To Dreamland (1942, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from Star Spangled Rhythm movie released by Paramount) – Ladies Trio – sung with heart

Hooray For Love (1948, lyrics by Leo Robin, from Casbah movie released by Universal-International Pictures)  – Sarah Hayes & Stephanie Herman –  fine duet

Buds Won’t Bud (1937 by E. Y. Harburg, from Hooray for What? staged by Vincent Minnelli and produced by the Shuberts at the Winter Garden) – Eric Lindahl –  a finely presented cute tongue-twister

Get Happy (1929, lyrics by Ted Koehler, introduced in The Nine-Fifteen Revenue in 1930) – Full Cast – nice movement and dance that would make Judy Garland happy

Intermission:  15 minutes

SET II

Lydia The Tattooed Lady (1939, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, from At the Circus movie released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) – Kristofer Simmons and Cast – a fun smart tune

It’s Only A Paper Moon (1932, lyrics by Billy Rose and E. Y. Harburg, from The Great Magoo produced by Billy Rose) – Sarah Hayes & Eric Martin- terrific bouncy tune nicely done

Gotta Have Me Go With You (1953, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, from A Star Is Born movie released by Warner Bros.) – Sarah Hayes, Kristofer Simmons & Eric Lindahl – the fun keeps coming

I Love To Sing-a (1935, lyrics by E. Y. Yarburg, from The Singing Kid movie released by Warner Bros.) – Eric Martin & Stephanie Herman – sung with joy

Push De Button (1956-57, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, from Jamaica produced by David Merrick) – Gentleman Trio – cute calypso tune with funny moments

Wizard Of Oz (1938, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, movie released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939)

sweet & Hot - the songs of harold arlen

Optimistic Voices – Ladies Trio – sets the tone effectively

If I Only Had A Brain – Eric Lindahl – witty and cute

If I Only Had A Heart – Kristofer Simmons – has loads of heart

If I Only Had The Nerve – Bethany Thomas – funny and witty

This Time The Dream’s On Me (1941, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from Blues in the Night movie released by Warner Bros.) – Steve Carson – with deep emotion

Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good) (1934, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Cotton Club Parade staged and produced by Dan Healy) – Stephanie Herman – with feeling

The Man That Got Away (1953, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, from A Star Is Born movie released by Warner Bros.) – Bethany Thomas – strong blues tune

Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home (1946, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from St. Louis Woman produced by Edward Gross at the Martin Beck Theater) – Eric Lindahl – charming

I Had Myself A True Love (1946, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from St. Louis Woman produced by Edward Gross at the Martin Beck Theater) – Sarah Hayes – the torch still fires

I Never Has Seen Snow  / A Sleepin’ Bee (1954, lyrics by Truman Capote and Harold Arlen, from House of Flowers produced by Arnold Saint Subber at the Alvin Theater)) – Kristofer Simmons & Stephanie Herman- excellent 11 o’clock tune

Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe (1942, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, from Cabin in the Sky movie released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) – Bethany Thomas – this lady has soul!

Finale

Let’s Fall In Love (1933, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Let’s Fall in Love movie released by Columbia Pictures) – Sarah Hayes & Eric Martin – with grace and charm

Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea (1931, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Rhythmania produced and staged by Dan Healy at the Cotton Club) –  Eric Martin & Stephanie Herman – bouncy blues duet

I’ve Got The World On A String (1932, lyrics by Ted Koehler, from Cotton Club Parade staged and produced by Dan Healy)  – Bethany Thomas, Kristofer Simmons and Cast – excellent tune richly sung

That Old Black Magic (1942, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from Star Spangled Rhythm movie released by Paramount) – Stephanie Herman & Eric Lindahl -nicely presented standard

Come Rain Or Come Shine (1946, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, from St. Louis Woman produced by Edward Gross at the Martin Beck Theater) – Bethany Thomas, Kristofer Simmons and Cast -this cast has soul!

Over the Rainbow (1938, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, from The Wizard of Oz movie released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939) – Full Cast – rich, memorable classic sung with heart

Encore – Sweet and Hot (1931, lyrics by Jack Yellen, from You Said It staged by John Harwood and produced by Lou Holtz and Jack  at Chanin’s 46th Street Theatre) – Full Cast- the joyous finale

Sweet and Hot is a fabulous songfest sing with class in the style of the era. The cast shows their love for the material and respect for the expert lyrics and the music. This review is for lovers of the song, for lovers of 40-50’s emotionally rich songs, and it is a terrific platform to introduce this generation to the genius of Tin-Pan Ally. For only $25 per ticket, you can enjoy the magnificent talents of Harold Arlen and the six Chicago performers. Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre offers one of the finest revues I’ve seen in years. This is a wonderful date show – for lovers of  great music.

ABOUT HAROLD ARLEN

Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen

An American songwriting legend and son of a cantor, Harold Arlen was fascinated early in his life with the sound of ragtime. While singing in his father’s synagogue he also played ragtime piano in local Buffalo bands and accompanied silent films. After arranging for the Buffalodians, Arlen moved to New York. His jobs included arranging for Fletcher Henderson and serving as a rehearsal pianist for radio and theater. A vamp he devised while practicing was later turned into the song “Get Happy,” with lyrics from Ted Koehler.

Arlen and Koehler wrote eight revues for the Cotton Club, one of which included the anthem “Stormy Weather,” first performed by Ethel Waters. Though he moved to Hollywood in the ‘30s, Arlen kept penning songs for Broadway, working with other lyricists like Dorothy Fields, Leo Robins, Johnny Mercer, Yip Harburg, and Ira Gershwin as well as Koehler.

His list of hits and accomplishments is amazing; they include songs for the films Take a Chance, Star-Spangled Rhythm, The Sky’s the Limit, and his most famous, The Wizard of Oz. Arlen also composed tunes for the plays Earl Carroll Vanities, Rhythm Mania, and St. Louis Woman. The incredible array of unforgettable compositions includes “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues,” “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and “Over the Rainbow.”

Numerous jazz artists have recorded his songs, as well as pop performers across the spectrum. Arlen made a few recordings as a performer, among  them sessions with Duke Ellington and Barbra Streisand.

Source: Ron Wynn, All Music Guide.

Highly Recommended

Jeff Recommended

At No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, call 773-347-1109, www.theoubique.org, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm – optional dinner at 7 pm, Sunday at 7 pm, with dinner at 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.

Editor’s Note: Martha Raye and Harold Arlen sing his tunes: