Friday, December 15, 2017

The Musicals of Jason Robert Brown

 Spotlighting the shows of Jason Robert Brown 
this Sunday...
1.) Born in Ossining, New York in 1970.
2.) Studied at The Eastman School of Music for 2 years.
3.) First off Broadway project, Songs For A New World.
A flop, but it was directed by Daisy Prince,
daughter of Hal. :)
In VERY non-chronological order,
we'll hear from some of his shows...
like (above and below) Honeymoon In Vegas,
which starred Tony Danza, Rob McClure and Brynn O'Malley.
It opened in 2015,
with decent reviews from the critics,
but the audience stayed away in droves. 
Digging the Elvis impersonators and Hawaiian motifs, myself. 

 Jason's first Broadway production was 
Parade, done in 1998...Winner of a Best Score Tony.
Based on the true story of the trial of Leo Frank,
a Jewish factory manager in Georgia.
The concept was first suggested to Stephen Sondheim,
but he chose not to...
Jason jumped at the chance.
Below, "Factory Girls" with 
Brooke Sunny Moriber, Emily Klein, Abbi Hutcherson,
and Brent Carver as Leo.

 The Bridges of Madison County,
adapted for the stage by Marsha Norman,
(and based on the best-selling novel by 
Robert James Waller)
was produced in 2014...and lasted only 3 months,
but again the score was praised (and Tony winning!).
Above Steven Pasquale and Elena Shaddow,
as our main characters Robert Kincaid and Francesca,
and below the set as used in a 2015 production by 
the Atlantis Theatre Group of New York.

 The Last Five Years,
a two-person musical done off Broadway in 2002.
Jason was supposedly "inspired" by the break up
of his first marriage.
So we can "thank" that divorce for some great music...
It starred Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz,
who we'll hear sing "Part Of That"
and "Shiksa Goddess".

 Jason also helped in the creation of the recent 
Hal Prince tribute on Broadway
(The Prince Of Broadway, 2015).
Brown has said that if it had not been for Stephen Sondheim's
Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George 
(his 2 biggest influences),
he would have joined a rock band and become Billy Joel.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Broadway Babes to Warm Your Cockles

 A mini tribute this Sunday
to Carol Burnett,
born in San Antonio, Texas in 1933, and
raised by her grandmother in Hollywood.
Her "big break" came in 1959 with Once Upon A Mattress,
as Princess Winifred (below).
And that was the beginning of a career that would
include television, film, Broadway, and concert performances.
Carol will turn 85 this coming April. 
 We'll hear
"The Swamps of Home"
from Mattress...

 From Fade Out - Fade In,
"You Mustn't Be Discouraged"
And above, I believe, is the Warner Brother's Seal of Approval.

 From the film version of Annie,
Carol as Miss Hannigan...brilliant casting! 

 And I couldn't resist including this pic
from one of the many times Carol teamed up with Julie Andrews
for live concerts and television appearances.

 Tom Wopat 
(yup, Luke Duke of the Hazzard duo)
has been theatre-ing and singing ever since he went into re-runs.
He hit Broadway in 2011 with Catch Me If You Can,
in which he played Frank Abagnale Sr.
(below with Aaron Tveit).
We'll hear an outtake from that show,
"Fifty Checks"
which Tom later recorded on his solo album
Consider It Swung.

 We'll also sample "The Last Night of the Year"
and "Finishing The Hat" from the revue
Sondheim On Sondheim.
Below, the Dukes: Tom and John Schneider,
back in the day.

 Kelli O'Hara's Babe (above) with The Factory Girls
 is "Not At All In Love"
in the revival of The Pajama Game, 2006,
which received the Best Revival Tony award that year.

 And in our honeymoon set,
Mary Martin and Robert Preston 
in I Do! I Do!
which was the story of a marriage over the span of 45 years,
1895 - 1945.
Mary and Robert starred in the national tour as well
(it began in Rochester, NY!),
but there were several interesting "replacements," 
like Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson,
and Carol Lawrence and Gordon McCrea.
 We'll hear "The Honeymoon Is Over"!

The NYTimes called Mary's voice
"like red wine at room temperature"...
and Robert won the Tony! :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Playlist For Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017: Riding the (no)(don't)(not yet) Christmas Express!

This is difficult. Every neuron in my brain is firing: Christmas. Now. Do it. Resistance is...

