Before he scored his first success with the Garrick Gaieties at the age of 22 in 1925, Broadway composer Richard Rodgers had a surprisingly long apprenticeship that included many amateur productions. Fly with Me, the Columbia University Varsity Show of 1920, heard here recorded live at Columbia's McMillan Theater 60 years later, was not his first such show, but actually his fifth, even though he was only 17 when it was produced. By then, he had already met and begun writing with his longtime lyric partner Lorenz Hart, himself a Columbia alumnus. Not surprisingly, Rodgers recycled some material from his earlier shows: "Don't Love Me Like Othello" was interpolated from You'd Be Surprised, a musical he wrote for the Akron Club that was mounted a couple of weeks before Fly with Me; "Always Room for One More" (aka "There's Room for One More") was a song he had written with Oscar Hammerstein II, another Columbia man and a future partner, for Up Stage and Down in 1919, and "Twinkling Eyes" was another song from Up Stage and Down for which Rodgers himself had penned lyrics (something he wouldn't do again for another 40 years or so). The new songs included some excellent tunes, among them "Gone Are the Days," "Another Melody in F," and "Working for the Government," which boasted characteristically witty wordplay from Hart. The show's plot was an absurdity about a time 50 years in the future (1970) when Communism rules the world but love still triumphs. The 1980 Columbia University Revival Cast, playing before an enthusiastic audience, doesn't worry about the silliness, but delivers the 1920s-style tunes with verve. The recording is of only passable quality; it sounds like it was recorded with a few stage microphones and is comparable to a good bootleg. But this is, after all, a college show, and the highlight (repeated more than once) comes with the song dedicated to Columbia: "A College on Broadway." Rodgers and his collaborators would do better work, of course, but this is not bad (and it was good enough to get the composer his first professional job).
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Fly with Me, musical|