Friday, September 28, 2018

Can We? Shall We? Oh, Just Dance!

 Celebrating George Gershwin,
who along with Brother Ira,
wrote the music for A Damsel In Distress, in 1937.
No Ginger this time around;
nope, RKO chose 19 year old Joan Fontaine to star opposite
Fred Astaire (above).
Too bad she couldn't dance!
Fred wanted to replace her with Ruby Keeler, 
who very much could.
Didn't happen.
It was the first Astaire picture to lose money.

 Actor Charley Chase was first cast to be Fred's valet
in the film,
but had to drop out due to ill health.
The part was rewritten for George Burns and Gracie Allen,
above with Astaire.  
George Gershwin died 4 months before the movie was released.

 Another Gershwin Hollywood creation,
Shall We Dance", also released in 1937.
A ton of goodies in this one,
from the title song to "Slap That Bass,"
"Walkin' The Dog", "I've Got Beginniner's Luck",
"Let's Call The Whole Thing Off",
and "The Way You Look Tonight"
(supposedly Fred and Ginger's favorite).

 George and Ginger...on the very civilized set of "Shall We"...
they knew each other from Girl Crazy,
which Ginger did at the age of 19,
her Broadway debut!

Broadway's Girl Crazy...
the Gershwins' hit of 1930.
That's Ethel Merman in the center, age 22,
playing Frisco Kate.
She got to introduce both
"I Got Rhythm" and "Sam And Delilah".
Below, Ethel with co-star William Kent,
with a hat that looks like it weighed more than he did.

Above, Ginger, as the female lead, Polly,
and The Foursome.
Girl Crazy "made Ginger a star".
She got to introduce "Embraceable You", "But Not For Me",
and "Could You Use Me?"
The pit orchestra included Red Nichols, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, 
Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden. 
Onstage pianist for Ethel:
Roger Edens, 
who would remain a good friend of The Merm for many years.
Annnnd on opening night, George Gershwin himself conducted.

 Ending a Gershwin-ized show with Cole Porter?
Why not!
Another excuse to play more Marin Mazzie,
above with Brian Stokes Mitchell,
in the 1999 revival,
the first Broadway production since the 1948 original.

  Above "Too Darn Hot"
and below, the replacement Broadway cast:
Carolee Carmelo (Parade) and Burke Moses (The Frogs).

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ode to Marin

 Marin Mazzie
landed in NYC in 1982, fresh from Western Michigan University.
Her first musical was in an Equity Library production 
of Where's Charley?
And The World Goes 'Round, Passion, Ragtime, Kiss Me Kate, Kismet,
and other Tony nominated performances followed.
 Above, Marin as Helen Sinclair in
Bullets Over Broadway.

 Marin met Jason Danieley while performing 
in Trojan Women: A Love Story, in 1996.
They would later sing together in cabaret acts.
  In fact they were to unveil a new act,“Heart to Heart,” 
at Feinstein’s/54 Below in June, 
but had to cancel because of Marin's declining health.

 Above in Bullets with Zach Braff,
and below in Kiss Me, Kate.
Said Ben Brantley of her performance in the later,
“Her outlandishly entertaining take on that 
great exercise in animosity, ‘I Hate Men,’ 
which here includes a vivid simulation of giving birth, 
goes over the top, for sure,
but it doesn’t go out of control. 
And when Ms. Mazzie needs to switch to a lyric sincerity, 
for ‘So in Love’, her soprano shimmers like polished silver.”

 With her Kate co-star,
Brian Stokes Mitchell,
in Kismet.

 Misia, yet to be produced on Broadway,
but done in concert with Marin in the title role.
Previously unpublished songs of Vernon Duke,
knitted together by Barry Singer.
We'll hear "My Heart And I".

 As Clara in Sondheim's Passion, 1994,
opposite Jere Shea.
A breakthrough role for Marin, and a Tony nod.

