Fun has been in short supply lately due to the pandemic, so it was with some anticipation that I attended a summer theatre production last month – a musical set in the Roaring Twenties. It was my first time in an indoor venue with 500 other people in several years, but we were lucky as we had great seats, mid-way left orchestra, and the three seats in front of us were empty. We put my mother on the aisle, and wore our masks, although many people did not.
The entire season from 2020 was held over until this year. I ordered the tickets way back in February and was lucky to get a cancellation, as people are so desperate for fun after two years of lock-down, that most people held onto their seats. It was really nice to be in a theatre again.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Roaring Twenties decade – Downtown Abbey, Fitzgerald & Company, the hairstyles and fashions of the flappers, but have to admit that other than the Charleston and a few other tunes, I didn’t know much about the music of the era.
The setting was a speakeasy on New Years Eve 1928 and it was two hours of non-stop music, dancing and fun. Here’s the songlist.
I was surprised how many of the songs I recognized (and my mother, being born in 1926, knew them all) but some of them were surprising as I associate them with other decades and singers – like Ray Orbison’s Are you Lonesome Tonight, Guy Lombardo’s Auld Lang Syne and It Had to Be You, which I always thought of as a 50’s crooners song.
The lyrics of some of these songs seem almost quaint by today’s standards – Tea for Two and Ain’t She Sweet for example, with Let’s Do It and Making Whoppee being the most risque. Although after googling Ain’t We Got Fun – see below – perhaps the lyrics (Mr. Stork?) are not so innocent after all, but better suggestive than downright crude.
“Are you tired of smutty lyrics that make the air turn blue” says the opening song on Zoomer Media’s – Your All Time Classic Hit Parade TV show. (My mother watches this on Vision TV Channel 24 on Friday nights at 8:30 – it’s a half hour of pure nostalgia.) Alicia Ault from the show’s trio, The Ault Sisters, played a lead role in the Roaring Twenties musical, although I didn’t realize it until after I read the playbill. The sisters look so much alike it’s hard to tell them apart.
Many of these songs are memorable even if you don’t know what time period they came from. Will the songs from today’s 2020 decade be remembered a hundred years from now? Somehow I doubt it. When you think of all the changes music has gone through over the years, I wonder what they’ll be listening to then? (Hopefully we’ll be listening to a choir of angels.)
The costumes were lovely.
Yes, I know, no photos allowed in the theatre, but I did ask one of the ushers if I could take a picture of this dress. If I ever go to a Roaring Twenties party I want a dress like that, complete with the fringe on the bottom. Her headband was nice too.
The choreography was wonderful, ending with the Charleston,
and a toast to the New Year. I don’t know how they can sing and dance like that and not be out of breath….or in need of a beverage or two.
All in all, it was a swell performance, or in the lingo of the decade, the bees knees, the cat’s pyjamas….well you get the picture! (Here’s a link to more slang from the 1920’s.)
PS. The second Downton Abbey movie – A New Era, also set in 1929, is out for home viewing soon. Has anyone seen it?