Well, FEUDAL in this instance. Renaissance-ian, even closer to the mark! While we maintain our "Brakes On Xmas" stance, we release them to speed blithely down Broadway boulevards, shuffling off to Buffalo, riding the Choo-Choo express to Vegas/Hawaii/insert honeymoon spot of choice here, lingering momentarily to instagram a Swamp or two, over the Bridges (of Madison County? So soon? We just had cheese!), thru the land of Al Menken's Disney, Carol Burnett's Tarzan, and Tom (cleared of all assault charges) Wopat 's Hazzards. Oh, and something ROTTEN at the end!

So you see, there is STILL plenty of Broadway living on the periphery of Christmas to enjoy. We WILL do Christmas Broadway, I promise, in just a week...December 24th, Christmas Eve-Afternoon! Be there for cookies and nog. But meanwhile, I'm still saving you a seat. :)

Welcome To The Renaissance (Michael James Scott, Ensemble,
      Something Rotten!)
Shuffle Off To Buffalo (Joseph Bova, Carole Cook, Ensemble, 42nd Street)
Aba Daba Honeymoon (Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter, Two Weeks
      With Love)
Choo-Choo Honeymoon (Sally Stark, Joseph R. Sicari, Dames At Sea)
The Honeymoon Is Over (Mary Martin, Robert Preston, I Do! I Do!)
I'm Not At All In Love (Kelli O'Hara, The Pajama Game)
I Won't Say I'm In Love (Susan Egan, Hercules)
Out Of Your Head (Bobby Conte Thornton, Ariana DeBose, A Bronx Tale)
Fifty Checks (Tom Wopat, Catch Me If You Can)
Finishing The Hat (Tom Wopat, Sondheim On Sondheim)
The Last Night Of The Year (Tom Wopat, Consider It Swung)
A Part Of That (Sherie Rene Scott, The Last Five Years)
Wondering (Steven Pasquale, The Bridges Of Madison County)
Shiksa Goddess (Norbert Leo Butz, The Last Five Years)
The Factory Girls (Brooke Sunny Moriber, Emily Klein, Abbi Hutcherson,
      Brent Carver, Parade)
Love Betsy (Rob McClure, Honeymoon in Vegas)
Come To An Arrangement (Tony Danza, Rob McClure, Honeymoon In Vegas)
Hawaii/Waiting For You (Brynne O'Malley, Rob McClure, Honeymoon In Vegas)
If I Could Tell Her (Ben Platt, Laura Dreyfus, Dear Evan Hansen)
Me And The Sky (Jenn Colella, Come From Away)
Stuck (Andy Karl, Ensemble, Groundhog Day)
The Swamps Of Home (Carol Burnett, Once Upon A Mattress)
Little Girls (Carol Burnett, Annie)
Adelaide's Lament (Carol Burnett, Let Me Entertain You)
You Mustn't Be Discouraged (Carol Burnett, Fade Out-Fade In)
Bottom's Gonna Be On Top (Bryan d'Arcy James, Christian Borle,
      Something Rotten!)
Right Hand Man (Heidi Blickenstaff, Something Rotten!)
Make An Omelette (Bryan d'Arcy, Company, Something Rotten!)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Funny, Shorty, and a little Lucy!

 Funny Face...
Fred Astaire in one of his last movie musicals,
above with Kay Thompson and Audrey Hepburn. 
Originally a 1927 staged musical,
also starring Fred (along with sis Adele),
Funny Face, the movie, kept only 4 of those Gershwin tunes,
and actually used the plot of another musical entirely,
Wedding Day.
Fred was 58, Audrey, 28...go figure!
The box office was disappointing:
Said the NY Times,
"This, in fact, is the American "musical" at its worst; 
not even the presence of Mr Fred Astaire, 
who was in the original stage production, 
nor that of Miss Audrey Hepburn can save the day."
After the successful release of My Fair Lady (1964),
however, MGM re-released FF and then the crowds came!

 Above Kay and Audrey,
possibly waiting to rehearse their duet
"On How To Be Lovely".
Audrey got to sing in this film;
just a few years later, she'd be dubbed in the movie version
of My Fair Lady.
Below Ms. Thompson with her alter-ego,
(whose exploits fill four books...including "Eloise Takes A Bawth", 
published posthumously).

 And then we'll hear 3 versions of the "same" song:
Above, Lee Remick in the 1985 concert version of Follies
got to sing "The Story Of Lucy And Jessie",
but by the time the show hit the West End (1987),
Diana Rigg got its if-temporary replacement,
"Ah, But Underneath!" 

 But the first (rejected) version of the song was 
"Uptown, Downtown",
 later used for the revue (of other Sondheim rejects)
Marry Me A Little.
Below, a Sondheim sandwich...with that revue's 2 cast members,
Suzanne Henry and Craig Lucas. 

 Susan Johnson and Shorty Long
at the recording session for the cast album
of The Most Happy Fella...
we'll hear Shorty lead his "pardners" in 
"Standing On The Corner"
and Susan and Shorty with "Big D". 
Shorty was a country singer and song writer,
with a band called the Sante Fe Rangers.
Most Happy was his first and only Broadway show,
tho his stardom (and good reviews!) got him appearances on 
the Ed Sullivan and Tonight shows.
Susan, on the other, was a Broadway denizen,
having performed in Brigadoon, Oh! Captain,
Donnybrook, and Whoop It Up!,
and later did film and television.

 And 2 pics from not-quite-Broadway productions:
 Above "Abbondanza", and "Big D", below. 
Nominated for Best Musical in 1957 
(along with Candide and Bells Are Ringing), 
but My Fair Lady carried away the award that year.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Just cuz!

This pic has only 1/3 to do with Broadway, 
but I could NOT resist this Happy Birthday Star-Lit gathering!
From the left,
Joan Fontaine, Sally Ann Howe, Eva Gabor, Radie Harris, Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell, Angela Lansbury, Patrice Munsel and Nancy Kelly.
Whose birthday? Who cares?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lovely, Russian Spies, Strings, and !

 2 On The Aisle's theme o' the day is Lovely,
which demands we play both versions of 
from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum:
Above, Version 1 with Preshy Marker, Zero Mostel, and Brian Davies
(Preshy was the original Philia, Brian played Hero)
and below, Version 2...
Zero with a dolled up Jack Gilford.
(Jewelry and flowers do = Lovely!)

 From the 1962 revival of Anything Goes,
we'll hear Barbara Lang, who played Hope Harcourt (above),
and Hal Linden, as Billy Crocker (below),
duet to Cole Porter's "It's De-Lovely"...
15 years-ish later, Hal would turn detective (Barney Miller),
but in the beginning, he was a musical leading man. 
These shots are from Masterwork's cast recording library.

 Russian spies crop up in Sunday's show as well!
Above, "Siberia" in the movie version of Silk Stockings, 1957,
with Joseph Buloff, Jules Munshin, and Peter Lorre
as Ivanov, Brankov, and Bibinski.
Looks like Peter had a flair for Russian folk dance!

 Above, an Al Hirshfeld take on the Broadway version (1955)
that starred Hildegaard Neff and Don Ameche,
and there our trio of spies was played by
Leon Belasco, Henry Lasco, and David Opatoshu.
We'll hear their version of "Too Bad."
Both the film AND staged versions of Stockings
did ROTTEN at the box office
despite the Cole Porter tunes.
 Richard Rodgers wrote No Strings on his own,
his first and only solo Broadway go 'round. 
It starred Diahann Carroll (above)
and Richard Kiley. 
The triumvirate on opening night, below.
 The casting was deemed progressive for its time.
Rodgers said he chose Diahann for the lead
after seeing her appear on The Tonight Show, and that
"Rather than shrinking from the issue of race, 
such an approach would demonstrate our respect for the audience's ability to accept our theme free from rhetoric or sermons."
 Replacements in the cast continued the bi-racial theme.
Go Richard! :)
 Diahann won a Tony Award for her work,
but shared the award that year with a 24 year old 
Italian lyric soprano named...

 Anna Maria Alberghetti!
Carnival (which at first had a ! at the end of it)
had the music and lyrics of Bob Merrill.
Gower Champion directed and he was the one to remove the !.
("It's a not a block buster, it's a gentle show.")
Anna was cast as Lili
(tho producer David Merrick first wanted Leslie Caron),
and she got to sing the break-out song of the show, 
"Love Makes The World Go Round".
In the shadows above, Jerry Orbach, looking ominous if fuzzy.
Kaye Ballard played The Incomparable Rosalie (below)...

 and more Rosalie below (with STRINGS!)
and James Mitchell, as Marco The Magnificent.
The "gentle" non-! show lasted almost 2 years on Broadway.
Both Carnival and No Strings were nominated for
Best Musical,
but the award that year (1962) went to How To Succeed! 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Playlist For Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017: It ain't Christmas til the fat man...

