Judy Garland set the bar for every performer to follow. Every time I’m working with young singers on iconic American repertoire I have them listen to Judy’s recordings. Every recording of Judy Garland serves as a masterclass in style.
Today’s song is one of my favorite ballads. It’s from the 1951 movie musical Royal Wedding, which is not a great film. Lerner later said his own contributions made him cringe. But a score that has “Too Late Now,” “You’re All the World to Me” (to which Fred Astaire danced on the ceiling!) and the audacious “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You, When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life” is not chopped liver.
Royal Wedding was Lerner’s first Hollywood effort and he was teamed with composer Burton Lane, whose hits included “Everything I Have Is Yours,” “How About You?” “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” and “Old Devil Moon.” Lerner and Lane wrote a number of good songs together over the course of four collaborations — Royal Wedding, an unproduced movie musical of Huck Finn (1951-53) and the Broadway musicals On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965; with some new songs for the 1970 film), and Carmelina (1979). They found each other hard to work with, but kept hoping the results would be worth it.
So back to Royal Wedding… It was a vehicle for Fred Astaire and the plot echoed Astaire’s personal history: he and his sister Adele had been a major musical comedy team, the toast of New York and London, where she fell in love with a British nobleman. Finding – and keeping – a leading lady for Royal Wedding proved complicated. June Allyson was cast, but became pregnant and couldn’t do the role. Judy Garland began rehearsals, but was unable to keep to the schedule. Finally, Jane Powell stepped into the part, stayed in the part, and introduced this song, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
“Too Late Now” was written with Garland in mind. The music came first, and Lerner, who was back in New York, first heard it on the phone, long distance from California. This clip from the 1960s shows just how well the song suited Garland, but caveat emptor, she has altered some words.
Bonus track: Nancy LaMott, the first person I ever heard sing this song.
From my very first coaching with Maestro Blier, I brought in a new American Songbook song every week. I think it’s something we both look forward to; we work on my repertoire for the first fifty minutes of the coaching and in the remaining few moments of our time together I whip out my binder of torch songs. Sometimes my choices are slightly ridiculous (I’ll never forget Steve’s face when I finished singing “The Wizard and I” from Wicked) but more often than not it’s a moment we can both enjoy together. I’ve always dreamed of being a Broadway Beltress, and with Steve the dream comes true every week.
Thank you for joining me this week, Song Lovers! It’s been a treat sharing some of my favorite songs and performances with you. I hummed and hawed about how to finish this blog with a bang, because it should be like an Eleven O’clock Number–I wanted it to be something that stays with you as you go about your day. After seriously contemplating three different songs, I remembered something Steve always tells me in coachings: just do what you know and you are always enough. I know I love belting. I know I love Eleven O’clock Numbers. I know I love Judy Garland. So here it is… Judy Garland singing “As Long As He Needs Me” from Lionel Bart’s Oliver! In my opinion, Judy Garland is one of the most exquisite song interpreters ever. Maybe some of you will hear Steve and I do a rendition of this next year at HENRY’s!
This week we welcome baritone Efrain Solis to Song of the Day! He has sung with companies such as San Francisco Opera, Virginia Opera, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. You can hear him with NYFOS on Tuesday, April 26th concert at Merkin Hall in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women (get tickets here).
Happy Days Are Here Again (Ager/Yellen)
New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • email@example.com