SPOTLIGHT ON Albert Hague & Renee Orin
By Rob Stevens
Most people might not recognize the name Albert Hague but if they saw him, they would recognize him immediately as the kindly Professor Shorofsky from the film and television series Fame. But Albert Hague wasn't always an actor. "As an actor, I was out of work for 59 years," he says. Musical theater aficionados remember him as the composer of Plain and Fancy and Redhead. Baby Boomers and now their children might know him as the composer of the seasonal TV favorite How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Renee Orin also has a Broadway following for her roles in Plain and Fancy, the revival of Pal Joey, Neil Simon's Plaza Suite, and Tennessee Williams' Slapstick Tragedy. They have been a couple for over 45 years and will be presenting and evening of Broadway humor, gossip, and memories, along with a few show tunes, in a cabaret act entitled Still Young and Foolish at the Cinegrill in Hollywood at the end of January. The Hague's are a charming couple, full of show biz stories. They have worked with everyone from George Abbott to Gwen Verdon including Dorothy Fields, Barbara Cook, Bette Davis, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, and Tennessee Williams.
They met during the tryout of Hague's first musical. "I went to the College of Music in Cincinnati, Renee attended Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and we met in Cleveland." The show didn't go anywhere, but the couple did. they moved to New York, soon married and "...she supported me for several years with her acting while I composed."
Hague's work finally reached Broadway in January 1995 when Plain and Fancy opened. "We did hundreds of backers auditions, trying to raise money for the show. It was a long and difficult process because there was a prejudice at the time that a composer's first show never made any money. But just half a year before Plain and Fancy opened, Adler and Ross, who had never had a Broadway show, had a hit with Pal Joe. It made money and consequently the superstition went away."
In the 1950s, it was the producers who came up with the idea for a musical. They then auditioned composer. "Once I was hired, everybody said you have to do research. I'm foreign born, I never heard of the Amish. So I went to the library. The first thing I read is the Amish only use things mentioned in the bible, and music was not mentioned so they didn't use music, not even bells in their church services. End of research. It was the briefest research in the history of the American Theater."
Although Plain and Fancy was a hit, it was four years before Hague was on the boards again. "My agent thoughts I should write with a different lyricist. He introduced me to Dorothy Fields who'd been working on the material for Redhead for years. It was her 14th show, my second. I was nervous. We were going to work at her home in Brewster, Massachusetts. She had an incredible home. How incredible? When she sold it, it became a school. On my first visit, she told me to try the piano. I sat down and looked up at Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irvine Berlin. She had all these photos and her Oscar on top of the piano. I give it one chord and every picture falls off the piano with the most horrendous noise you could imagine. So she starts picking them up saying. He's dead, he's dead, he's still alive. Servants come running in to help clean up the mess. I was shaking. I was nervous enough working with her I didn't need that for my opening act. So I said, A piano is a tool for professionalism and shouldn't have anything on it. I'm a lyric writer, she replied, I can have anything I want on my piano. And that's how we started."