Vivian Blaine- Pal Joey/ Annie Get Your Gun

Broadway month just keeps going despite the fact that I am sick of it already. At least only two more weeks. I have had this album kicking around since about the sixth month I started this blog.  Big Vivian Blaine fan from her work on both the stage and film version of Guys and Dolls.

Blaine, born in Newark, NJ in 1921, originated the role of  Miss Adelaide, Nathan Detriot’s oft neglected girlfriend, on Broadway.  She also performed on other stage productions as well as films with a good repertoire of both under her belt.  Towards the end of her career, she had successfully transitioned to TV, with guest spots on various shows of the time. She would pass of heart failure in 1995 at age 74.

This is a collection of songs from two famous Broadway productions, neither of which were performed by Blaine.  First we have yet another appearance of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun.  Next we have what is probably the most famous work of Rodgers and Hart, Pal Joey.  This is probably more due to the movie version with Frank Sinatra.  But note, as discussed in previous posts, before the rise of the book musical as the dominate force in musical theater, this would probably explain why the songs are more famous than the actual work.  Anyway, it opened in 1940 and with a run of ten months, it was the third longest running Rodgers and Hart production, despite mixed reviews.  At also featured a young Gene Kelly in the staring role of Joey Evans. On a side note, obviously this month, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of these American Musical segments and totally suggest checking them out.  Julie Andrews, I believe has been doing the narration.

But back to this album, here is a Broadway legend doing Broadway standards in a beautiful fashion.  Released around 1959ish? by Mercury, by what I believe was the height of her fame, the only complaint is that the record is too short.  I mean she hits the high point numbers of each work, but I wish she could have had more space to tackle the deeper cuts from both productions.

Oh, well.  For a sample, I went with Zip from Pal Joey. From Annie, I went with “There’s No Business Like Show Business”.  Honestly, I liked all the Annie selections, but I felt this was the best version of this song from all the albums, except maybe the original (which I believe I already posted a version on an earlier compilation).

Pretty good little record and I am a bit embarrassed it took me so long to post it.  Satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- Hello Dolly

So somewhat already getting sick of the Broadway theme we are ding this month, but too late to change gears now.  This was $1.20.  Not really familiar with Hello Dolly as compared to other works I have put on this month.  I had an opportunity last night to watch the movie for some background but a romance between Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau is a bit much for me to bear.

Hello Dolly was a musical with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, all based on Thorton Wilder’s 1938 play The Merchant of Yonkers.  It tells the story of a matchmaker who tries to find a mate for a unmarried half-millionaire.  The producers had Ethel Merman in mind for the lead role who turned it down.  Ditto for Mary Martin.  After consideration of Nancy Walker, the role went to Carol Channing, who went on to make it her signature role.

After some rocky reviews in previews, the show was retooled and opened on Broadway on Jan 16, 1964.  It became a smash hit, running 2,844 performances, a record at the time.  In fact, despite the advent of rock and roll, ten Broadway productions in the 60’s would run past 1,000 performances,  Three of which would go over 2,000 Anyway, back to this, Hello Dolly won 10 out of 11 Tony’s a record until 2001.  Channing won for Best Actress in a Musical despite stiff competition between Streisand with Funny Girl.

And as inferred above, a film version which was directed by Gene Kelly, came out in 1969.  It would win three Oscars. As this still remains highly popular, various revivals have been performed through out the years including a 2017 run with Bette Midler.

The album was pretty darn successful as well, going to the #1 spot in the US.  The theme song has become a standard of sorts, is some part due to Louis Armstrong’s cover version, which knocked the Beatles out of the #1 spot in 1964. In 2002, this album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, although I am not too certain what that means.

But here is this, featuring Channing, David Burns, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jerry Dodge, and Eileen Brennnan. For a sample, I went with “Dancing” as it features most of the principles.

Not bad little record but not one pf my favorites .  But still…. satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- Camelot

Well, here is a gem of Broadway that I purchased for $4.  I posted the movie soundtrack I believe in February of last year during my salute to the Oscars.  On some levels, I found it quite silly on the surface to have a great classical Shakespearean actor like Richard Burton singing about Camelot.  However, I believe his participation in this production helped hold it together at critical moments to become the success it was.  Also, it is no sillier than Richard Harris in the movie.

Camelot was the follow up musical for the team of Lerner and Lowe, fresh off their success with My Fair Lady. The duo had some success earlier with Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon. With music by the Austrian-American Frederick Lowe and book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, the musical was based off T.H. White’s novel, The Once and Future King.

Expectations were high after MFL, and Lowe threatened to make this his last work if it were not successful.  The show as a bit rough around the edges but seemed to improve in part tp the strong cast which featured Burton, the breakout star of MFL, Julie Andrews, and Roddy McDowell among others.

An early out of town premier ran for over four hours, leading Noel Coward to remark that it was “longer than Gotterdammerung …… and not nearly as funny”.  There is another funny antidote about Andrews being given the song  “Before I Gaze At You Again'” just before a preview leading Andrews to quip “Of course, darling, but do try to get it to me the night before.” Personal problems also came from every direction, including Lerner’s wife leaving him and director Moss Hart’s heart attack.  Throughout the ordeals, I am told by Wikapedia that Burton held the production together and calmed the fears and anxieties of the other actors.

