Forgotten Musicals Friday: POOR LITTLE RITZ GIRL

Having taken a look at the birth of the Rodgers and Hart sound last week, the period in which they established themselves, the 1920s, and its musicals have suddenly become quite fascinating to me again. So it occurred to me that this might be a good time to delve into some more of the first few Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart collaborations for the Forgotten Musicals Friday blogs this month. Following Fly With Me, Poor Little Ritz Girl was the first Broadway show that showcased Rodgers and Hart’s talents to any great extent and so that’s what we’re looking at today.

A song by the pair, “Any Old Place with You”, had popped up in A Lonely Romeo the previous season, but with Poor Little Ritz Girl, the songwriting team were offered the opportunity to create a complete score. Hart retooled some of the lyrics to tunes that Rodgers had written for Fly With Me, with “Peek in Pekin” becoming “Love’s Intense in Tents,” “Don’t Love Me Like Othello” becoming “You Can’t Fool Your Dreams” and “Dreaming True” becoming “Love Will Call.” (Thanks to Stanley Green for capturing that bit of shobiz history in The Rodgers and Hammerstein Story!)

In the end, eight of the songs they wrote were cut, leaving them seven spots in the score. The rest of the songs were written by Sigmund Romberg and Alex Gerber, and the experience was a devastating one for Rodgers and Hart. Long story short, producer Lew Fields lost faith in the young team and they didn’t find out their songs had been replaced until they arrived for opening night on Broadway. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Fields had bought their songs ouright, Rodgers and Hart might have been able to establish their own memorial pool, a la Patti LuPone following the Sunset Boulevard debacle! Given that they themselves had replaced Joseph Meyer and Vincent Bryan when the show was heading for Boston, an older and wiser pair of writers might perhaps have seen it coming. Although Hart was 25 years old, it’s incredible to think that Rodgers was still a teenager when this show was being created.

Directed by Ned Wayburn with choreography by David Bennett, the show sported a book by Lew M. Fields and George Campbell – at least according to the Internet Broadway Database. The sheet music that accompanies the above image credits the book to Henry M. Stillman. Meryle Secrest credits it to Stillman and William J. O’Neill in Somewhere For Me. Either way, the story didn’t amount to much, with the plot revolving around a Southern hick who rents the New York apartment of a wealthy bachelor who is supposed to be out of town. This all led to the typical musical comedy antics of the period.

It’s really a pity that there’s not much more to know about Poor Little Ritz Girl. There isn’t a recording of the score available and it’s a score I’ve wanted to hear for a long time. Cue one of the joys of the COVID lockdown: a virtual production of the show from a YouTube channel called “Where the Good Songs Go.” It’s a treat and you should really check out everything else they have to offer!

Keen to share any thoughts about Poor Little Ritz Girl? Head to the comment box below. I’d love to hear them!

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