Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Screen Broadway (sort of)

I can't resist Broadway on the Big Screen when it's at the tv museum. Enthusiasts always gather and have quite a time, collectively laughing out loud, groaning, oohing, ahhhing and applauding numbers. Broadway was on television quite a bit back in the 50s and 60s. Those were the good old days. Fortunately, there's a place to watch these gems.

12:30 PM: "West Side Story" at 50
Includes the "Balcony Scene" with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert as seen on "The Ed Sullivan Show"; a 1958 episode of "Look Up and Live," with director/choreographer Jerome Robbins and cast members; and a 1961 episode of "American Musical Theatre" with Stephen Sondheim. (90 minutes)
The gorgeous, haunting melodies of this work always give me chills. What a treat to see the original cast members Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert
singing that famous balcony scene from almost fifty years ago. Mickey Calen was so cute as as bad boy leader of the Jets, "Riff". I love all Sondheim interivews so the 1961 interview was a quite a treat. Also, what a great bonus today to hear Martha Wright singing "Small World" from "Gypsy" and then "I Feel Pretty" and "Tonight" from "West Side Story". Wow! She had a hell of a voice! Sondheim said that "Small World" was written to show how manipulative "Rose" was. He also said that he was unhappy with the lyrics of "I Feel Pretty" because the words were too smart for "Maria", who had only used simple phrases heretofore.

2 PM: "The Best of Broadway: Panama Hattie"
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by Herbert Fields and B.G. DeSylva (television adaptation by Herbert Baker and supervised by Jule Styne). With Ethel Merman, Art Carney, Ray Middleton, Jack E. Leonard, Janis Carter, Neil Hamilton and Karin Wolfe. (1954; 60 minutes)
Okay. Cole Porter! But ugh, corny! Still, it's the Merm. She played Panama Hattie on Broadway from October 30, 1940 to January 3, 1942 at the 46th Street Theatre (nka The Richard Rodgers). This television production 14 years later was probably cut for television, but still it was the sort of stand and deliver Merman that we all know and love. The songs are terrific but have little to do with the action. Art Carney stole the show as Woozy. An unannounced treat was that Karin Wolfe was in the house. She played the little girl Gerry. We had fun watching the commercials about sponsor Westinghouse in between acts. The big buy of the day was a new "big screen" television with aluminum by the picture tube for a brighter picture. It cost a whopping $250, give or take.

3 PM: Applause
Music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams, book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. With Lauren Bacall, Larry Hagman, Penny Fuller, Sarah Marshall, Robert Mandan, Harvey Evans and Rod McLennan. (1973; 105 minutes)
You know there are some great, GREAT songs from this original cast recording. But oh - cheesy! And Lauren Bacall is so campy and that voice just makes me cringe when she actually tries to sing, but she's sort of perfect in this. It's such a fun show and I love it! I can kind of see myself as Eve Harrington, except for the backstabbing and sleeping with the producer part (not that I'm ruling out that option).

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