As I type this, the west wind (and its witch) are raging outside. Whatever leaves were staple-gunned to their trees will surely be off by the morning. My cousin has just bought a snow blower, the ugly sweaters are sold out at TJMaxx, and Bing/Nat/Frank and Rosemary are warbling old carols on every station...except for Jazz 90.1 of course, which offers (IMHO) much more sophisticated holiday fare. But for sure, tis the season, no matter if your eggnog is low-fat or premium or on the rocks.

But no Christmas songs on 2 on the Aisle! Not yet anyway. Surprise, surprise, surprise (tip of the hat to Jim Nabors!), there are NOT hundreds of Broadway holiday songs. And those that do exist will be heard on my December 24th show, all herded into 2 fabulous hours, you can be sure! So grit your teeth and listen to "other" music this Sunday, like Bernadette and Audra...Julie and Zero...a lovely theme...and one most happy fella.

Cuz back "in the day", we got our Christmas tree on the 22nd. We put up decorations on the 22nd. We let Thanksgiving's aura slowly dissipate (that's turkey and dressing and Uncle Bill's cigar fumes to you) and only started Christmas-ing when school closed. Then. THEN. And anyway, if you put up a real tree (as I do) on December 1st, there won't be a needle left by brunch on the 25th. Buy me a silver (or pink!) aluminum, then we'll talk. :)

Carousel (La Valse a Mille Temps)(Elly Stone, Shawn Elliot, Alice Whitfield,
      Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris)
Wouldn't It Be Lovely (Julie Andrews, Ensemble, My Fair Lady)
It's A Lovely Day Today (Russell Nype, Galina Talya, Call Me Madam)
Isn't This A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain) (Fred Astaire, Top Hat)
A Lovely Day To Be Out Of Jail (Patricia Isaacs, Lilias White, The Life)
Lovely (Brian Davies, Preshy Marker, A Funny Thing Happened On The
      Way To The Forum)
On How To Be Lovely (Audrey Hepburn, Kay Thompson, Silk Stockings)
Lovely (Reprise)(Zero Mostel, Jack Gilford, A Funny Thing Happened On
      The Way To The Forum)
It's De-Lovely (Hal Linden, Barbara Lang, Anything Goes)
A Lovely Night (Julie Andrews, Cinderella)
In Izzenschnooken On The Lovely Essenzook Zee (Elizabeth Parrish, Little
      Mary Sunshine)
A Perfectly Lovely Surprise (Jeff Blumenkrantz, Murder For Two)
Love Makes The World Go 'Round (Anna Maria Alberghetti, Carnival)
Always, Always You (Kaye Ballard, James Mitchell, Carnival)
Grand Imperial Cirque De Paris (Ensemble, Carnival)
Uptown, Downtown (Craig Lucas, Marry Me A Little)
The Story Of Lucy And Jessie (Lee Remick, Follies)
Ah But Underneath (Diana Rigg, Follies)
Just In Time (Judy Garland, A Musical Anthology)
I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone (Audra McDonald, Lady Day at
      Emerson's Bar And Grill)
Not A Day Goes By (Bernadette Peters, Sondheim, Etc.)
Make Someone Happy (Audra McDonald, Go Back Home)
Siberia (Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff, Silk Stockings)
Nitchevo (Jean Pierre Aumont, Ensemble, Tovarich)
Too Bad (Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff, Silk Stockings)
The Sweetest Sounds (Diahann Carroll, Richard Kiley, No Strings)
La La La (Noelle Adams, Alvin Epstein, No Strings)
Do I Hear A Waltz? (Elizabeth Allen, Do I Hear A Waltz?)
Something Good (Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, The Sound Of Music)
The Most Happy Fella (Robert Weede, Company, The Most Happy Fella)
Standing On The Corner (Shorty Long, Ensemble, The Most Happy Fella)
Abbondanza (Arthur Rubin, Rico Froehlich, John Hensen, The Most
      Happy Fella)
Big "D" (Susan Johnson, Shorty Long, The Most Happy Fella)