Friday, January 30, 2015

R&H Flops: Hey, they tried!

 The cast of Me & Juliet,
opening night at the Majestic Theatre, 1953,
from back left:
George Abbott, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, 
Bob Alton, Jo Mielziner; 
in front Joan McCracken, Ray Walston, Isabel Bigley, Bill Hayes, 
Irene Sharaff, Jackie Kelk,and Mark Dawson

 The Al Hirschfeld caricature...Joan McCracken's in the fishnets!

 Isabel Bigley (who later played Sister Sarah in Guys and Dolls) 
and Joan McCracken...Bob Fosse's then wife.
Joan was an incredible dancer/comedienne,
and starred on both Broadway and in movies.
Her work can be seen on film in "Good News" and "Hollywood Canteen."
She died at the age of 43, from complications of diabetes.

 Pipe Dream, 1955...Jo Mielziner did the sets...

 Rodgers and Hammerstein first wanted Henry Fonda
as the male lead...but when he turned out NOT to be a singer,
they settled on William Johnson.
For the female lead, they approached Julie Andrews and Janet Leigh.
When neither were available, Judy Tyler (late of The Howdy Doody Show)
was given the nod.  
Yes, Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring!

Yes, the pipe in question was literal,
not figurative.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Our Oldies But Goodies Set: You can't tell the singers without a blog!

 Judy and "Gotta Have Me Go with You,"
from A Star is Born...1954
music by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin.

 "Put the Blame on Mame,"
Rita Hayworth in Gilda...1946.
an Allan Roberts/Doris Fisher song.
Rita's sex appeal, and someone else's singing voice:
Anita Kert Ellis.

 Annette Hanshaw, dubbed The Personality Girl,
always ended her songs with "That's All!"
We'll hear her sing "You're the Cream in My Coffee,"
but she was also famous for her renditions of 
"Do Do Do," "Get Out and Get Under the Moon," and
"I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

 Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel...1930
"Falling in Love Again,"
by Friedrich Hollaender.

 The original "Cuban Pete," Desi Arnaz...
first it was a movie, from 1946, that he did with Joan Fulton...

Later, a number in I Love Lucy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It's Kismet! Times 5!

 First there was the 1920 silent film of Kismet,
starring Otis Skinner and Elinor Fair...
Actually this version was proceeded by a play,
but how far back do we have to go?

Otis Skinner(again!) and Loretta Young starred in the 
1930 movie version filmed in Vitascope! 
It was pre-code (whoa, those harem scenes)
and except for the soundtrack, is lost to the ages.

 The 1944 version starred Marlene Dietrich and Ronald Coleman.
Edward Arnold played the evil Vizier.

 Finally 1953 brought the Broadway production
with the music of George Forrest and Robert Wright
(and Borodin!)
Here's Alfred Drake as Hajj, and Joan Diener as Lalume.

 An original cast album, with Alfred!

Howard Keel took over that role for the 
1955 with Dolores Gray,
and those aforementioned Harem-ites!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Playlist for Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015: Put the Blame on Broadway!

Alright, so I recently took one of those irritating quizzes know, like "Which Downton/Seinfeld/Star Trek character are you?" or "What Color/City/Era best defines you?" This one was "Are you an optimist, pessimist or realist?"  Now, having lived in Manhattan for many years, with lots of acerbic, jaded friends, and liking Elaine Stritch as much as I do, I assumed I'd test in the PESSIMISTIC range, with a side of Lewis Black-itis thrown in.  But...yup, you guessed it. OPTIMIST. Really? Despite years of honing caustic comments to sling over martinis, despite practicing the art of the "jaundiced eye"? Well, I know exactly where I can point my OPTIMISTIC finger...I have Broadway to blame. How can you listen to decades of Jerry Herman, Comden and Green, Sondheim (okay, NOT Sondheim), and Ethel and not end up with that "Come on guys, let's put on a show!" attitude? Huh?

Now I'll shut up and tell you about this week's show....Kismet! Curtains (that means lots of IN YOUR FACE Debra Monk)! Steel Pier (more Debra)! You get the idea...we also have two flops by Rodgers and Hammerstine (doesn't it make you feel good, in some weird way, to know that even these GODS of the musical theatre had flops?). We have Cuban Pete (aka Desi Arnaz) waiting in our Oldie but Goodie wings, along with Rita Hayworth "singing" her signature song in that black satin dress (okay, you'll have to visualize that part!), a little Marlene Dietrich...a little Nell Carter...a little Doris.

Stay warm, stay hydrated, stay OPTIMISTIC!

