I went to the Library of Congress on Monday night to see the concert version of Life Begins at 8:40. The original show was a 1943 revue featuyring the music of Harold Arlen and the lyrics of both Yip Harburg and Ira Gershwin, and featured both Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr. Notice the Wizard of Oz trio there.) The featured a number of songs that have gone on to a further life, including You’re a Builder Upper, Fun to Be Fooled, and Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block, but no mega-hit.
The current concert reflects the work of scholars from the Library of Congress to reconstruct the score and the folks from PS Classics who will be recording a studio version with the assembled cast. And what a cast they were, including stars of the recent Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, Kate Baldwin and Christopher Fitzgerald, local boy-made-good Brad Oscar, and those delightful divas Rebecca Luker and Faith Prince.
In the first act, the performers looked amazing, were energetic, and from what I could tell gave vocally lovely performances. Frustratingly, there was a decision not to amplify the singers. And with a 20+ piece orchestra onstage with them, even these first-rate performers didn’t have a chance. I found it all so frustrating that I left at intermission (and caught the very end of the DC Cabaret Network Open Mic).
However, it does make me really look forward to the forthcoming CD !