George F. Kaufman is probably the greatest collaborator dramatist in American theatrical history. Best recalled for his collaborations with Moss Hart (YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU; ONCE IN A LIFETIME; THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER), he also collaborated with Edna Ferber (STAGEDOOR), Morris Ryskind (THE COCONUTS), and with Ring Lardner on this play. But although he was involved in many plays that were actually musicals, Kaufman hated musicals. He felt they were unnatural - people suddenly breaking into songs that interfered with the flow of the narrative. The classic story of how this actually hurt his work is told about THE COCONUTS. Irving Berlin wrote the score, and most of the tunes are third rate Berlin, but he had a tune which Mary Eaton was to sing to Oscar Shaw in the show when he was arrested. It was "Always", which remains a standard to this day among Berlin's tunes. Berlin proudly played the melody for Kaufman, Ryskind, and the producers of the show.
Kaufman got bored, and when it was finished revealed how he felt about that song. He went to the piano and played the musical line for "I'll be loving you...always", but sang, "I'll be loving you Tuseday." After a few minutes of this, Berlin angrily took back the best tune he had composed for that show. He left such tunes as "When My Dream Comes True" and "The Monkey - Doodle - Doo" in, which are only recalled now because the film is still a living comedy due to the Marx Brothers.
Kaufman probably never cared (the show was, after all, a success without "Always"). However, when he wrote JUNE MOON with Ring Lardner, he aimed at Tin Pan Alley the shafts he always felt it deserved. For example, the big hit (so far) in the career of Jack Cassidy's / Paul Sears' is a ditty called, "Paprika, Paprika, The Spice of My Life." Hardly a great sounding tune. Cassidy's character has had a long dry spell since that success. He has found a new partner in Tom Fitzsimmons (Fred Stevens) who seems gifted to put Cassidy's words to music.
The play has not really dated, but in this production the more serious side of the comedy took over. Basically Cassidy and Stevens are being undermined by Cassidy's wife (Susan Sarandon - playing a good villain role for a change) and her sister, who see the newly successful team as good to milk for every cent they can get. Both men eventually do realize they are being used, but it takes awhile for this to happen.
Kevin McCarthy plays the head of the music publishing company - he only has one good scene though. Stephen Sondheim plays a cynical piano player who helps straighten out the boys about the women they have been tied to. Estelle Parsons and Austin Pendleton also add to the cast. But it is Cassidy whom I find most interesting as the betrayed Paul. His increasing suspicions are touching, as he realizes something is wrong but he can't quite grasp it. It shows that doomed acting talent in another light, quite different from his appearance in THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL, where he was not so naive or trusting for so long. He was a very gifted actor who died too soon.
For all the positives in the play I'll give it a "6". As I like Broadway musicals (unlike Kaufman) I can't give it anymore than that.
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