 As part of the 2010 celebration of 
Stephen Sondheim's birthday, with
Laura Benanti, Chip Zien, Johanna Gleason, Jason Danieley,
Marin, Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters
(among others!).
 Marin even took a turn as The Lady Of The Lake
in Spamalot.

 In May of 2016,
Marin replaced Kelli O'Hara in the Lincoln Center revival of
The King And I,
with Daniel Dae Kim as the King. 

 Marin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer
in 2015.
She passed away on September 13, 2018,
only 57 years old.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Playlist For Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018: George and Marin and Cole and Betty

 Swedda Wedda! Aka Fall/Autumn/PSL it what you will, we are IN IT! I get to use the words "flannel", "crisp", and "apple betty!" I get to warm stuff up! And add maple syrup! And carve! Coolio.

Since I've been working on a school schedule for all but 3 or 4 years of my life, September always feels like the beginning of a new year, more so than January 1 ever did. Not like I need a new plaid dress and Mary Janes to wear that "first day" (tho I wouldn't mind!), or a fresh notebook to crack, but the timing and the weather give me a 7 espresso jolt.

Hence our "Another Op'nin" opening to this week's 2 On The Aisle. It may be a little weird to open the program with a Cole Porter show, because in fact we'll be saluting George Gershwin for the balance of it, but there is a method to this Madness: Also on the agenda is a salute to Marin Mazzie, who passed away on September 13th, and one of her star turns occurred in Kiss Me Kate, the 1999 revival. So in playing that show, we get to hear George will just have to step aside a few times for her and Cole. I don't think he'll mind.

But as CP said, "make your future forget your past..." That sounds like a fresh start to me. Or as GG (helped by Ira!) added, "Who Cares?" If you've "got rhythm", that apple betty is sure to turn out. :)

Another Op'nin', Another Show (Adriane Lenox, Company, Kiss Me, Kate)
I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise (Max Von Essen, Crazy For You)
Shall We Dance (Michelle Pawk, Crazy For You)
Shall We Dance (Fred Astaire, Shall We Dance?)
Slap That Bass (Harry Groener, Stacey Logan, Fred Anderson, Beth
      Leavel, Crazy For You)
Bidin' My Time (Mary Martin, Girl Crazy)
Someone To Watch Over Me (Jodi Benson, Crazy For You)
Sam And Delilah (Klea Blackhurst, Everything The Traffic Will Allow)
They Go Wild (Marin Mazzie, Bullets Over Broadway)
I Hate Men (Marin Mazzie, Kiss Me, Kate)
I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle (Marin Mazzie, Bullets Over Broadway)
Do What You Do (Bobby Short, K-RA-ZY for Gershwin)
Who Cares? (Bea Arthur, Just Between Friends)
They Can't Take That  Away From Me (Peggy Lee, Black Coffee)
Stiff Upper Lip (Amelia White, Stephen Temperley, Crazy For You)
A Foggy Day (Fred Astaire, A Damsel In Distress)
S'Wonderful (Gene Kelly, George Guetary, An American In Paris)
I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise (George Guetary, An American In Paris)
By Strauss (Tra La La) (Oscar Levant, Gene Kelly, An American In Paris)
I Got Rhythm (Ethel Merman)
I Got Rhythm (Gene Kelly, An American In Paris)
I Got Rhythm (Judy Garland)
I Got Rhythm (Max Von Essen, Brandon Urbanowitz, Robert Fairchild,
      Ensemble, An American In Paris)
My Heart And I (Marin Mazzie, Misia)
Not A Day Goes By (Marin Mazzie)
So In Love (Marin Mazzie, Kiss Me Kate)
Too Darn Hot (Stanley Wayne Mathis, Ensemble, Kiss Me, Kate)
Wunderbar (Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Kiss Me, Kate)
Tom, Dick or Harry (Amy Spanger, Kevin Neil McCready, Darren Lee,
      Michael Berresse, Kiss Me, Kate)
Kiss Me, Kate (Company, Kiss Me, Kate)

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.