Hugh Martin

Frederick Nolan
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:46

Further to Tom Vallance's obituary of Hugh Martin (18 April), writes Frederick Nolan, I met Hugh through Marshall Barer, one of the greatest lyricists musical theatre has produced, and still recall with vast pleasure Marshall's "performance" (no other word will do) of a score they wrote in the early 1960s for a show called A Little Night Music (yes, yes, I know) in which Jeanette Macdonald was to return to the Broadway stage.

The plot had to do with old-time movie stars who have fallen off the Hollywood radar and find refuge (and romance) by hiding in the studios where they were once so famous, only coming out on to the empty sound stages at night. It had what would have been the most sure-fire, standing-ovation finale ever written: in front of a screen showing the 1933 movie Love Me Tonight as she sings "Isn't It Romantic?" Jeanette sings a wistful counterpoint duet "Wasn't It Romantic?" with her younger self. They were still putting the show together when Jeanette, who had heart trouble, died very suddenly, and A Little Night Music died with her. Hugh always thought it was one of the best things he had ever done.

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