Saturday, June 7, 2014

Song Lyric of the Day (Rodgers and Hammerstein, on How ‘June Is Bustin' Out All Over’)

“June is bustin' out all over
The feelin' is gettin' so intense,
That the young Virginia creepers
Hev been huggin' the bejeepers
Outa all the mornin' glories on the fence!”—“June Is Bustin' Out All Over,” from the musical Carousel (1945), book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, music by Richard Rodgers

Probably for the entire time I’ve maintained this blog, I’ve wanted to quote from this song, yet I never got around to it. Then last weekend, while listening in my car to National Public Radio, I heard novelist Julia Keller extol this “wonderfully corny” showtune by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and I knew I must write about this, and soon.

Even in miniature here, you can see in abundance Hammerstein’s lyric gifts.  It is a marvel that this immensely sophisticated urbanite could write lines filled with such love of nature and an capacity not just to hear slang, but to give birth to new forms of it (“bejeepeers”) —a celebration of literary propagation that matches the song’s glory in natural propagation.

This second Rodgers and Hammerstein musical needs all the comic exuberance it can get from this song. Before long, the two main young characters, Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan will be as powerless to resist their natural instincts as the flora and fauna are in their New England coastal town.

As I wrote in a prior post, the current toasts of Broadway were pioneering new, uneasy territory with Carousel. If they were going to persuade audiences to reject out of hand a male protagonist who was a no-account wife-beater, they had to offer something that wouldn’t overturn expectations from the start. “June Is Bustin' Out All Over” would provide welcome comic relief in one of the darkest entries in the American musical theater.

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