“AGAIN AND THEN AGAIN”
A new musical of the 1920s
Orchestrated for 7-piece Dixieland Jazz Band.
Adapted from Ring Lardner’s short story, “I Can’t Breathe”
Heyday is about a flapper of eighteen and three young men she is secretly engaged to.
The summer version is set in a resort hotel in New England.
The winter version, which makes an ideal Christmas show, is set in a resort hotel in Lake Placid.
Book, lyrics and music by Herbert Appleman
Winner, American Musical Theater Festival Award
“But to laugh in the theatre is rare
(I confess I fell out of my chair)
And to hear a few hummable tunes
Is like finding a brace of blue moons.”
— Ros Asquith, London
Why write another Twenties musical? Aren’t there enough of them already?
Two reasons. One, I thought Ring Lardner’s “I Can’t Breathe,” about a flapper secretly engaged to three men at once, was a hilarious story that just cried out to be a musical.
Two, I thought I could make Heyday, not just another Twenties musical, but one that was different in several important ways.
As you know, in the typical Twenties musical, songs came out of left field, production numbers had nothing to do with the play, and lyrics carried the stamp, not of the characters who sang them, but of the lyricists who wrote them — this was an Ira Gershwin lyric, that was a Larry Hart lyric.
Heyday would be different. It would keep the light-as-air tone of the Twenties, when shows were really funny and music was really tuneful, but it would also make use of the integrated technique of the Forties and Fifties, when songs derived from character and helped to dramatize the play.
That is a big difference. But you know, as soon as I heard that Heyday was “a new Twenties musical,” I thought of The Boy Friend, which also billed itself as a new Twenties musical. Is Heyday an American Boy Friend?
No, not at all. The Boy Friend is an affectionate pastiche and satire, in which the characters are types and the songs are echoes of specific songs from the twenties — the title song, obviously, echoes Rodgers & Hart’s The Girl Friend. But in Heyday, the characters are individuals and the songs are unique to those characters.
For example, take the song, “Europe Baby,” Gordon Flint is a young poet from Yale, who rushes back from his summer holiday in Europe, to be with Alva Scott, his flapper love. When she asks him what Europe is like, he answers:
It has custom and tradition.
It has fountains you can wish in.
It has all the culture that the guidebook claims.
Ev’ry block has a museum.
The big song hit is Te Deum.
And at night there walks the ghost of Henry James…
In the entire cast of Heyday, only Gordon Flint could have said (or sung) that.
So, unlike The Boy Friend, Heyday avoids predictable types of characters and predictable types of songs —
Though the music still has a Twenties flavor —
And the show still has a Twenties style?
Overall, yes. But not in size. Heyday is an intimate show; it has one unit set, no chorus, a cast of nine, and is orchestrated for a seven-piece Dixieland Jazz Band — which means it’s all about character, song, and story, rather than big production numbers.
I imagine it also means that Heyday can be done in a small theater on a relatively modest budget.
I’m glad you noticed.
Getting back to the band, why make it a Dixieland Jazz Band?
To give Heyday a sound of its own. Dixieland was the most popular kind of jazz in the Twenties, but no other Twenties musical put a Dixieland Band in the pit; so I did.
I noticed in the program notes that Heyday can be done in one of two versions — a summer version set in a resort hotel in New England, and a winter version set in a resort hotel in Lake Placid. Why the choice?
The summer version is less expensive. But the winter version, which I prefer, avoids The Boy Friend look and gives Heyday a completely original look that shows off the glamorous designs of the Twenties, as applied to winter resorts and winter sports.
One final question: In the London production, Heyday was set in Bath, England —
Yes, for London. I made the show English. Everyone thought it worked quite well, but the version I like best is the American one set in Lake Placid. It has more glamor, more color, and also makes Heyday an ideal Xmas show.
TIME OUT – London’s Weekly Guide
This new musical soufflé, set in the ’20s and based on Ring Lardner’s story, “I Can’t Breathe,” is appropriately enough a breathless romp from start to finish, and, like the best soufflés, it’s as light as a feather and leaves a nice aftertaste. Set around the flirtations of a bright young thing and her four paramours, it’s a delightfully enjoyable story of adolescent love – very amusing and tongue-in-cheek. Janet Dibley as the flapper is all arch poses and fey exaggeration, beautifully counter-balanced by Jennie Linden as her mother, wordly-wise and full of well-bred ennui. Their charming duet of discovery ‘Is A Woman Too’, along with the memorable ‘Someone Who Knows You’, are the best songs in the show; all of the songs are pleasant, they complement the action and are well performed by the excellent cast.
In the space of 90 minutes or so, Herbert Appleman crams in no less than 15 songs, so it will be guessed that there is not much detailed examination of Alva’s dilemma — whether to choose dull doctor Walter, flippant and funny Frank, a tennis instructor with an ambition to become a comedian, or dashing, romantic freethinker Gordon. She actually settles for the middle-aged (28!) Merle, because (a) he truly loves her, and (b) as a successful lawyer he can keep her in the way her parents believes she deserves.
But as it happens, those 15 songs, integrated closely with the plot, are this little show’s strength, for Herbert Appleman proves to have an exceptionally neat way with a lyric, in the tradition of Lorenz Hart and Ira Gershwin, with deft rhyming schemes and smart construction.
Moreover, on this tiny stage, director Nica Burns, choreographer Lindsay Dolan and designer David Blight have contrived the liveliest of stagings, without overemphasising the silliness. Janet Dibley is an enchanting heroine who can actually make one sympathise with her delicious problem, and there is chacterfull support from Tony Scannell and Jennie Linden (parents), Philip Bird, Alan Coveney, Richard Freeman and John Hudson (suitors) and Ray Sharples (hotel page).
A young flapper down in Bath Spa
Made all the poor chappies sigh ‘Ahh’
And love her to such a degree
She trapped one, and then two, and then three!
Now a pastiche along such a theme
May incline jaded punters to scream
‘Of this stuff we have had quite enough!
Please give us some serious stuff!
But to laugh in the theatre is rare
(I confess I fell out of my chair)
And to hear a few hummable tunes
Is like finding a brace of blue moons.
So…it’s light, it’s absurd, but it’s funny.
(There are worse ways of spending your money.)