‘Lost’ musical by My Fair Lady writers Lerner & Loewe to have its first complete performance since 1953
- Lost musical from the writers of My Fair Lady set to be performed in full for the first time in over 60 years
- Researchers discover and reconstruct conductor’s score for new production
- Score contains music that would later be reused in My Fair Lady and Gigi
- Musical to be performed at University of Sheffield’s Festival of Arts and Humanities
A long-lost musical by the composer and lyricist of My Fair Lady has been fully reconstructed and receives its first complete performance since 1953 at the University of Sheffield in May.
The Day Before Spring (1945) was the second Broadway musical to be written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, the legendary team behind such favourites as Brigadoon, Camelot, Gigi, Paint Your Wagon and, of course, My Fair Lady.
Despite receiving generally favourable reviews, the show was revived only once during Lerner and Loewe’s lifetime. And although three attempts have been made to bring the show back since their deaths– in New York in 1990 and 2007 and in London in 2010 – none of these had access to the complete script and score, and none used an orchestra.
The music had been thought to be long lost and the previous reconstructions were not able to include all the musical numbers. Then in 2009, Senior Lecturer in Musicology at the University of Sheffield Dr Dominic McHugh managed to track down a complete piano-conductor score at the University of California, Long Beach.
The movie rights to the show had been bought by MGM in 1945 and although the film wasn’t made, they kept a copy of the music. When the studio’s library closed down in the 1970s, the score made its way to Long Beach and had apparently lain untouched for decades.
Some of this music was heard in the 2010 concert production by Lost Musicals in London, but the score was abridged and all of the dance music was cut.
Since then, Dr McHugh also discovered Lerner’s personal copy of the script with many changes and edits, and this will now be used in the new production, which forms part of the Festival of Arts and Humanities at the University of Sheffield on 2 May and 4 May 2017.
The original orchestrations remain lost and have been painstakingly reconstructed by Matthew Malone, a PhD student at Sheffield, who holds a special studentship devoted to the musicals of Lerner and Loewe funded by the Frederick Loewe Foundation.
“It was normal for orchestral scores to be thrown away after musicals closed, especially when they weren’t major hits,” explains Dr McHugh. “So Matthew’s work in putting thousands of bars of music back together has been essential for recreating the original Broadway sound.”
A full Broadway-sized orchestra of 34 players will accompany the Sheffield performances, alongside a cast of student performers conducted by Malone.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the project is the revelation that various passages of music and some lyrics were recycled into Lerner and Loewe’s later, more successful musicals.
“Many great composers and novelists recycle material from their early works into later masterpieces, and Lerner and Loewe were no exception,” Said Dr McHugh. “Music from The Day Before Spring made it into all five of their famous musicals – most notably popping up in the title song from Gigi and ‘On the Street Where You Live’ from My Fair Lady.”
After a single revival in Florida in 1953, the musical seems not to have been seen again. MGM tried a second time to turn it into a film in 1960 but abandoned it, and it remains obscure.
Yet Dr McHugh has been working on an edition of the score for publication later in 2017. “Now people all over the world will be able to buy and enjoy this wonderful music,” he commented. “While The Day Before Spring is no masterpiece, it’s funny, fresh and sophisticated – an important landmark in Lerner and Loewe’s career on the path to My Fair Lady.”
On 4 May at 6.10pm, there will be a free pre-performance talk with Dr Dominic McHugh, Matthew Malone and Emily Altman (President of the Frederick Loewe Foundation), with performances of three songs cut from The Day Before Spring before it opened on Broadway.
Tickets cost £10, £8 (staff/over 65/unemployed), £5 (under 26s/students).
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