Honeysuckle Rose (Ken Page, Nell Carter, Ain't Misbehavin')
The Olive Tree (Alfred Drake, Kismet)
Night of My Nights (Richard Kiley, Kismet)
Was I Wazir? (Henry Calvin, Kismet)
What Kind of Man? (Ensemble, Curtains)
I Miss the Music (Jason Danieley, Curtains)
It's a Business (Debra Monk, Curtains)
That's the Way It Happens (Isabel Bigley, Bill Hayes, Me & Juliet)
On a Lopsided Bus (Mike Kellin, G.D. Wallace, Pipe Dream)
It's Me (Joan McCracken, Isabel Bigley, Me & Juliet)
The Man I Used to Be (William Johnson, Pipe Dream)
We Deserve Each Other (Joan McCracken, Bob Fortier)
Gotta Have Me Go With You (Judy Garland, A Star is Born)
Put the Blame on Mame ("Rita Hayworth", Gilda)
You're the Cream in My Coffee (Annette Hanshaw)
Falling in Love Again (Marlene Dietrich, The Blue Angel)
Cuban Pete (Desi Arnaz)
Plant You Now, Dig You Later (Harold Lang, Pal Joey)
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (Frank Sinatra, Pal Joey)
Zip ("Rita Hayworth," Pal Joey)
That Terrific Rainbow (Helen Gallagher, Ensemble, Pal Joey)
You're My Thrill (Doris Day, 11 Classic Albums)
I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful) (Doris Day, 11 Classic Albums)
Little Girl Blue (Doris Day, Jumbo)
Second Chance (Karen Ziemba, Daniel McDonald, Steel Pier)
Willing to Ride (Karen Ziemba, Steel Pier)
Everybody's Girl (Debra Monk, Steel Pier)
First You Dream (Daniel McDonald, Karen Ziemba, Steel Pier)
I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling (Nell Carter, Ensemble, Ain't Misbehavin')
Lounging at the Waldorf (Ensemble, Ain't Misbehavin')
Fat and Greasy (Ken Page, Andre DeShields, Ain't Misbehavin')

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bea Arthur: 1922 - 2009

 Born Bernice Frankel, Bea was born in NYC,
and raised in Cambridge, Maryland. 
She joined the Marines during WWII.
She started as a private, but worked her way up to Staff Sergeant.

 From Three Penny Opera,

 And in the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof,
Bea played Yente, the Matchmaker.
Here she is (center) and the recording session for the album,
with Maria Karnilova and Zero Mostel.
 With Jane Connell and Angela Lansbury
in Mame, 1966.

 Bea repeated her role as Vera Charles
in the movie version of Mame, 1974,
with Lucille Ball.

 Close up on the hat!

 Post Maude...pre Golden Girls,
Bea in 1981.

 On the Golden Girls set,
with Estelle Geddes, Rue McClanahan and Betty White.

A promo shot for her one-woman show,
Just Between Friends, 2002.
When asked about her major influences, 
Bea  named the following three:
"Sid Caeser taught me the outrageous; Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality; and Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sisters and Brothers: From this week's Oldies but Goodies!

 Connie, Martha and Vet (Helvetia) Boswell...
a close-harmony sister group that started out in New Orleans in 1925.
They had 20 hits in the 1930s,
including "When I Take My Sugar to Tea," "I Found a Million Dollar Baby,"
and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea."
 Live radio performances, with the likes of Bing,
helped their popularity.
That, and the way Connee (center) had with an arrangement,
changing melodies, keys, and rhythm,
unlike other groups who copied original recordings to the letter.
 Due to an accident early in her life,
Connee lived her life in a wheelchair...
or seated at a didn't seem to stop her.
When The Boswells broke up,
Connee continued to record on her own,
and even had some hit duos with Bing in the late 1930s.

From the Sisters to the Brothers...
Julius Henry, Adolph, and Leonard.

 "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,"
from At the Circus, by Harold Arlen,
lyrics by Yip Harburg.
 Ahhh, the college widow!
Guess they were more popular back then...
From "Horsefeathers," 1932,
which also starred Thelma Todd.

Groucho lived the longest of the 3...
until 1977, age 86.
He performed from 1905 to...
well, he never really stopped.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Awww, just Kiss Me!

 The original Broadway production of 1948 featured
Patricia Morrison, Alfred Drake, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang.

 Alfred and Patricia and their roles
as Petruchio and Katharine.
(The hair played itself.)

 Harold Lang as Bill Calhoun.
Professionally trained as a ballet dancer,
Harold switched to theatre dance, and later appeared
in Pal Joey (1951), and several other Broadway and touring shows.
He worked in television in the 1950s, but never entered
the world of movies.

 Lisa Kirk as Bianca
and her "Tom, Dick and Harry"....
Charles Wood, Edwin Clay, and Harold.

 In the 1953 movie,
(which was filmed in 3-D!)
Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel 
played the leads...

 This time around, Tommy Rall played ne'er do well Bill/Lucentio...
and of course Ann Miller was Lois Lane/Bianca...
Like Harold Lang, Tommy was also a ballet dancer,
and used his dancing/singing/acting talents 
in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and My Sister Eileen
just to name two.
Later in life, he sang in operas!
(Ann Miller danced pretty well, too.)

 The movie's version of Bianca's suitors:
Bobby Van, Tommy Rall, and Bob Fosse.

 The fabulous Bob Fosse choreographed section
of "From This Moment On"...with Carol Haney. 
This 2 minute piece (or was it even shorter than that?)
marked a turning point in Bob's career,
from "mere" dancer to creator.
Below, the movie theatre poster...
featuring (top left) the gangsters,
played by James Whitmore and Keenan Wynn.

