Fats Waller Had A Whorehouse Musical

It’s still morning and I’ve already learned something: there’s a Broadway show about a whorehouse in Martinique with music by Fats Waller (pictured). John McWhorter informs us: ‘“Early to Bed” was actually a big hit when it opened, in 1943, but the show ran in the middle of a musicians’ strike against American recording companies, and therefore there was no cast album—not even recordings of single songs. All we have from that year are a few tracks of Waller, who died just as the show settled in for its yearlong run, playing and singing a handful of the songs himself. And then, “Early To Bed” also opened the same year that “Oklahoma!” kicked off the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution, introducing the new, grown-up Broadway musical, with a story that made basic sense and songs that advanced the narrative instead of just decorating it. “Early To Bed,” however, epitomized the old way: the plot, such as it was, operated more on the level of televised variety shows like Carol Burnett’s. The writer, George Marion, Jr., was a top-class craftsman of that form—he had previously done the script for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’s breakout film “The Gay Divorcee”—but times change, and scripts like the one for “Early To Bed” do not beckon for a revival.

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