Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Trip to the Library; or, Thank You, Jerry Bock.

Don't forget to De-Lurk, please!

Jerry Bock passed away last week. For those of you who aren't geeky enough to recognize that name without more explanation, he was the Bock half (obviously) of the duo Bock and Harnick, who wrote Broadway musicals (Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist to Bock's composer, is still alive). And if that doesn't help, maybe this will:

So let me pause here because I want to make one thing very clear. I adore Fiddler on the Roof. I think it is brilliant and quite possibly one of the best musicals ever written.

But it's not my favorite musical by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.

That distinction goes to the little-known 1963 gem She Loves Me.

It's the story of The Shop Around the Corner in musical format. (The movie was originally adapted from a play called Parfumerie, by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, and subsequently remade as In the Good Old Summertime and, later, You've Got Mail.) The music is sweet, the story and characters are charming, and, of course, the guy gets the girl in the end. (If you think that's a spoiler you're not paying attention.)

Unfortunately, this beautiful little musical was overshadowed by the mega-shows Funny Girl and Hello, Dolly that year, with which it couldn't compete, and so it only played for a short run, and was mostly shut out come Tony time.

Which is a real shame. It features such songs as "No More Candy" (trying to sell a musical candy box to a skeptical customer), "Tonight At Eight" (our leading man is nervous about his impending date to meet the girl of his dreams), "Perspective" (the older clerk in the store explains how to keep your job), "Romantic Atmosphere" (a frustrated maitre d' tries to impress upon a bumbling waiter the importance of setting the mood for lovers' meetings), "Tango Tragique" (a cautionary tale about anonymous pen pals), "Where's My Shoe" (leading lady gets a bit of a crazy-go-nuts scene), "Ice Cream" and "She Loves Me" (the leading lady and leading man, respectively, discover a softening of their feelings of animosity toward each other), "Grand Knowing You" (the skeezy clerk's big farewell), and several others.

Including my very favorite, "A Trip to the Library."

In this scene, when last we saw our secondary lady, (who is a bit of a floozy), she had just had her heart stomped on by the skeezy clerk for the last time, and valiantly resolved to change her ways and not be taken in by such a skeezy guy again. She comes back to work the next morning and reports on her progress to the leading man. It seems that last night, she found her feet taking her on an unexpected route . . . to the library. "You've never seen anything like that library! So many books! So much marble! So quiet!"

I chose this version out of all the many on YouTube because even though she flubs a couple of the lyrics, she sings it more closely to the way the original actress, Barbara Baxley, did. I prefer the slightly more vulnerable and sweet tone to the brassier belting featured in most of the other renditions. If you'd like to see how it plays out on stage, though, I did enjoy this version:

I ask you, how can you not love a show with a song that rhymes "respectable" and "bespectacled"? And who could resist a lyric like this:

I have to admit, in the back of my mind
I was praying he wouldn't get fresh,
And all of the while I was wondering why
An illiterate girl should attract him.
Then all of a sudden he said that I couldn't
Go wrong with the way of all flesh—
Of course it's a novel, but I didn't know
Or I certainly wouldn't have smacked him!

If you have never heard of She Loves Me, I suggest you do yourself a favor and check out the soundtrack. Or keep an eye out on your community theater notices, as this show is frequently mounted around Christmas time. Check to see if there's a production going on near you and go to see it. Take a friend and sink back into this lovely little musical. I promise you won't regret it.

Day 9! Wahoo! (When was the last time you went "wahoo"?)


Katie E. said...

I love it! I love this musical, and that is so my favorite song. I remember the first time you shared it with my (and Shallowman rolling his eyes in the backseat). I'm still convinced that once I meet an optomitrist named Paul, all my problems will be solved.

Erin said...

I can't believe I have never heard of this musical! It is like I've been sucked into the twilight zone- a musical... I've never heard of?? I realize I've been missing something all along I never knew I'd been missing!