Los Angeles Theater Preview: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU – THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF AL DUBIN (Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood)

Post image for Los Angeles Theater Preview: I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU – THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF AL DUBIN (Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood)

by Tony Frankel on April 20, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


He wrote the lyrics to the songs that kept the world singing through some of the darkest times in human history: The Great Depression and WWII. But as with most songwriters who aren’t named Gershwin, Porter, Berlin or Rodgers & Hammerstein, this man, who passed at the age of 53, has been forgotten by most people. You definitely know some of his songs, most of which haven’t gone out of style since the day they were written. This is just a sampling of his tunes:

“About a Quarter to Nine”
“A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You”
“All’s Fair in Love and War”
“Anniversary Waltz”
“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
“Cain and Mabel”
“Coffee in the Morning and Kisses in the Night”
“Girl at the Ironing Board”
“Go Into Your Dance”
“I Only Have Eyes For You”
“Indian Summer”
“Keep Young and Beautiful”
“Lulu’s Back In Town”
“Pettin’ in the Park”
“September in the Rain”
“Shadow Waltz”
“Shanghai Lil”
“She’s a Latin from Manhattan”
“Shuffle Off to Buffalo”
“South American Way”
“The Song of the Marines”
“Tiptoe through the Tulips”
“With Plenty of Money and You”
“Young and Healthy”
“You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”

Al DubinAl Dubin was born in Switzerland and moved to the U.S. when he was two. After a tumultuous academic career where he was kicked out of a couple of schools for his hard drinking and partying ways, he became a staff writer for Whitmark Music Publishing. He had his first hit with “Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream” in 1916, and started to slowly build a career. By the late 1920s, he had a string of hits.

Those who know of Dubin are familiar with his collaboration with composer Harry Warren. Together, they created the songs for some of the most iconic films in history — black-and-white beauties directed by Busby Berkeley. Between 1932 and 1939, Dubin and Warren (pictured below) wrote 60 hit songs for several Warner Bros. movie musicals, including Gold Diggers of 1933 (“We’re in the Money”), Footlight Parade, Roman Scandals, Dames, Go Into Your Dance, and Wonder Bar (the latter two starring Al Jolson). The song “Lullaby of Broadway,” written for Gold Diggers of 1935, won the 1936 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Al Dubin and Harry WarrenBut those who do recognize his name, and are profoundly aware of his legacy, no doubt know precious little about his life.

Now a new musical tells the story of the legendary 1930s’ lyricist. I Only Have Eyes For You – The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin is set to play at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood from May 10 – June 12, 2016 (opening night is May 13). Original A Chorus Line cast member Kay Cole directs and choreographs, and Gerald Sternbach — one of the musical theater’s greatest assests — is music director.

Featuring lyrics by Al Dubin (an enormous man possessed of equally enormous talent and outsized vices), music mostly by Harry Warren, and a book by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner (writers of the film Peggy Sue Got Married), the world premiere promises to be an all-singing, all-dancing, witty, wildly entertaining and ultimately touching portrait of a man who barreled headlong through life yet was often unable to get out of his own way.

I Only Have Eyes CAST PHOTO by Matthew Herrmann.

Jared Gertner (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and The Book of Mormon on Broadway) stars as Al Dubin. The cast of I Only Have Eyes For You will feature Nikki Bohne as Helen Dubin, Constantine Rousouli as Harry Warren, Kayla Parker as Ruby Keeler, Justin Wilcox as Al Jolson, Renee Marino as Carmen Miranda, Elijah Rock as Cab Calloway, Valerie Perri as Minna Dubin and Robert Pieranunzi as Busby Berkeley. Featured in the ensemble (in alphabetical order) are: Julian De Guzman, Daniel May, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Dominic Pierson, Kim Louise Taylor, Katherine Tokarz, Karl Warden, and Penny Wildman.

al dubin and harry warrenThe producer is the one-and-only Corky Hale — pianist, vocalist and harpist. She has had a lifelong fascination with Dubin, and knows about the American popular song: She began with the band of Harry James and went on to perform with Billie Holiday, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, Judy Collins, Liberace, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand (soloing at the famous Happening in Central Park) and more.

“Few Hollywood songwriters have hit the same heights as Al Dubin,” Hale wrote. “The entire country was singing his songs, and when we think of the hits of his era, his are the lyrics that we hear. The man himself however lived a drama that was larger than the plot of any film that included his songs – and it is a fascinating and captivating story about a guy who had everything that life has to offer – and who couldn’t resist his addictions.” Hale’s husband knows a thing or two about songwriting as well; he is Mike Stoller of the legendary songwriting team Leiber and Stoller (“Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Fever”).

Among the terrific designers are the best working in Los Angeles theater — Set Design is by John Iacovelli, Lighting Design is by Brandon Baruch, and Sound Design is by Cricket S. Myers.

Isn’t it time you learned about the man who wrote “Every Night I Bring Her A Frankfurter Sandwich,” “Going to Heaven on a Mule,” “I Found My Romance for Ten Cents,” and “Flagenheim’s Odorless Cheese”?

Al Dubin banner

cast photo by Matthew Herrmann

I Only Have Eyes For You – The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin
Montalban Theatre
1615 Vine St. in Hollywood
Wed-Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 3
previews May 10-12, 2016
plays May 13 – June 12, 2016
for tickets ($40 to $80), call 323.461.6999 or visit Flavorus

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie & Chris April 23, 2016 at 12:26 pm

This should be terrific. Thanks to Dominic for sharing it with us. We look forward to seeing you perform as well.


Denise May 15, 2016 at 11:16 am

A wonderfully refreshing story and musical. Jared was outstanding as was Holley; Renee Marino as Carmen Miranda showed her gift of dance and song — it was the icing on the cake for this great show. I also found the tap dancers amusing and enjoyable during the transitions.


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