Alan Jay Lerner and Leonard Bernstein: Take Care of This House

Written by Amy Asch

Music Theater Historian

In category: Song of the Day

Published August 16, 2018

One of the joys of my work on The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner was getting to know Love Life and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, fascinating, flawed shows that don’t have original cast albums.  Both are concept musicals with brilliant songs, unusual structures, and pointed social critiques.  Love Life, a dark, time-traveling “vaudeville” about marriage and money, written with Kurt Weill, had a respectable run in the 1948-49 Broadway season.  1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a collaboration with Leonard Bernsteinwas a series of vignettes (many to do with federal tolerance of slavery) from the lives of several Presidents, First Ladies and a fictional pair of African-American servants, within a meta-theatrical frame. After disastrous tryouts, it limped to Broadway, opening on May 4, 1976 and closing on May 8.

A few songs from Love Life were covered by pop singers, notably “Here I’ll Stay.”  The most enduring song from 1600 is “Take Care of This House,” which Abigail Adams sings to a runaway slave child who becomes a White House servant.  A song about cherishing the highest intentions of America’s founders is always relevant.

I like Julie Andrews’ rendition very much, and it includes the verse.

Bonus Track!
A very informal performance of “To Make Us Proud” from 1600 by WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon.

author: Amy Asch

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Amy Asch is a long-time NYFOS subscriber who does research about Broadway songwriters, musicals and films for books, concerts and documentaries.  With Dominic McHugh she is co-editor of the recently published Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner (Oxford University Press).  She also compiled and annotated The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II (Knopf).  She has done projects for the 92nd St Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists series, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, the Library of Congress, and the estates of Irving Berlin and Jonathan Larson (Rent).


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