“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Heart and Soul,” “Luck Be a Lady” — all songs that people are familiar with and can even hum along to, but perhaps don’t know were written by renowned songwriter Frank Loesser.
To close its third season, the Bethany Area Repertory Theatre (BART) will be performing “A Greater Loesser Moment,” a musical production surrounding Loesser’s life and songs.
“It’s 22 songs of Frank Loesser from various shows and movies,” said Rusty Hesse, who is directing the show with Sharon Sorrentino. “He started out writing as part of the war effort during World War II. But by that point he had already written many, many songs.”
Loesser wrote more than 1,500 songs throughout his career, and created the music and lyrics for such Broadway hits as “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.”
“He is quite famous in the theater. I’m sure this generation now, when they hear Frank Loesser, they think, ‘Who the heck is that?’” said Bob Davis, who put together the book for the show. “I always liked his music. I always thought the stuff he wrote for the theater was really good.”
The opening gala for the production will be held Thursday, April 16, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45, and include dinner prior to the show, catered by a local restaurant.
The show will also be performed on April 17, 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., and on April 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets for those shows cost $25 per person, with the doors opening at 7 p.m.
“It’s all Frank Loesser’s life. We start out at the end of his life and flashback through the years and then end again, at the end of his life,” said Hesse. “It’s a narrative that tells us what he was doing at the time… what movie or show the song was written for, what was going on in America at the time, what was going on in the world and what was going on in his personal life.”
The show is broken up into two acts, with an intermission, and will even feature a few audience sing-alongs.
“I think it will be especially fun for the people who remember Frank Loesser’s works,” Hesse said. “A lot of the people who were the major singers at that time recorded songs from those shows. So, the people who lived in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s will remember them and like them.”
Hesse said Loesser’s music is timeless and that a new generation of music lovers will appreciate his work just as much.
“It’s also available to a whole new generation, because a lot of these shows are being revived and on Broadway.”
He said he personally remembers loving Loesser’s work in the film “Hans Christian Andersen,” starring Danny Kaye.
“When I was growing up, everyone knew those songs,” said Hesse. “It was sort of like the ‘Frozen’ of its day. Every kid knew those songs, and they’re all in the show.”
This will be the third production Hesse has directed for BART, having previously directed “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “We Gather Together.”
“I was living in New York and moved down here about two years ago and wanted to be involved in some kind of theater group. I saw an article in the paper that was talking about a new theater group that was looking members. So I called and said I’d like to get involved.”
Hesse, and ordained Episcopal priest, said he used his love of theater to build up his parish when he was living in New York.
“One of the ways I built up the parish was through theater. I had my own theater company in New York called the Hartsdale Players,” he said. “I directed with them and other groups — over 50 shows in New York.”
“A Greater Loesser Moment” will feature the musical talents of five local singers — two of whom are new to BART.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, learning 22 songs… Trying to get all those lyrics, some of those lyrics are tricky. He wrote some really great lyrics,” said Hesse. “It’s almost like dealing with Steven Sondheim’s lyrics in a way, because he has very cleaver lyrics. We laugh a lot at our own challenges in remembering the lyrics.
“The nice thing about the people that I’m working with is they all read music, so … there hasn’t had to be a lot of in-depth rehearsal in learning the songs.”
Hesse said people of all ages will enjoy the show and its music, and he hopes to sell out the shows every night.
“I think that people will really enjoy the show. I hope they’ll come out, sit back and reminisce. It’s a great nostalgic show in many ways. But for people who have never heard of Frank Loesser before, it’s also a great introduction to somebody who wrote some very, very clever lyrics.”
Davis — who formed BART with Rich Bloch of Dickens Parlour Theatre, where BART is based — said they’ve had an amazing season and are thankful for the community’s continued support in their endeavor to bring local theater to the Bethany Beach area.
“We’ve had a great season. We’ve had better attendance this year than any of the seasons past — many of the shows were sold out. We had great support from the community and we hope it continues.”
Dickens Parlour Theatre is located at 35715 Atlantic Avenue in Millville. For more information or to mate reservations, call (302) 829-1071 or visit www.dptmagic.com. For more information about the Bethany Area Repertory Theater, visit www.facebook.com/BARTinBethany.