The music of the musical Swing! is chockablock full of great tunes from the 1930s and ’40s; some of the tunes, however, are contemporary, written specifically for the Broadway production, in part, I think, to show that swing music, while no longer dominating the pop music of the day, still has a firm place in the American musical world.
As a consequence, there is a mix in the music credits. Most of the tunes were written by some of the great swing musicians: Duke Ellington, Sy Oliver, Johnny Mercer, Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, Sammy Fain, Clarence Williams, Harold Arlen, Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, and many more. But the newer tunes are also by talented, composers and lyricists, and it just so happens that there are IU alumni in each group of writers, old and new.
Jazz composer and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael was born in Bloomington in 1899 and earned both his bachelor’s degree (1925) and his law degree (1926) from IU. As a student at IU, he began to compose songs and perform regularly with Carmichael’s Collegians, the first band he led at the university. After law school, he worked briefly as a law clerk before pursuing a music career, writing many of the songs that have become American jazz standards, including “Stardust,” “Heart and Soul” and “Georgia on My Mind.” Carmichael won the 1952 Oscar for his song “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” had his own television show and even acted in several movies. He died in 1981 and is buried in Bloomington.
The Hoagy Carmichael tune in Swing! is “Skylark,” with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer (who said it took him a year to get the lyrics just right, once Carmichael had presented him with the tune). The 1942 song was immediately recorded by Anita O’Day with the Gene Krupa Orchestra, Helen Forrest with the Harry James Orchestra, and Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, with vocals by Ray Eberle. The Miller recording rose to Number 7 on the charts. Others who have recorded “Skylark” include Billy Eckstine with the Earl Hines Orchestra, Maxine Sullivan, The Hi-Lo’s, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Bette Midler, Cleo Laine, Linda Ronstadt, Keith Jarrett, k.d. lang, and Boz Scaggs.
Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid
For the third season in a row, the Indiana Festival Theatre is presenting music and lyrics by the collaborators and IU alumni Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid. For the past two seasons we have hosted their presence on campus and provided a creative workshop space for their musical Solana, which we presented as part of our Premiere Musicals series. Their musical Bingo (the winning musical) had a successful Off-Broadway run and continues to have numerous productions nationally and internationally. It was honored with the 2007 Bay Area Critics Association Award for Best Musical. Their critically acclaimed musical, Vices: A Love Story, was produced at the Caldwell Theatre where it was nominated for eight 2010 Carbonell Awards, including Best New Work and Best Musical. Vices, the musical that Variety called “a minor miracle…a sensual celebration,” has also enjoyed a successful run at Theatre Aspen. They are currently developing an original score for the upcoming Broadway musical Genius based on the book by Patrick Dennis. They were 2009 Dramatists Guild Fellows and are both proud members of The Dramatists Guild, BMI and the Writer’s Guild of America, East.
In addition to having several TV and film scripts in development, they wrote for the NBC series Just Deal and their sitcom Scott Free, developed with Barbra Streisand’s production company Barwood Films and Kelsey Grammer’s production company Grammnet, was purchased by Paramount Pictures.
Ilene and Michael’s song “Throw That Girl Around” is part of the music featured in the Tony-nominated musical Swing!, now in performance at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre, leading off the 2013 Indiana Festival Theatre season. Information about the IFT and how to get tickets may be found at our web site.