Forgotten Broadway classics: Bloomer Girl February 1, 2008Posted by Jeff in Harold Arlen, Musicals, Theater.
Obviously influenced by the success of Oklahoma!, this 1944 musical featured two of that show’s stars, Celeste Holm and Joan McCracken, and its choreographer Agnes De Mille, in a show with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg, the team best remembered for The Wizard of Oz.
I’d like to see the kinescope of the 1956 TV version starring Barbara Cook, and it was concert-staged by Encores! in 2001, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a full-scale revival. The show’s politics, progressive for the time, are more than a bit outdated today (the same reason you don’t see Finian’s Rainbow revived) and the score as a whole isn’t up to the best of Arlen and Harburg.
My favorite number from Bloomer Girl is this show-stopper performed by Dooley Wilson, who will always be best remembered as Sam in Casablanca. That movie’s producer, Hal Wallis, was either misquoted or very mistaken when he said that Wilson “couldn’t sing” and was dubbed. Sam’s piano playing was dubbed, but you’ll instantly recognize Wilson’s voice in “The Eagle And Me,” in which the escaped slave Pompey sings about freedom to his former owner: