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Up in Central Park

Opening night: 27th January 1945
Performances: (14 months’ worth)

Composer: Sigmund Romberg
Book: Herbert / Dorothy Fields

Wilbur Evans
Maureen Cannon
Noah Beery
Bessie Bruce
Fred Barry
Musical Numbers
Up From The Gutter
Carousel In The Park
It Doesn't Cost You Anything To Dream
Boss Tweed
When She Walks In The Room
Currier And Ives
Close As Pages In A Book
Rip Van Winkle
The Fireman's Bride
When The Party Gives A Party
The Big Back Yard
April Snow
The Birds And The Bees

The 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 in 2003.

Pictures from the recording session:

Wilbur Evans and Eileen FarrellDorothy Fields, Celeste Holm and Betty Bruce  

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 2 (DIDX-413).

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.

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