show was set in 1870s New York and features real-life corrupt politician
Boss Tweed. The plot involves his attempt to make a fortune from
dodgy deals surrounding the redesign of Central Park, the city's
Big Back Yard, as one song has it.
The romantic leads are a New York Times journalist (Wilbur Evans)
who sets out to thwart Tweed, and an aspiring singer (Maureen Cannon).
The show featured a spectacular ice-skating ballet, and showman
producer Mike Todd pulled off an unusual publicity stunt, when he
provided horse-drawn carriages to escort first night critics and
celebrities from the show to a supper at the Tavern on the Green.
The show sounds extremely entertaining, and sporadically inventive,
at least from the rich description by Ethan Mordden in his book
"Beautiful Mornin'". The only song that has had any afterlife is
Close As Pages In A Book,a sentimental
ballad, the lyricsof which illustrate the different approach Fields
took to thiskind of song, as compared with her operetta-style work
in the 1930s for Grace Moore and Lily Pons. After a slightly overblown
beginning "My joy in loving you is past understanding..",
she settles down to simple, tender, evocative expressions of intimacy
: "So close, that before I hear your laugh,
my laugh breaks through…"
The show was recorded with Eileen Farrell replacing Maureen Cannon,
and Celeste Holm also introduced. Eight songs were issued on a set
of four 78s. This splendid recording was released on CD
Pictures from the recording session:
However a further recording was made in the same year with Jeannette
MacDonald and Robert Merrill; six tracks from this are available
on a MacDonald CD.
Beverly Sills also recorded two songs from the show, Close
as Pages in a Book and The Fireman's
Bride, on a LP called Beverly Sills and Sherrill Milnes:
Up in Central Park. This was released briefly on CD. I have never
seen this CD on sale, but believe the reference is Angel CDC-7-47203
In 1951, a 45 minute radio version of the show was broadcast on
the Railroad Hour, starring Mimi Benzel.
Apart from Sweet Charity, this was
the only Fields show to make it to the silver screen. The film
version made three years later dispensed with most of the score,
but retained the ballet. It starred Deanna Durbin.