The whole en­chi­lada, with show tunes

Pasatiempo - - Performance - Michael Wade Simp­son For The New Mex­i­can

Os­car Ham­mer­stein II wrote lyrics for 850 songs, but the singers at La Casa Sena may have to nar­row things down if they hope to have time to serve din­ner and drinks. The Cantina at La Casa Sena, where the sing­ing wait staff has a cult fol­low­ing among tourists and lo­cals alike, is of­fer­ing once-a-month en­gage­ments with spe­cial themes and vis­it­ing per­form­ers through Christ­mas. Let’s Cel­e­brate Os­car Ham­mer­stein II is the first show, on Sun­day, May 23.

Greg Gris­som, who has worked at La Casa Sena “off and on for 18 years,” is pro­duc­ing the events, which will fea­ture ev­ery­thing from the Ham­mer­stein songs to evenings of jazz clar­inet tunes by Ar­tie Shaw, Benny Good­man, and oth­ers; trib­utes to Judy Gar­land, Os­car Peter­son, Cole Porter, and the An­drews Sis­ters; and a per­for­mance by jazz trum­pet player Bobby Shew. “We spe­cial­ize in dead peo­ple — the great mu­si­cians who are no longer with us,” Gris­som said in an in­ter­view. “I think it’s im­por­tant that the gen­er­a­tions of to­mor­row see where pop­u­lar mu­sic came from.”

Things might be even more in­ti­mate than usual at the 80-seat Cantina come Sun­day, when the 5-by-5-foot play­ing area will be oc­cu­pied by the Cal Haines Trio (Haines, drums; Bert Dal­ton, pi­ano; and Milo Jaramillo, bass) and all the Cantina singers on board. “We’re us­ing all seven singers, be­cause there’s a lot of his­tory to cover with Mr. Ham­mer­stein,” Gris­som said.

Ham­mer­stein may be best known for his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Richard Rogers, which pro­duced the mu­si­cals Ok­la­homa!, The Sound of Mu­sic, Carousel, and South Pa­cific. He be­gan his ca­reer in the 1920s, writ­ing lyrics for op­erettas with com­posers such as Sig­mund Romberg ( The Desert Song), Vin­cent Youmans ( Wild­flower), and Ru­dolf Friml ( Rose-Marie), and he had a 20-year part­ner­ship with fel­low lyri­cist Otto Har­bach (“In­dian Love Call”). A 1927 project with com­poser Jerome Kern al­lowed Ham­mer­stein to de­velop the book for a mu­si­cal that was as im­por­tant as the songs in it. That project was Show Boat.

It was the shows Ham­mer­stein wrote with Rogers, how­ever, that built a ma­jor place for him in the Amer­i­can song­book: “Some En­chanted Evening,” “Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” and “There Is Noth­ing Like a Dame” from South Pa­cific; “Peo­ple Will Say We’re in Love” and the ti­tle song from Ok­la­homa!; “Get­ting to Know You” from The King and I; and “Climb Ev­ery Moun­tain” from The Sound of Mu­sic. The last song Ham­mer­stein wrote was “Edel­weiss.” He died in 1960, shortly af­ter The Sound of Mu­sic opened to its mul­ti­ple-year run on Broad­way.

Gris­som, who nar­rates the trib­ute, has been scour­ing the in­ter­net for Ham­mer­stein trivia. “The song ‘All the Things You Are’ was from a show called Very Warm for May,” he said. “Ham­mer­stein was ap­par­ently dev­as­tated when the re­view came

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