Saturday, March 17, 2018

Well, I've never actually TRIED to succeed in business...

 The story was based on a real one...
Back in 1936, Shepherd Mead got a job with Benton & Bowles,
one of THEE advertising firms of the day.
His first job (of course) was as a mail clerk,
but he eventually worked his way up to a vice presidency.
So this is a (satirical) tale worthy of 
a.) a book! A best seller in fact...written in 1952 in
Shepherd's spare moments away from "adverting",
with the subtitle "The Dastard's Guide to Fame and Fortune,"
and b.) a very successful musical (1961) and movie (1967).
Above is Shepherd now...
I mean, Robert Morse, as J. Pierrepont Finch
 (called "a rumpled, dimpled angel with a streak of Lucifer").
 Evidently coffee was as big back then as it is now:
Charles Nelson Reilly, as the original Bud Frump,
and below, mid throes-of-anguish,
with Claudette Sutherland as Smitty.
Having worked in advertising for all of 1.75 years in the early 80s
(the boring pharmaceutical kind),
I can tell you these coffee trucks existed even then,
and were just as revered! 

 Rudy Vallee was chosen to play 
the president of the World Wide Wicket
(hey, the first www?) Company,
J. B. Biggley.
All went well til Rudy wanted to add some of his hit songs
to the score. 
Music-meister Frank Loesser nixed that,
as did director Abe Burrows.
 For a good memoir read, btw,
try Burrows' "Honest Abe"...

 Robert and Charles both won acting Tonys for their performances,
plus 5 more for the show, including Best Musical.
(And don't forget the Pulitzer Prize for Drama!)
Great quote from Walter Kerr, of the New York Herald Tribune:
"Not a sincere line is spoken in the new 
Abe Burrows-Frank Loesser musical, 
and what a relief that is...
How to Succeed is crafty, conniving, sneaky, cynical, irreverent, 
impertinent, sly, malicious, and lovely, just lovely."

 In revivals, the show has been called dated
("all the romantic brouhaha with moony secretaries is beyond retro")
and episodic.
Above the "Secretary Is Not A Toy" number,
from the movie,
and below "No Coffee"
which was unfortunately jettisoned.
Choreography by Bob Fosse,
who worked on the staged production as well,
but chose not to be credited with such
(long story!).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Golden Broadway For Your Ducats!

 Old favorites 
for our Spring Pledge Drive!
Carol Channing was 43 years old when she originated the role
of Dolly Levy.
The role had been written by Jerry Herman for Ethel Merman,
but she turned it down, 
as did Mary Martin,
although they both ended up playing it eventually.
Nancy Walker auditioned,
but Carol got the part.
Ten Tony Awards (including one for Channing),
 a record that held for 37 years!

 Charles Nelson Reilly and Jerry Dodge
(well, his back half!)
as Cornelius and Barnaby,
skulking in Miss Molloy's hat shop
(speaking of hat's, EVERYONE would still wear one
if they could look like these!).
Hello Dolly! was the first LP I ever owned,
pre-dating my acquisition of the Beatles' Revolver album by one year!

 At the cast album recording:
Above David Burns, Charles and Jerry,
and below, Charles and Jerry with Carol. 
The album was inducted into the 
Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

 What horse DO we put our money on?
Stubby Kaye, Douglas Dean and Johnny Silver
sing/argue it out
in the opener of Guys And Dolls. 

 Robert Alda as Sky Masterson,
and Isabel Bigley as Sister Sarah.
Composer/lyricist Frank Loesser had a real problem with Isabel;
at one point he slapped her
out of frustration that she "sing louder!"
She walked.
Dozens of roses and probably as many apologies later,
she came back. 
Wouldn't fly now, Frank.

 "Secondary couple"
Vivian Blaine and Sam Levene as
Adelaide and Nathan,
probs in a discussion of postponed nuptials...

 ...and happier moments with Queen Elizabeth in

 The "Bushel and a Peck" song
taken to its literal extreme!

 An American In Paris,
an amalgamation of Gershwin goodies
and great dance,
inspired by the 1951 movie with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.
Let's see how the National Touring Company of it 
does next week,
when it hits the Rochester Auditorium! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Playlist For Sunday, March 18, 2018: Send us your nickels, your dimes, your pennies yearning rolled!

Yes, it's that time of year again, 2 on the Aisle fans: Pledge Drive time in the Jazz 90.1 corral! So expect lots of universally-loved Broadway tunes coming your way this Sunday, like the Guys and the Dolls and the Dollys and that Man from La Mancha...all crowded in together with requests and pleads and begging for dough! How I will fit in all said great music AND said great amounts of neediness in 2 short hours, I have no clue. But Broadway has magical powers, right? maybe I'll just shut my eyes, push buttons, lean in (to the mic) and wave my wand!

