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Harold Karr and “A New Fangled Tango”

happyhunt

Harold Karr (1921-1968) was an American Broadway composer and songwriter.   Born in 1921, Karr is best known for the musical comedy Happy Hunting which ran on Broadway from Dec. 6, 1956, to Nov. 30, 1957. Happy Hunting was a 1956 musical with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, lyrics by Matt Dubey, music by Harold Karr, original choreography by Alex Romero, assistant choreographer Eugene Louis Faccuito (Luigi) . The plot focuses on wealthy Philadelphia Main Line widow Liz Livingstone, played by Ethel Merman, and her efforts to find a royal husband for her daughter Beth.   Liz Livingstone and her daughter Beth arrive in Monaco to attend the wedding of Prince Rainier and fellow Philadelphian Grace Kelly, only to be denied admission when her name cannot be found on the guest list.  Angered by the snub and determined to find her daughter an even better husband than Grace, Liz arranges a date for Beth and the Duke of Grenada, unaware that the hotel’s financial problems, which are being investigated by her attorney Sandy Stewart, are due in no small part to the Duke’s failure to pay his bills. When she is made aware of the situation, Liz offers to settle his account and move him, his assistant Arturo, and his prized horses to Philadelphia if he will marry Beth, and he agrees to accept her offer.  Back in the States, complications arise when Liz finds herself falling in love with the Duke while Beth finds she is attracted to Sandy. Everything is resolved when Beth and Sandy elope and the Duke agrees to marry Liz, who realizes he loves her for her money but is willing to accept him on those terms.

After marrying Continental Airlines executive Robert Six in 1953, Ethel Merman retired from performing and happily embraced the life of a Colorado housewife. Six, however, urged her to accept the lead in Happy Hunting, with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (who had written Call Me Madam) and a score by the unknown team of Harold Karr and Matt Dubey. Merman acquiesced to her husband’s demands.  Directed by Abe Burrows, with musical staging by Alex Romero and Bob Herget, the Broadway production opened with an advance sale of $1.5 million on December 6, 1956, at the Majestic Theatre, where it ran for 412 performances. It closed on November 30, 1957.  In addition to Merman and costar Fernando Lamas, the cast included Virginia Gibson as Beth Livingstone, Gordon Polk as Sandy Stewart, Leon Belasco as Arturo, and Estelle Parsons in her Broadway debut. Jo Mielziner was responsible for the scenic and lighting design.  Merman was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical but lost to Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing. Fernando Lamas was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical but lost to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. Virginia Gibson was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical but lost to Edith Adams in Li’l Abner. Irene Sharaff was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Costume Design but lost to Cecil Beaton for My Fair Lady.

One of Karr’s most remembered songs, “A New-Fangled Tango,” comes from Act II of Happy Hunting.  Another fairly popular song from the musical was “Mutual Admiration Society.”  Karr also provided songs for the 1956 musical revue New Faces of 1956, with music for “What Does Dream Mean?” and “The Greatest Invention” and lyrics for “The Greatest Invention,” and for the 1962 musical play We Take the Town.  He died in 1968.  His nephew, Ron Netsky, is Chairman of the Art Department at Nazareth College, and traces his love of music to the people he grew up around,  including his uncle Harold Karr.

My collection includes the following work by Harold Karr:

Happy Hunting Ground (1956): A New Fangled Tango.

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