On August 10 and September 17, Bill Rudman and associate artistic director Nancy Maier will co-host ‘Luck Be a Lady,’ a concert celebrating the songs of Frank Loesser. Like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim, Loesser belongs to that elite circle of theater songwriters who wrote both music and lyrics, and his hit shows include three classics: Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. TMTP’s executive director Heather Meeker talked with Maier to find out more.
Meeker: Frank Loesser’s musicals are performed all over the world, and in 2007 a PBS documentary chronicled his life and work. What about this man and his songs keeps us coming back?
Maier: As our concert will demonstrate, Loesser was an extremely passionate man, and passion is irresistible. I also think there’s a special quality to be found in songs with just one person at the helm. And even though Loesser’s music and lyrics are funny, charming and romantic, above all they are so right for the characters and their circumstances. His songs sound so natural that sometimes it feels as though they practically wrote themselves. They’re a joy – whether you are singing them or listening to them.
Meeker: Loesser wrote many songs for Hollywood movie musicals before he began really concentrating on Broadway.
Maier: Yes, it was his film work – usually writing lyrics only – that first made him well-known: songs like “I Hear Music” and “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You.” He won an Oscar for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 1949. But while he was happy in Hollywood, I think that he found his true creative self in his stage musicals.
Meeker: Did your work on his musical The Most Happy Fella at Great Lakes Theater Festival in 1996 offer you any insights regarding his talents?
Maier: I learned what a big artistic stretch Loesser made on that show. With The Most Happy Fella, he created songs that were uniquely suited for each character. For example, the title character is a Napa Valley wine grower and an immigrant, and Loesser gave him truly operatic music in the Italian style. There is much more going on musically in that show than most people will ever realize.
Meeker: What can the audience expect in this concert?
Maier: As usual with the series, there are lots of songs that everyone will know like “On a Slow Boat to China” and “Standing on the Corner,” but you’ll also hear songs gems that aren’t often performed including “Says My Heart” and “Walking Away Whistling.”
Meeker: How do you choose singers for the concerts?
Maier: I come from a strong background in coaching and training singers for musical theater. Once Bill has chosen the songs, we work together to find singers who match the style of an individual songwriter. That can be difficult, since one writer often covers an array of musical styles.
Meeker: You’ll also take on a few songs yourself, won’t you?
Maier: The Great American Songbook is what I grew up with. So yes, Bill even has me singing. He likes to give me the songs that aren’t quite for anybody else, especially the if they have an “older but wiser” tone!
Meeker: What is your personal favorite?
Maier: The rarely heard “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls. It is very simple and from the heart. I have life experience that I can bring to a lyric like that. In fact, no matter how beautiful a song’s melody is, I probably value the lyric above all else in some ways – because it is the direct and immediate connection with the words that brings the audience in.
WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW TO GET TICKETS
August 10 | 7 PM | Cain Park
To purchase tickets, call 216-371-3000 or visit www.CainPark.com
In Advance: $28 | Day of Show: $31
September 17 | 2 PM | Parma Snow Library
To purchase tickets, call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.MusicalTheaterProject.org
General: $35 | TMTP Members: $30
For more information on this concert, click HERE.