Sam Davis

Kitty's Kisses

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    7
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Kitty's Kisses, a stage musical with songs by composer Con Conrad and lyricist Gus Kahn, opened on Broadway on May 6, 1926, got good reviews, and ran a successful 170 performances. That was about it for the next 60 years, until theater historian Tommy Krasker began piecing together long-discarded musical parts from it that were stored in a warehouse in Secaucus, NJ. Krasker has devoted much of his time to restoring and recording vintage musicals by better-known songwriters, notably George and Ira Gershwin, but he seems to have had a special place in his heart for this minor, forgotten effort, and after launching his own record label, P.S. Classics, has found time to assemble a studio cast of Broadway singers such as Rebecca Luker (as Kitty) to record the score. Here it is, 83 years after the fact, and it demonstrates that Kitty's Kisses is a competent if nearly generic 1920s musical with some charming songs that must have served as the basis for some frenetic production numbers featuring a lot of people doing the Charleston. The humor is a bit simple-minded, the lyrics lack the sparkle and precision of an Ira Gershwin, and there are not only no hit songs, but no songs that deserved to be hits. Yet, this is the work of music professionals. Kahn was a Tin Pan Alley stalwart (even if he was from Chicago) who had already written a raft of hits ("Pretty Baby," "Ain't We Got Fun?," "It Had to Be You," etc.). Conrad hadn't had quite that level of success, though he was responsible for "Ma! (He's Making Eyes at Me)." As such, they knew what they were doing, even if they didn't strike gold with Kitty's Kisses. Krasker, however, sweetens the pot a little. He notes that one part of the score was missing despite his efforts, the "Finale Ultimo." "… [R]ather than omit it altogether," he writes in his liner notes, "we devised one of our own with a playful tip of the hat to the composer." That is to say, he interpolated another Conrad song at the end, perhaps the composer's best-known composition, "The Continental" from the 1934 Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film The Gay Divorcée, the first song to win an Academy Award. Thus, Kitty's Kisses finally has its hit song, albeit drafted in from eight years in the future.

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