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Serious Valentine

Leading man Blake Bowden picks the ultimate wedding song

Words: Damien Woolnough

9th July 2018

Blake Bowden was not just born for Broadway, he appears to have been genetically engineered for stardom with chiselled good looks that reach the back of the stalls at the same time as his voice soars above the dress circle.

Currently stealing curtain calls in the Sydney Production of The Book of Mormon, Bowden has also taken bows in Fiddler On The Roof, Sweeney Todd and South Pacific but is about to strike out on his own in Straight From The Hart at Australia’s leading regional arts festival Noosa Alive.

With a nine-piece band, Bowden will explore the achingly beautiful songbook of lyricist Lorenz Hart. With musical partner Richard Rodgers the New Yorker created the ultimate songs of heartbreak and complex love, such as My Funny Valentine, Blue Moon and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.

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Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers on the cover of Time magazine in 1938.

What drew you to the songs of Lorenz Hart?
I was originally drawn to the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein, as it is their musicals that have really stood the test of time - South PacificOklahomaThe King And I

When I was growing up I loved singing their songs. But Rodgers' music eventually led me to Lorenz Hart, who was Rodgers first collaborator. And once I discovered the sad beauty and longing in his lyrics I was hooked.

Do you have a favourite song/lyric and why? 
It is hard to pick a favourite, the catalogue is so incredible, which is why I needed to create a full-scale show out of their music, so I could explore the songs I love.

But if I had to pick one right now I guess it would be "Where or When" from their musical Babes in Arms.

The version of this song we have in the show and on the album are by far my favourite arrangements. It feels like a great pop ballad written today and I absolutely love singing it.

Which is the most appropriate song for a wedding?
Definitely My Romance. The lyric is so perfect, it is all about the fact that my romance doesn’t need anything fancy or poetic, "it doesn’t need a thing but you."

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Do you think Hart's position as a closeted gay man had an impact on his writing?
I think it impacted his writing immensely. His lyrics are full of the longing and desire for a love that he felt he could never have. And yet there is so much wit and humour in them too, which I think is a coping mechanism for people who are hiding something or trying to fit in.

It is this light and shade in his lyrics, which makes them so special and also so relatable and ultimately what continues to draw me to his songs.  

Is it difficult to shift from The Book of Mormon to the music of Hart?
In some ways yes. Stylistically they are worlds apart. Yet The Book of Mormon is full of brilliantly crafted songs that really connect with people and in that way the two works are very similar. 

What was the hardest part of putting the concert together?
Choosing which songs out of their huge catalogue were the most important to me to place in the show was the hardest part. But I think we have found the right balance of their well-known hits as well as a few surprise numbers, to really create a special evening at the theatre. 

See the world premiere of Straight To The Hart at Noosa Alive on July 28.


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