Initial reviews of the previews were mixed but thanks to television and Ed Sullivan, the cast of the show got to make their case to the American public.   Sullivan had asked Lerner and Lowe to help celebrate the 5 year anniversary of MFL.  The duo decided instead to focus on Camelot, performing 4 songs from the show.   Not only did this boost word of mouth and drive pre-sale tickets.

It also made a star out of Canadian Robert Goulet, who as Sir Lancelot, made his Broadway debut with this.  As a result, “If I Ever Leave You” became his signature song.

Camelot opened on December 3rd, 1960.  It ran for 873 performances and spawned the 1967 movie which as mentioned above has been on this blog.  Furthermore, it won 4 Tonys in 1961 including Best Actor in a Musical for Burton.  And although critics were initially mixed, the work has seemed to grow in stature over the years.  Several revivals have been staged and the songs still remain popular. 

This album, itself was hugely popular at the time, being a #1 record in the US and the top selling for 60 weeks. This is back when Broadway music was American pop music(All this, we shall see, will change in three years).Despite this success, the hardships suffered proved to be too much for Lerner and Lowe as this was their last major collaboration other than the stage adaption of their film Gigi and the film, The Little Prince.  Coincidentally, the director Hart died of another heart attack in 1961, making this his last work as well.

Having gone to Harvard with Lerner, John F. Kennedy was a huge fan of the work and claimed to listen the album at bedtime quite frequently.  His favorite line was the one at the end where a haggard King Arthur tells a young boy “Don’t let it be forgot, That once there was a spot, For one brief, shining moment , That was known as Camelot “.  As a result, Kennedy’s administration gained the Camelot moniker.

The album itself is pretty good and features some great performances by the principles.  Obviously Andrews and Goulet are among the talented singers, but the numbers by Burton and McDowell are not bad either.

For a sample, I decided to go with what I thought was a quintessential Andrews-type song ” Then You May Take Me To The Fair”.  Then I thought , what makes this a quintessential Andrews song other than the fact that she sings it?  Well, for me, I guess that is all it takes.  Anyway, this song was cut from the original production after around a month or so. Here is Andrews as a conniving Queen Guinevere, enlisting knights to destroy Sir Lancelot, for whom she does not know she is in love with yet. Oddly enough it appeared on the film version.  I also went with what is perhaps the climax number, “Guinevere”.

Really great little album.  Satisfactory.

Orginal Cast Recording- Two By Two

Here is a strange piece of musical theater that I purchased for $4.  As a kid, I watched a lot of Danny Kaye movies, plus as I am a big Richard Rodgers fan (as previous posts would indicate), I wanted to check this musical I never heard of out.

Two By Two, with music by Rodgers, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Peter Stone, was based on an earlier play from 1954, The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets.  It tells the Biblical story of Noah through the flood, as well as his relations with his wife and family as well as the relationships of his sons.  Modern themes such as the generation gap and the atomic bomb were also worked into the story.  I am told that despite the story coming from the 50’s, it worked quite well in a 1970’s context.

Kaye, who had problems with the script, took to regularly ad-libbing, much to the producers chagrin.  Also, apparently after an injury, he took to performing both on crutches and in a wheelchair, both of which he used as comic ploys to run down cast members. That also tells me that the success of this musical must of been driven by Kaye if they would allow him to perform incapacitated. According to some reports, his one man vaudeville routines and asides to the audience drove word of mouth and increased sales.  According to other reports, these unprofessional gestures irritated viewers.

The show itself opened on November 10th, and ran for ten months.  After this, it kind of fell by the wayside as there have not been too many revivals since.  One side note to this performance is that it features an early role on Broadway for Madeline Kahn.  Kahn, who made her Broadway debut a year earlier, stars as Goldie, who as far as I can tell, is from a idol worshiping sect who somehow found her way on the ark and enters into a love triangle with one of Noah’s sons.

I am not sure when I will get a chance to blog this so I will say it here.  Rodgers was the first person to enter the EGOT club.  That is to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award.  Furthermore, his Pulitzer win puts him in an even smaller club with Marvin Hamlisch. Anyway, Rodgers went on after this to work on a few more productions with different lyricists until his death in 1979. Kaye, for his part, did mostly humanitarian work thereafter as well as television, (most notably in my memory, a guest spot on The Cosby Show) until his death in 1987. I was not sure I would be able to tie this paragraph into the wider narrative, but I seem to have done so nicely.

For a sample, I originally wanted to go with “You Have Got To Have A Rudder On The Ark” which I felt was among one of the better numbers.  However, as I was driving around a post-Harvey Houston on Aug 27th, the first Wednesday after the flood hit, this song “When It Dries” came up on my I-Pod.  I found it quite funny, driving down 290 in Houston listening to a song about how great everything will be around here when it dries up.  So here we are with “When It Dries”.  Also , because I like Madeline Kahn, here is her number ” The Golden Ram”.