Jazz 90.1 is a pretty magical place itself. A tiny little station supported solely by its listeners, staffed with volunteers, no safety net, and yet it's been broadcasting for almost 45 years. It's like that diner down the road, that despite the McDonald's and the Olive Gardens and the Dominoes Pizzas, still makes the best cheese fries and hot fudge sundaes and everybody comes! The only problem is most of those diners died. We didn't. That's because of you and these marvelous Broadway fries!

So call me up on Sunday! Help the little radio station that could. And does. And will.

Put On Your Sunday Clothes (Charles Nelson Reilly, Carol Channing,
      Company, Hello, Dolly!)
Fugue For Tin Horns (Stubby Kaye, Johnny Silver, Douglas Deane,
      Guys And Dolls)
A Bushel And A Peck (Vivian Blaine, Ensemble, Guys And Dolls)
The Oldest Established (Sam Levene, Stubby Kaye, Ensemble,
       Guys And Dolls)
Fugues For Scalpers (Philip George, Michael McGrath, Forbidden Broadway)
I Got Rhythm (Max Von Essen, Brandon Uranowitz, Robert Fairchild,
      An American In Paris
Nice Work If You Can Get It (Fred Astaire, Damsel In Distress)
Slap That Bass (Harry Groener, Stacey Logan, Beth Leavel, Fred
      Anderson, Crazy For You)
We Are What We Are (Gene Barry, Ensemble, La Cage Aux Folles)
Rich Man's Frug (Instrumental, Sweet Charity)
Haled's Song About Love (Ariel Stachel, Etai Benson, The Band's Visit)
Papi Hears The Ocean (Etai Benson,The Band's Visit
Omar Sharif (Katrina Lenk, The Band's Visit)
Side By Side By Side (Dean Jones, Ensemble, Company)
Another Hundred People (Patti LuPone, Don't Monkey With Broadway)
You Could Drive A Person Crazy (Susan Browning, Pamela Myers,
      Donna McKechnie, Company)
Send In The Clowns (Barbara Cook, A Little Night Music/Sondheim On
How To (Robert Morse, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying)
Coffee Break (Charles Nelson Reilly, Claudette Sutherland, Ensemble,
      How To Succeed)
Grand Old Ivy (Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee, How To Succeed)
With One Look (Patti LuPone, Sunset Boulevard)
Dear Theodosia (Leslie Odom, Jr., Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton)
Waving Through A Window (Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen)
Impossible: It's Possible (Edie Adams, Cinderella)
Impossible (Brian Davies, David Burns, A Funny Thing Happened
      On The Way To The Forum
The Impossible Dream (Richard Kiley, Man Of La Mancha)
You Deserve It (Corey Cott, Laura Osnes, Ensemble, Bandstand)
Jet Set (Ensemble, Catch Me If You Can)
Hello, Dolly! (Carol Channing, Ensemble, Hello, Dolly!)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Klea, Molly and Men!

 Introducing, interpreting and "telling tales" of Ethel Merman 
on this week's 2 on the Aisle
is Klea Blackhurst,
 an actress, singer and comedienne who is best known 
for Everything The Traffic Will Allow,
a production that 
earned her the inaugural Special Achievement Award 
from “Time Out New York” magazine.
 Klea has also played several roles in the Merman cannon 
including Mama Rose in Gypsy,
Sally Adams in Call Me Madam, 
and (below) Dolly Levy in 
Goodspeed Opera Company's 2013 production of Hello, Dolly!

She's performed cabaret acts at 
the Cafe Carlyle, Joe's Pub, the Oak Room, the Metropolitan Room,
and Carnegie Hall,
often spotlighting Broadway composers like
Vernon Duke, Jule Styne, Hoagy Carmichael
and Jerry Herman.

The more I listen to 
The Unsinkable Molly Brown,
the more I hear Meredith Willson's 
"Trouble" and "Pick A Little Talk A Little"...
from The Music Man.
Unsinkable came 3 years later, in 1964,
and starred Tammy Grimes as Molly
(aka Harold Hill)
and Harve Presnell with some wonderful
Marion The Librarian ballads! 

 Molly Brown was based on Margaret Brown,
a survivor of the Titanic,
and the wife of James ( J.J.) Brown,
a successful prospector from Leadville, Colorado.
Both Margaret and JJ started out with nothing,
but thanks to their new-mined wealth 
and Margaret's philanthropic work,
they became the toast of Denver and 
all points east.
 It sounded like a musical to Meredith! 