Cole's most successful musical...
and winner of the very first Tony
for Best Musical.
Maybe they invented it just for him!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Playlist for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015: Where Do You Start?

The depths of January... Crusty snow piles, black ice, a parka with a stuck zipper, and missing ear muffs. It ain't Christmas, it ain't Valentines. It ain't a vacation by the shore, or a picnic in the meadow. It ain't picture day or prom or homecoming.  It ain't even tax time yet.  So whattaya do? Well, that's where Music rescues ya and Broadway provides the defibrillator. 

I think I've been listening to too many gangsters!  Well, there are a few in Kiss Me, Kate... one of my favorite Cole Porter creations, that combines Shakespeare, backstage romance, and gambling.  What else fills the bill on a cold January afternoon?  We'll also hear from two big time flops, All-American (80 performances) and Merrily We Roll Along (16!!??!!)...the critics thought both of these egg-layers had excellent scores, but the BOOK. It's all about the book! Mel Brooks wrote the first act of All-American and then split, leaving it for others (Josh Logan, the director, in this case) to wander through Act 2 on their own.  George Furth, who had done such a good job on the book of Company, confused the hell out of audiences, writing the plot of Merrily backwards.  Some people just can't get their brains to do that!

We also have two mini for Bea Arthur, with selections from Mame, The Shoe String Revue and her one-woman show, Just Between Friends....and another for Elaine (do I need to add Stritch?), my go-to Broadway Lady. Hey, we need courage to make it through upstate winters, right?  And doesn't Elaine provide that kick in the pants?

And stay tuned for our "Oldies But Goodies" section...this week: The Boswell Sisters, Maurice, Rudy, and Groucho.  That's where we need to start!  LYDIA!  :)

There's No Business Like Show Business (Elaine Stritch, Elaine Stritch at Liberty)
Too Darn Hot (Lorenzo Fuller, Ensemble, Kiss Me, Kate)
Wunderbar (Patricia Morrison, Alfred Drake, Kiss Me, Kate)
Bianca (Harold Lang, Kiss Me Kate)
Brush Up Your Shakespeare (Harry Clark, Jack Diamond, Kiss Me, Kate)
Melt Us (Ray Bolger, Ensemble, All-American)
Nightlife (Anita Gillette, All-American)
Physical Fitness (Ensemble, All-American)
Once Upon a Time (Ray Bolger, Eileen Herlie, All-American)
Who Cares? (Bea Arthur, Just Between Friends)
You're Gonna Hear From Me (Bea Arthur, Just Between Friends)
Garbage (Bea Arthur, The Shoe String Revue)
Where Do You Start? (Bea Arthur, Just Between Friends)
The Man in the Moon is a Lady (Bea Arthur, Just Between Friends)
It's the Girl (The Boswell Sisters, Pennies from Heaven)
You Brought a New Kind of Love (Maurice Chevalier, The Big Pond)
Let's Misbehave (Irving Aaronson and His Commanders, Pennies From Heaven)
Let's Put Out the Lights and Go to Sleep (Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees)
I'm Against It (Groucho Marx, Horsefeathers)
Lydia, the Tattooed Lady (Groucho Marx, At the Circus)
Opening Doors (Jim Walton, Lonny Price, Ann Morrison, Jason Alexander,
                    Merrily We Roll Along)
Good Thing Going (Lonny Price, Jim Walton, Merrily We Roll Along)
Not a Day Goes By (Jim Walton, Merrily Roll Along)
Our Time (Ensemble, Merrily We Roll Along)
You Took Advantage of Me (Elaine Stritch, On Your Toes)
If (Elaine Stritch, Stritch)
Are You Having Any Fun? (Elaine Stritch, Stritch)
Easy Street (Elaine Stritch, Stritch)
Two Ladies (Joel Grey, Ensemble, Cabaret)
Married (Lotte Lenye, Jack Gilford, Cabaret)
Maybe This Time (Liza Minelli, Cabaret)
Mein Herr (Liza Minelli, Ensemble, Cabaret)

Friday, January 16, 2015

WowWowWow...Look at the old girl now!

 The original...musical...Dolly Gallagher Levi!
The book was based on Thornton Wilder's 
"The Merchant of Yonkers" and "The Matchmaker".
Carol Channing got the part after both 
Ethel Merman and Mary Martin turned it down!

 Eileen Brennan and Charles Nelson Reilly,
as Irene and Cornelius.

 Eileen with Sondra Lee, who played Minnie Fay...
Yes, the same Sondra Lee who played Tiger Lily
in the original Peter Pan!
(Okay, the hats are a bit "over the top," 
but Irene WAS supposed to have a hat shop!)

 Carol...just saying Hello!
to all those wonderful dancing waiters.
Choreography was by Gower Champion,
who also directed.
(Hal Prince, Jerome Robbins and Joe Layton
had all turned down the directorship!)

Carol, 43 years old at the time,
during the recording session for the original cast album,
which subsequently received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

And she's still going 93!