Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls” has always been more popular and more revived than his “The Most Happy Fella,” in part because there has never been a movie version of “Fella,” and also because the musical demands of the show are so extraordinary that it is rarely performed. Yet “Fella” is a more complete synthesis of music and drama and many consider it to be Loesser’s masterpiece, which was the composer’s own view. Loesser took over five years to complete it, pulling out all stops for the show. Having been unsatisfied with some of the cardboard characters in “Guys and Dolls,” Loesser decided that this time around he would not only write the show’s music and lyrics, but the libretto as well, turning to Sidney Howard’s “They Knew What They Wanted” for his subject matter. He fleshes out Howard’s characters considerably in his adaptation, creating some of the most three-dimensional characters to turn up on the musical stage—so three-dimensional, in fact, that some of the show’s language had to be trimmed back for McCarthey-era sensibilities. Containing twice the amount of music of the typical Broadway show, the show became the first Broadway musical to be recorded complete and the original Broadway cast album was available both as a single highlights disc and a special three-disc set. The show had the misfortune to premiere at the same time as “My Fair Lady,” a far more accessible show that was more in tune with the Eisenhower era than the more forward-looking “Fella.” Revivals have been made, but mostly by opera companies. Even Robert Weede, the show’s original star, was a Metropolitan Opera baritone. It’s the perfect show to get a full Ravinia staging complete with choreography by Marc Robin and a full orchestra and luxurious cast that includes Tony Award-winning George Hearn and two-time Grammy Award-winning Sylvia McNeir. Jo Sullivan, who starred in the original production and was also Loesser’s wife, will discuss her experiences and Loesser’s output at 7:15pm. (Dennis Polkow)
Ravinia Festival, Lake-Cook at Green Bay Rds., (847)266-5100. Fri 8pm.