Monday, September 17, 2018

What's up for this coming Sunday?

I'll be away this coming weekend, so September 23rd's 2 on the Aisle will be a pre-recorded show. Sorry to miss, but rest assured, the show will be LIVE on September 30th, with a tribute to Marin Mazzie (in Kiss Me Kate, above, with Brian Stokes Mitchell) and some Gershwin goodies to celebrate George's birthday on the 26th. Hope you can join me!

P.S. 2 on the Aisle is re-broadcast on Fridays from 4-6pm on Swing & Blues lots of ways to keep your Broadway titration levels up in my absence. XO

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Seesaws, Charmians, and Sweet Irma

 Thanks, Getty Images, for the best shot of Tommy Tune
circa Seesaw.
Tommy was the highspot of that musical,
especially his dance with balloons on a set of stairs.
Well, it WAS 1973. It worked back then!

 The plot?
Young Nebraskan lawyer
meets street-wise NYC dancer,
and shenanigans ensue. 
Above, Michelle Lee, Giancarlo Esposito, John Gavin
(who took over for Ken Howard) and Baayork Lee.
Problems out of town led to an SOS sent out to Michael Bennett.
His suggestions: a totally rewritten book
(rescuing it was Neil Simon),
a new leading lady (see below)
a redone set,
a reworked score (Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields had to work late!)
and a new director (you guessed it, Bennett!).

 At first, Lainie Kazan was cast in the lead female role,
but after out of town previews,
Michele Lee was thought to look more the part of an 
NYC dancer,
and Lainie was jettisoned. 

 Nine Tony nominations,
including Best Musical...
it won for Best Choreography (Bennett)
and one for Tommy Tune.
Michele would win a Drama Desk Award for 
Outstanding Performance.

 Two members of the Seesaw team,
Cy and Nei.
Dorothy Fields (below with Cy) wrote the lyrics,
as she did for another Coleman show...Sweet Charity!
She passed away a year after Seesaw opened. 

 Above, Anthony Perkins and Charmian Carr 
in Evening Primrose,
a made-for-TV musical written by Stephen Sondheim,
as part of ABC's Stage 67.
Based on a short story by John Collier,
adapted by James Goldman, and the plot?
Very Twilight Zone: 
A poet (Tony) tries to take refuge from the world 
by hiding out in a department store after closing. 
He meets a community of night people who live in the store 
and falls in love with a beautiful young girl named Ella
who has been hiding there since she was 6. 
They fall in love and try to leave the store...
but the last scene shows 2 new mannequins in the store window,
looking very verrrrrry familiar.
Like the Hotel California, I guess 
(you can check in any time you want, but....).

 Here's where you know Charmian from:
The film version of The Sound Of Music.
She played Liesl,
that 16 going on 17 gal.
Charmian beat out the following list of contenders to play the part:
Lesley Ann Warren Geraldine Chaplin, Kim Darby, Patty Duke
Shelley Fabares, Teri Garr, and Mia Farrow?

 Charmian left showbiz very soon after these productions,
marrying a dentist and subsequently opening her own interior design firm.
She passed away in 2016, at the age of 63.

 Irma La Douce was born in France,
back in 1956,
with music by Marguerite Monnot 
(Piaf’s best friend and favorite songwriter) 
and book and lyrics by Alexandre Breffort.
The hooker with the heart of gold,
and the pimp who falls in love with her.
It ran for 4 years on the Paris stage,
before being transported (beamed?) by David Merrick
(The Abominable Showman)
to Broadway.

 Irma (the Sweet) was played by Elizabeth Seal,
Clive Revill who would later play Fagin in Oliver!
had several roles...
and as Irma's lover, Keith Michell.
Keith would become a popular "face" when he scored
a recurring role in Murder She Wrote in the 1980s and 90s.

 Two of the roles played by Clive:
The judge (above) and the bartender (below).
He also played the show's narrator.

 Also in the cast were George S. Irving,
Stuart Damon, Fred Gwynne, and
in the chorus (as an "Usher"), Elliot Gould.
It proved a hit on Broadway,
and Elizabeth scooped a Tony,
besting Julie Andrews in Camelot, Carol Channing in Show Girl  
and Nancy Walker in Do Re Mi.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sweet AND Charitable!

"If My Friends Could Se Me Now",
from Sweet Charity.
The quintessential Broadway creative team
worked on this show:
Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields, Neil Simon,
Bob Fosse, and Gwen Verdon.
Scenic design (which must have included the bear rug idea,
and maybe the champagne bottle on his head)
was by Robert Randolph.
Costumes...Irene Sharaff,
Tony Award winner and costumier for over 80 films,
as well as Broadway gems
like The King And I.

 Gwen with Bud Vest
who played Vittorio Vidal,
the Italian film star.