 Tammy, above, with Mitchell Gregg
as Prince DeLong.
The musical version of Molly and JJ has them
ostracized from "Society" (conflict most foul!),
but I believe there's nothing in their real-life bios to suggest that.
 They DID divorce, however, but again Meredith preferred 
a tweaked version (and a happy ending)! 

 In our "Men" set on Sunday,
The Full Monty,
David Yazbek's first Broadway musical, done in 2000.
Based on the 1997 British film of the same name
(if you've never seen it, DO!),
it changed the show's location from Sheffield, UK to Buffalo, NY;
the characters were (in both versions)
out of work steel workers. 
Nominated for tons o' Tonys,
but this was the year of The Producers,
which scarfed everything in sight.

 The Men in the cast, 
plus David Yazbek, seated center,
and at left, Kathleen Freeman
who played Jeanette Burmeister, 
the professional musician who helps them "put on a show". 
Kathleen took ill about 10 months into the run
and passed away.
Perhaps you remember Kathleen 
as the "Ta Tay Tee Toe Toooo" speech instructor
in Singin' In The Rain,
or as one of the hundreds of other character roles she did.
Jane Connell (of Mame fame) replaced her. 
Below, Kathleen with Andre DeShields.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

That's MISS Merman to you!


 Some folks have no inkling that Ethel
was one gorgeous dame when she was young. 
Born in Astoria, Queens in 1908,
Ethel Agnes Zimmermann
 became a secretary after high school graduation,
but moonlighted in nightclubs and private parties,
emulating the hot singers of the day:
Sophie Tucker, Nora Bayes, and Fanny Brice.
 She eventually moved to the Keith Circuit of Vaudeville,
with a voice all her own.

 "Discovered" by Vinton Freedley, 
and granted an audition for Girl Crazy,
with The Brothers Gershwin,
Ethel was cast at the drop of a song 
and, of course, her success in that show
tilted the world on its musical comedy axis. 
(Maybe that's why I'm dizzy.)
Below, Ethel in a Cole Porter show,
Red Hot And Blue
from 1936
 with Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante.

Above, the Playbill for Panama Hattie, 1940
with music (and Old Fashioneds?) by Cole,
and below, Annie Oakley
in Annie Get Your Gun
(she's doin' what comes natur'lly!)
written by Irving Berlin in 1946.
 How different Annie might have been with Jerome Kern
(the first composer asked to do the music)
at the helm!

"At work" with Mr. Berlin,
for Call Me Madam, 1950
(and as Sally Adams AGAIN in the movie version, 1953). 

From There's No Business Like Show Business,
released in 1954, starring
Donald O'Connor, Ethel, Dan Dailey, Mitzi Gaynor and Johnnie Ray.
Below, "back stage" and ready to film the title number.
I just wonder how that triumvirate got along!

Happy Hunting, 1956...
the "jeep among the limousines".
Ethel was urged by her then-husband, Robert Six,
to come out of retirement for this show.
Fernando Lamas co-starred, 
and fearing that he'd be overshadowed by his leading lady, 
had the costume designer make him a pair of very tight trousers.
Needless to say, the audience looked at "him",
not Ethel, come opening night.
Ethel nixed those pants,
and eventually Six as well! 

 Jerry Herman wrote Hello, Dolly! with Ethel in mind,
but she refused the role,
til 1970, when she became the
7th actress to portray Ms. Levy.
 Walter Kerr of the NY Times proclaimed her performance,
"exactly as Wurlitzer-wonderful as it always was."

 Had to include a photo of Ethel's marriage to Ernest Borgnine,
notorious in its brevity and its head-scratching pairing of
these 2 battle cruisers.
Above, a blissful, wedded moment,
however fleeting!
They married in June of 1964, filed for divorce in October, the same year. 

 Black Glama-ed in 1972...
"What Becomes A Legend Most?"

 Ethel passed away in 1984, at the age of 76:
18 Broadway shows, 18 movies, innumerable television appearances,
a whole lotta albums, 2 memoirs
and 1 incredible voice.
There's your legend.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Playlist For Sunday, March 11, 2018: Meet The Merm!

I have been waiting for this show for a long time. I have wanted (AND threatened) to play an Ethel Merman edition of 2 On The Aisle for over 5 years, and now it has come to pass. I may lose my listeners, I may lose my mind, but Ethel deserves a tribute. Now is the time.

That said, let's make it easy on all you non-Mermanized fans! And we'll do that in 2 (on the Aisle!) ways:

1.) We'll bring in Klea Blackhurst (or at least her CD!). Klea's "Everything The Traffic Will Allow" live-recorded cabaret act of 2002 is a damn homage. Klea sings songs of Ethel, Klea tells tales of Ethel (so I don't have to), so that we might better understand what made Ethel "tick" and the theatre-of-the-day's love affair with her. And in between, around, and through, I'll embellish those renditions and stories with the real thing, the unique if loud sounds of Ms. Merman.

