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NPR Arts & Life

Encore: New Hampshire Voters Explained By 'Our Town'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For last week's Iowa caucuses, we brought back Bob Mondello's tongue-in-cheek look at a state he said he only knew from the song "Iowa Stubborn" from "The Music Man." When that piece first aired in 2016, a listener tweeted, if only "Our Town" had a catchy musical version, he could do New Hampshire. Well, here's what Bob found.

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FRANK SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) You will like the folks you meet in our town...

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BOB MONDELLO: Yup, that's Frank Sinatra playing the stage manager.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) ...The folks you meet on any street in our town.

MONDELLO: It was 1955, a one-time broadcast on NBC TV.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) Pick out any cottage.

MONDELLO: And it gets better. High schooler George was played by Paul Newman. His sweetheart Emily was Eva Marie Saint, who just won an Oscar in "On The Waterfront." And the songs were by a brand-new team - Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn - who went on to write lots of Sinatra standards, starting with one they gave him here to follow a commercial break.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager) The first act was called "The Daily Life," and this act is called "Love And Marriage." And since we're doing a little singing here tonight, Mr. Leader, if you please.

MONDELLO: Mr. Leader was arranger Nelson Riddle, and this was the first time anyone had ever heard this song.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) Love and marriage, love and marriage go together like the horse and carriage.

MONDELLO: You can tell it's the first time he's sung it because Sinatra keeps grinning at the rhymes. Thorton Wilder's play is mostly the same with music shoehorned in. There's a song describing New Hampshirites that includes the only vaguely political lyric.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) We're mostly Republicans, plus some Democrats.

MONDELLO: Then, after a minor misunderstanding, George buys Emily an ice cream soda and confesses he kind of likes her.

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PAUL NEWMAN: (As George Gibbs) Would you be - I mean, well, could you be...

EVA MARIE SAINT: (As Emily Webb) I am now, George. I always have been.

MONDELLO: Paul Newman takes Eva Marie Saint's hand, looking terrified, probably because the next thing they're going to do is sing.

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NEWMAN AND SAINT: (As George Gibbs and Emily Webb, singing) We're going through the impatient years.

MONDELLO: Sinatra clearly had no reason to be worried. Others sing, too. It'd be silly not to sing about a wedding.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, singing) Wasn't it a wonderful wedding? Wasn't she a beautiful bride?

MONDELLO: But by and large, the music doesn't add much, probably why this musical "Our Town" played exactly once - Monday, September 19, 1955.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) You will lose your heart...

MONDELLO: Take us home, Frank.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) ...I promise you...

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.

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SINATRA: (As stage manager, singing) ...In this, our two-by-four town, welcome-on-the-door town. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.