 Every night, Charity's "tattoo" had to be reapplied,
with "Charlie", the no-account boyfriend. 

"Rich Man's Frug",
Broadway style,
with Irene's creations.
Edith Head got the gig for the movie version.

 Above, "I Love To Cry At Weddings"
with Gwen and John Wheeler center,
Fandango girls and patrons. 
Below, the "taxi-dance" gals "dressing room".

 Arnold Soboloff (center),
as Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck,
"The Rhythm of Life"

Publicity pose with a member of
Ringling Brothers.

 Gwen with Shirley McClaine
who would snare the Charity role in the movie,
done 3 years later.
Perhaps Shirley had the "bigger name" in the movie biz,
but it was unfortunate that Ms. Verdon wasn't used. 
(Gwen coached her in the role, nonetheless.)
 The revival of the show on Broadway
starred Debbie Allen,
and Gwen was there AGAIN to teach and re-work choreography.
After rehearsing the national tour of the revival
for its opening in Chicago,
Bob died of a heart attack.

 Gwen would live for 14 more years, 
performing in television, plays, film, and 
working to keep Fosse's legacy alive.
She passed away in 2000, at the age of 75.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Playlist For Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018: Remember?

Did I leave the coffee pot on? Wait, I had the keys in my hand just a second ago. Why did I even come into this room? I thought your birthday was TOMORROW! Just "Try To Remember", will ya? Theme for a show? Hell, it's the theme of my life!

Remember...Forget...Remember...It's one frustratingly mad circle around here. So I "thought" (there's a concept!) that we'd air it publicly this Sunday. Which gives us Jerry Orbach and Charmian Carr, Gigi and her Boy Friend, Kander mit Ebb and Stephen avec Sondheim. As well as a nosegay of nostalgia and yearning and that's all cuz it seems to be suddenly FALL around here, and I'm in a wistful (oh, don't get sappy!) mood. I'll try to lighten up with a little Gwen (Sweet Charity) and a toe-tapping Tommy (Seesaw), but prepare to be wistful with me, okay?  I promise not to sniffle on the mic, if you promise not to request "Memory" from Cats (that one NEVER made it into this playlist, lemme tell ya).

Now I just have to find my keys...

Try To Remember (Jerry Orbach, The Fantasticks)
If My Friends Could See Me Now (Gwen Verdon, Sweet Charity)
Rich Man's Frug (Instrumental, Sweet Charity)
I Love To Cry At Weddings (John Wheeler, Helen Gallagher, Thelma Oliver,
      Ensemble, Sweet Charity)
Big Spender (Helen Gallagher, Thelma Oliver, The Fandango Girls,
      Sweet Charity)
Moments To Remember (Jason Graae, David Engel, Guy Stroman,
      Forever Plaid)
I Remember That (Clark Thorell, Andrea Burns, Saturday Night)
I Remember (Charmian Carr, Evening Primrose)
I Remember It Well (Howard McGillin, Victoria Clark, Gigi)
Seesaw (Ensemble, Seesaw)
In Tune (Ken Howard, Michele Lee, Seesaw)
Chapter 54, Number 1909 (Tommy Tune, Ken Howard, Seesaw)
Valse Millieu (Clive Revill, Irma La Douce)
Valse Amelie (Instrumental, Amelie)
She's Got The Lot (George S. Irving, Ensemble, Irma La Douce)
Humming (Kaye Ballard, Henry Lascoe, Carnival)
Valse Monstres (Instrumental, Amelie)
The Wreck Of A Mec (Keith Mitchell, Irma La Douce)
Fancy Forgetting (Ruth Altman, Eric Berry, The Boy Friend)
I Don't Remember You (Robert Goulet, The Happy Time)
Remember? (Barbara Lang, Beth Fowler, Benjamin Rayson, Teri Ralston,
      Gene Varrone, A Little Night Music)
Something To Remember You By (Ensemble, The Band Wagon)
Thanks For The Memory (Bob Hope, Shirley Ross, The Big Broadcast of 1938)
Forget About The Boy (Sutton Foster, Thoroughly Modern Millie)
Much More (Barbra Streisand, The Barbra Streisand Album)
For Forever (Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen)
Answer Me (Adam Kantor, Company, The Band's Visit)
C'est Magnifique (Sutton Foster, Take Me To The World)
Chanson (Jill Martin, The Baker's Wife)
Something Different (Katrina Lenk, Tony Shaloub, The Band's Visit)
There'll Be Some Changes Made (The Boswell Sisters)
Everything Changes (Jessie Mueller, Waitress)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes...well, mostly!

 In our face category:
"Were Thine That Special Face"
sung by Alfred Drake as Petruchio/Fred Graham
in Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate.
And that face (and hair): Patricia Morrison's! 