2.) And that ain't all...we'll take breaks (whew!). With Honeymoon In Vegas, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and even some testosterone-y men in a ...well, I guess you could call it a Man Set. There you go. So it won't be wall-to-wall Ethel. No one could face that.

But I'm very excited. Join me for (not quite 2 hours...maybe an hour forty...possibly less) of the lady who has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the Musical Comedy Stage"... All Hail! :)

There's No Business Like Show Business (Ethel Merman, There's No
      Business Like Show Business)
Johnny One Note/I Got Rhythm (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will
You're The Top (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will Allow)
Anything Goes (Ethel Merman, Anything Goes)
Make It Another Old Fashioned Please (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The
      Traffic Will Allow)
Make It Another Old Fashioned Please (Ethel Merman, Panama Hattie)
I Ain't Down Yet (Tammy Grimes, Ensemble, The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
My Own Brass Bed (Tammy Grimes, The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Keep-A-Hoppin'/Leadville Johnny Brown (Harve Presnell, Ensemble,
      The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Ridin' High (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will Allow)
Sam And Delilah (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will Allow)
I've Still Got My Health (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will Allow)
I Got The Sun In The Morning (Ethel Merman, Annie Get Your Gun)
Physical Fitness (Male Ensemble, All American)
The Man I Used To Be (William Johnson, Pipe Dream)
Man (Patrick Wilson, John Ellison Conlee, The Full Monty)
Mr. Livingston (Ethel Merman, Happy Hunting)
Just A Moment Ago (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will Allow)
I Love Betsy (Rob McClure, Honeymoon In Vegas)
Out Of The Sun (Tony Danza, Honeymoon In Vegas)
Higher Love (David Josefsberg, Ensemble, Honeymoon In Vegas)
Heat Wave (Ethel Merman, As Thousands Cheer)
You're Just In Love (Ethel Merman, Russell Nype, Call Me Madam)
Ethel Merman and Sunset Boulevard (Christine Pedi, Bryan Batt,
      Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back)
Some People (Ethel Merman, Gypsy)
Rose's Turn (Ethel Merman, Gypsy)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Yes, Yes, Nanette!

Ruby Bernadette Nanette Fabares
was born in 1920, in San Diego.
Tap dance lessons, some with Bojangles Robinson,
 (of course) and a professional debut at age 3 (of course)
as "Miss New Year's Eve"...
that's how things rolled for Ruby!
She made her film debut at age 19 in
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Bette Davis.
She toured in the show, Meet The People (1940-41),
singing "Caro Nome" from Rigoletto WHILE tap dancing.
The story goes that she was introduced at one point in that tour
by Ed Sullivan who mispronounced her name (of course)
as "Nanette Fa-bare-ass."
She changed the spelling to Fabray probably about 7 seconds later.

In 1950, it was Arms And The Girl,
a Morton Gould/Dorothy Fields musical
with Nanette and Pearl Bailey.
 Below, the Playbill from Love Life, 1949,
which had the music of Kurt Weill, lyrics Alan Jay Lerner,
starring Nanette and Ray Middleton 
(who later played Frank Butler in the original Annie, Get Your Gun).
Nanette pocketed a Tony for that show.
 Other Fabray shows of that era were
High Button Shoes, Bloomer Girl, By Jupiter, and Make A Wish.

Television called, and Nanette answered!
She won 3 (count 'em, 3) Emmys for her work on Caesar's Hour,
above with Sid,
and below with a bevy of talent from that show:
Howard Morris, Sid, Nanette, and Carl Reiner.

The Bandwagon came along in 1953
and Nanette jumped on:
Music, Arthur Schwartz, Lyrics, Howard Dietz and
starring Nanette, Fred Astaire, Jack Buchanan,
Cyd Charisse and Oscar Levant.
She played "Betty Comden" to Oscar's "Adolph Green".
Below, the infamous "Triplets." 

 Tons of television appearances (1960 - 90),
above with Lucille Ball ("Here's Lucy!")
and below as Katherine Romano, Ann Romano's mom
(Ann played by Bonnie Franklin).
Nanette played a lot of MOMS
(The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Coach),
as well as 3 different dames on Love Boat,
a suspect on Murder She Wrote,
and even had her own sitcom back in 1961,
called "Yes, Yes, Nanette!"

Nanette suffered from a hearing impairment all her life, 
 and was an advocate for the deaf and hard-of-hearing for many years.
 She wasn't diagnosed til her 20s...
when her acting teacher encouraged her to get tested.
"I always thought I was stupid,
but in reality I just had a hearing problem."
RIP....1920 - 2018