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By The Beautiful Sea

Opening night: 8th April 1954
Performances: 270

Composer: Arthur Schwartz
Book: Herbert Fields , Dorothy Fields

Performers:
Shirley Booth
Wilbur Evans
Mae Barnes
Musical Numbers
Alone Too Long
Coney Island Boat
Good Time Charlie
Hang Up!
Happy Habit
Hooray For George The Third
I'd Rather Wake Up By Myself
It's All Mine (cut)
It's Not Where You Start (cut)
It's Up To You (cut)
Lottie Gibson Specialty (Please Don't Send Me Down A Baby Brother)
Me And Pollyanna (cut)
Moments From Shakespeare (cut)
Mona From Arizona
More Love Than Your Love
Old Enough To Love
The Sea Song
Thirty Weeks Of Heaven (cut)
Throw The Anchor Away
This show seems to have had a struggle to rise above the routine. It was a vehicle for Shirley Booth, and she made audiences love her, but the trivial subject matter represents a disappointing failure for Dorothy Fields to build upon the advances made in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

The story is set, once again in Brooklyn, but this time at the Coney Island end of the borough in 1907. The characters are the owners and guests of a theatrical boarding house, with Booth a vaudevillian who runs into a tricky romantic situation. Wilbur Evans was Booth’s romantic complication, and the show also boasted the cabaret singer Mae Barnes as Booth’s housekeeper. The score is pleasant but unremarkable, and there are no great lyrics from Fields either. The best songs are Alone Too Long, which has been recorded several times, and one of the Mae Barnes songs, Happy Habit.

Critics loved Booth, but complained about the triviality of the show. However it does seem to have been pacey and extremely entertaining, with three impressive sets imaginatively used, and an understanding of how to showcase Booth and her special empathy with an audience. Ethan Mordden describes the spectacle at the start of the show, and the clever way the opening scene song (unrecorded) led smartly into the moment when the Star Walks In and the Show Is On. Mordden writes : In such a show, story doesn’t matter. Talent matters. That’s why it’s difficult to assess a By The Beautiful Sea by the evidence of its written composition. It is the essence of musical comedy that, to comprehend it, one has to be there.

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