The musical extravaganza Arabian Nights, some call it an “aquatic operetta”, was developed and produced by bandleader Guy Lombardo and premiered at the newly built 8,200-seat Jones Beach Marine Theatre, Long Island, in 1954 for the summer season, and revived the following year.
Arabian Nights retold the tale of Scheherazade, who regaled her husband the Sultan with a different tale a night in order to distract him from having her beheaded the next day. Characters included a Genie, Sinbad, Aladdin and a Chinese Emperor. The tuneful score was by Carmen Lombardo and John Jacob Loeb. They had previously come up with pop hits for Lombardo’s band that included “Boo-Hoo” (1937) and “Seems Like Old Times” (1945). From the score, the love duets “How Long Has it Been?” and “A Thousand and One Nights” had a longing appeal, and the lilting waltz “Marry the One You Love” proved an effective crowd-pleaser.
Lauritz Melchior, the celebrated Danish Heldentenor and Metropolitan Opera star, was invited to star as the Sultan/Chinese Emperor. Also in the large cast was the young baritone William Chapman (later of the New York City Opera), Helena Scott, a lovely soprano with considerable experience with Rodgers & Hammerstein, and real elephants. At least 112 people were on stage at the finale and a full orchestra as well as a large actual Chinese junk that floated in and a show-stopping 70-foot floating whale being tooth brushed by Sinbad’ sailors.
Bonus tracks are excerpts from the show recorded by Guy Lombardo’s band, with Kenny Gardner and the Lombardo Trio doing most of the singing on the Lombardo-ised foxtrots, waltzes and beguine numbers.
1. OVERTURE Orchestra
2. WHAT A PITY Ralph Herbert / IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE Hope Holiday
3. A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS William Chapman, Helena Scott
4. THE GRAND VIZIER’S LAMENT Ralph Herbert
5. HAIL TO THE SULTAN Lauritz Melchior, Ralph Herbert
6. THE HERO OF ALL MY DREAMS Helena Scott
7. A WHALE OF A STORY William Chapman, James McCracken
8. THE BATH PARADE Gloria van Dorp
9. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN? William Chapman, Helena Scott
10. TEENIE WEENIE GENIE Hope Holiday
11. A LONG AGO LOVE Lauritz Melchior
12. MARRY THE ONE YOU LOVE Lauritz Melchior / FINALE Arabian Night Chorus
(Tracks 13-20) by GUY LOMBARDO and his Royal Canadians
13. IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE
14. A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS
15. THE HERO OF ALL MY DREAMS
16. A WHALE OF A STORY
17. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN?
18. TEENIE WEENIE GENIE
19. A LONG AGO LOVE
20. MARRY THE ONE YOU LOVE
21. A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Gary Mann
22. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN? Margaret Whiting