DEAREST ENEMY

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Book by

HERBERT FIELDS

Lyrics by

LORENZ HART

Music by

RICHARD RODGERS
First produced at the Knickerbocker Theatre on September 18, 1925, with Helen Ford as "Betsy" and Charles Purcell as "Captain Sir John".

DEAREST ENEMY is a page from American history. During the Revolutionary War, Mrs. Robert Murray receives an urgent message from General Washington: She is to detain British officers at her Murray Hill residence "by every means at your discretion"--long enough to enable the Continental Army to make a strategic withdrawel. Mrs. Murray and the other Continental ladies are philosophical about their mission, as they explain "War is War". The British general staff, and the other red-coats, find the Continental ladies most endearing and fall a ready victim to this maneuver. General Tryon discovers he is "Old Enough to Love"; Mrs. Murray's daughter, Jane, attracts Captain Henry Tryon. The principal love interest involves Betsy Burke and Captain Sir John Copeland, as they reveal in the hit song, "Here In My Arms".

The settings, costuming--and an intermission curtain depicting a map of old New York--presented such an "endlessly lovely picture" to the critic, Alexander Woollcott, that he insisted that they alone were "worth the price of admission". But there was a good deal more to recommend Dearest Enemy than its attractive trappings. Fresh in subject matter, spontaneous in its treatment, full of gaiety that was at times discreetly spiced with salaciousness, Dearest Enemy was (as its programme took pains to point out) an "American musical play" rather than a "musical comedy". The Rodgers score was not only studded with fine songs but also with duets, trios and choral numbers. The spirit of the eighteenth century was evoked in a gavotte which opened the second act; a martial note was injected in a stirring number for Sir John and his soldiers in "Cheerio". The music was good enough and important enough to tempt Percy Hammond to describe the production as "a baby grand opera". General Washington makes only a single brief appearance--in the stirring patriotic finale which closes the play.

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This document was originally published in The Complete Book of Light Opera. Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 826-7.

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