Son honors father’s legacy
Your Voice, February 6, 2015
By Shelley Koppel
MARTIN COUNTY — Composer Frank Loesser and his wife, singer Lynn Garland, used to perform Loesser’s song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” at New York parties.
“It was a party song for my parents, son John Loesser, executive director of the Lyric Theatre, said. “They only performed it at parties. When he wrote it, you only got invited (to parties) if you could do a song. They were invited to every party to do the song. Then my father sold it for the movie, ‘Neptune’s Daughter.’ He hadn’t told my mother. She wanted to kill him until it won an Academy Award. Then she forgave him.”
Loesser wrote the lyrics and music to Broadway hits “Guys and Dolls,” and “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” He won Tony awards for both shows and shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the latter with Abe Burrows. A prolific writer, he composed more than 700 songs, including “See What the Boys in the Back Room will Have,” “Once in Love with Amy,” “Standing on the Corner,” “Thumbelina, “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and “Heart and Soul.”
You can hear a host of Frank Loesser’s music Feb. 23, when the Lyric Theatre presents “More of Loesser,” a musical revue directed by Barry Day and featuring Billy Stritch, Klea Blackhurst, Eric Yves Garcia and Marissa Mulder.
In an interview, John Loesser spoke about how the show came about and how he strives to preserve his father’s legacy.
“It was a conversation that started a year ago at the Kravis Center,” he said. “I had a lovely lunch with Barry Day, who wanted to do a Loesser show with cabaret artists at the Kravis and here. It’s the first cooperative venture between the Kravis and Lyric. A lot of people do revues, but this is more cabaret, more intimate. The performers are expert in musical phrasing and what cabaret is, and the Lyric is the perfect venue. It’s an opportunity to hear a lot of my father’s music. We should title the show, ‘I Didn’t Know He Wrote That.’ There are wonderful songs and people know them. They have no idea he wrote them. It’s fun for me.”
Loesser said that even in a less well-known song, you can see his father’s genius.
“You can see how smart he was. “The music and lyrics move the plot probably better than with any other composer. He was a genius in moving the plot though music and lyrics. A song like ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ (from ‘Guys and Dolls’) is absolutely true to the character. The dialogue and music move perfectly.”
Loesser noted that his father could write a song to order.
“He could write on a dime,” he said. “Someone would run in and say they needed a song for Dorothy Lamour on an island and he’d write ‘The Moon of Manakoora’ in literally hours. When they wrote something really good, they trunked it until they had the right vehicle.”
For the son, knowing the back story of his father’s work and being the keeper of his legacy remain fun.
“It’s how current it still is after all these years,” he said. “The song, ‘What are You Doing New Year’s Eve’ is played every year before Christmas and is on Christmas albums. The original intent was for it to be sung after New Year’s Eve, that they’d be together until the next New Year’s Eve.’”
Frank Loesser was a savvy businessman as well as a brilliant composer.
“Irving Berlin and my father were the first to start their own publishing companies to protect their music,” John Loesser said. “My father also started the first music theater licensing company.”
That company, now Music Theater International, licenses shows for the use of student and community theaters.
Loesser said he doesn’t not know exactly which songs will be featured in the show. The good news is that there is not a bad one in the bunch.
“More of Loesser” will be presented at the Lyric Theatre, 59 S.W. Flagler Ave., Stuart, Feb. 23 at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 .
For tickets, call the box office at (772) 286-7827 or order online at www.lyrictheatre.com.