 "Right Hand Man"
sung by Heidi Blickenstaff
ready to go out and "get some meat" in Something Rotten!
Above with Bryan d'Arcy James,
and I think those are John Cariani's boots to the left. :)

 Representing Heart, Eyes and Toes:
Bobby Van and Elaine Stritch 
in the 1954 revival of Rodgers and Hart's On Your Toes.
"The Heart Is Quicker Than The Eye"

 Andrew Polk, center,
one of the stars of David Yazbek's The Band's Visit,
leads another heart song,
"The Beat Of Your Heart",
seen here with Rachel Prather, John Cariani, Alok Tewari, 
and George Abud on violin.

The Heart is a popular body part on Broadway...
perhaps the most iconic representation is
from Damn Yankees, 1955.
Above, the Washington Senators finest:
Albert Linville, Nathaniel Frey, Jimmy Komack and Russ Brown.

 "I Put My Hand In"
with Carol Channing...
"Some paint, some sew, I meddle."
From Jerry Herman's original production of 
Hello, Dolly! 
They weren't afraid of mixing plaids with prints, I guess.

 And from Grease,
"Born To Hand-Jive":
Too many productions to document, so here's a sample from Edinburgh (above)...


and of course, the movie from 1978.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Mack & Mabel, Elbows & Feet

Jerry Herman was fresh off Dear World,
a flop done in 1969.
So come 1974, the concept of a romance between
Mack Sennett, director of silent movies,
and his muse, Mabel Normand,
was suggested to him by Ed Lester, the director of the 
Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.
Gower Champion agreed to direct and choreograph,
and David Merrick produced.
What could go wrong?
Robert Preston was first choice for the role of Mack,
but Mabel was offered to Bernadette only after 
2 other ladies of the theatre rejected it.

 M&M didn't last long: 66 performances and it effervesced into the ether
(tho subsequent productions did well across the pond).
The main criticism was that the material proved too dark 
for a musical,
and that Champion's attempt at up beat chorus numbers
played at odds with the main characters' story.
Audiences "were not ready for a down-beat saga 
about a cocaine-sniffing movie queen" said one critic.
 The romance between Peters and Preston didn't work...
well, the list of criticisms goes on and on. 

 Above, Lisa Kirk who played Lottie...
you may remember Lisa from her success in 
Kiss Me Kate (she played Bianca!).
Below Miss Bernadette,
who at the age of 26 was said to be too young for
a romance with Mack/Preston 
(age 56).
The actual age difference between the REAL Mack & Mabel 
was 13 years.

 The real story of Mabel Normand and Mack Sennett
was quite different from the Hermanized Version.
When she met Mack,
Mabel had already worked in a number of 
"bathing beauty" film roles, starting in 1909
(when she was just 16!),
having left the delis of Staten Island
(not Flatbush, Brooklyn),
and bagels and knishes far behind.
Mack noted her comic ability in these flicks,
and began starring her in films with Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy 
and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle,
produced by his Keystone Studios.
(One story says she was the first actress to ever get a pie in the face!)
 She's on the left below, in Tillie's Punctured Romance
with Chaplin and Marie Dressler, 1914.

 Above, another 1914 flick,
The Fatal Mallet,
starring Mabel, Mack Sennett and Chaplin.
Though there was a romance between M&M,
it seems more of an on again/off again affair,
not the one and only painted by Jerry.
From 1910 to 1927, Mabel made over 100 films,
many of them with Sennett or D.W. Griffith directing. 

In 1916, Mabel opened her own movie studio
in Culver City, 
in partnership with Sennett,
and directed her own movies.
A few years later, it tanked...
but then along came a contract with Sam Goldwyn,
 a relationship with director William Desmond Taylor, 
and a cocaine habit 
(which William worked hard to rid her of).
Unfortunately he was murdered in 1922...the case never solved.
Mabel would go on to marry actor Lew Cody,
and die of tuberculosis at the age of 36.
Below with Mack,
who lived to the age of 80.
There! That's the REAL story. 

 Another Robert Preston show,
Ben Franklin In Paris,
was done 10 years earlier,
with music by Mark Sandrich, Jr., Sidney Michaels,
and (surprise!) a couple of songs contributed by Jerry Herman.
Along with Robert, it starred Susan Watson,
the original Kim in Bye Bye Birdie,
and Ulla Sallert, a Swedish actress, who did many revivals of 
Me and My Girl...and died just this past May at the age of 95.
Below, an Al Hirschfeld drawing of the show.
We'll hear "God Bless The Human Elbow",
one of our Broadway Body Parts entries.

 One of our "Feet" selections,
Dan Folger with "Magic Foot" 
from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

 And with fingers AND hands...
Gwen Verdon in Redhead (and a head!),
with "The Right Finger Of My Left Hand".
Music: Albert Hague and Dorothy Fields.
It also starred Richard Kiley and Leonard Stone...
 ...and was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.
Best Musical (best almost everything!) of 1959.