I can kind of see how this might have come off as a mixed musical, I guess depending on how you view Kaye’s performance.  It is also a bit on the high end, but as far as the album goes, I found it all right.  Satisfactory.

Orginal Broadway Cast- Oklahoma

Well, there is no tribute to Broadway without this, which I purchased for $3. This production launched the beginning of the Golden Age of the Broadway Musical.  This groundbreaking work paved the way for many things which seem standard today.

Oklahoma! really separated two eras of Broadway musicals and gave way to the rise of the “book”musical as the dominate art form.  As opposed to musical follies or productions where the songs were simply vehicles for the star and unrelated to the story, the book musical used music and lyrics to advance the story line.  This form was kicking around here and there before, most notably in 1927’s Showboat but Oklahoma! came to symbolize the genre and therefore changed all of Broadway thereafter.

Both principle’s Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were well established before they teamed up in the early 40’s.  Rodgers had his share of success working with lyricist Lorenz Hart.  Hammerstein had also worked with a myriad of music writers including Jerome Kern on the aforementioned Showboat.  Both men had entertained the idea of converting the earlier play Green Grow The Lilacs into a musical.  However, Kern had refused to work on this production and Hart had sunk into a great depression that would eventually lead to his death.  Thus, Rodgers asked Hammerstein (who incidentally had six flops in a row and was starting to have self doubt) to partner up and thus history was made.  As a side note, the partnership worked well for both men’s habits.  As opposed to their former partners, Hammerstein preferred to write the lyrics first before the music was written as Rodgers preferred to write the music to lyrics.

Two other interesting aspects to this production, Oklahoma! was cast with singers who could act as opposed to actors who could sing, and as a result, there were really no big stars on opening night.  Furthermore, one of the musicals most notable features was the 15 minute dream ballet, choreographed by Agnes DeMille, niece of Cecil.  It is not only the use of dance but the importance of it in explaining the character’s feelings that make it truly groundbreaking.

During out of town tryouts, producer Mike Todd walked out of the first act noting that the show had no chance of success.  However when retooled and debuted on Broadway in March of 1943, Oklahoma! was a smash hit with critics and audiences.  Due to the unprecedented demand for tickets, the show ran for five years or 2,212 performances, a record at the time. National tours followed along with a big screen adaptation in 1955, various revivals, and performances around 75% of the high schools in this country. Unfortunately, there were no Tony awards in 1943 so none to be won.  However, I found it interesting that his former partner, Hart, told Rodgers upon viewing. that it was the best evening he ever experienced in theater, before dying later in the year.

Another groundbreaking fact, when Decca Records released a set six 10 inch 78 rpm’s from the musical, it was the first original cast recording from a Broadway production (for all practical purposes), paving the way for many more for many years.   This set was a success as well, selling over a million copies.  Due to this, the set was repackaged and reissued thru the years.  This record, is a 1955 re-issue.

Here on this record, the original cast and chorus belt out some of the songs which by now are Broadway standards.  Cast members Alfred Drake ( Curly) , Joan Roberts, (Laurie), Howard Da Silva (Jud), Lee Dixon (Will Parker), and Celeste Holm (Aldo Annie) all shine on this effort.  Pretty good album despite not having my favorite song, “The Farmer and the Cowhand Should Be Friends” on it. Personally, and I think I made it known on some older posts, my interest in Oklahoma! has waned over the years, although I still do like the songs.  However, I still feel that Jud got a bad deal in the story. But since the movie version has both Shirley Jones and Gloria Grahame in it, it will always get watched by me.

But for a sample, I went with one of my favorite numbers, the duet between lovers Will Parker and Aldo Annie, “All or Nothing”.

Not sure why I felt the need to write a book about this but it is done so there.  Satisfactory.

 

Mary Martin & John Raitt- Annie Get Your Gun

Another week of Donkey Show’s month long salute to Broadway with this gem I got for $2.40 some years back.  Also, at the time of this writing, Hurricane Harvey has made its return to the gulf and is about to perform a second landfall.  For the moment, things have been relatively dry.  Still stuck at home.  Still watching the same movies I watched on AMC yesterday (right now Pulp Fiction), thus making for a weird Beckett-esque experience or perhaps something more out of Flan O’Brien’s Third Policeman.

So here is this, our second appearance of Irving Berlin’s masterpiece, Annie Get Your Gun featuring two of the heavy weights of the musical stage who never quite switched over to the big screen, John Raitt and Mary Martin.  This record from Capitol from 1957 is associated with a television production aired on NBC based on a production around the same time on the West Coast.

Mary Martin, born right here is what is now a dry part of the state, Weatherford, TX in 1913, was a Tony winning, Broadway star who was discovered by Oscar Hammerstein II.  She got her break in 1938 in Cole Porter’s Leave It To Me.  Her version of “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” made her an overnight star. More work would follow including two originating lead Rodgers and Hammerstein roles in South Pacific and The Sound Of Music.  Other roles of note include Peter Pan.  Martin did not enjoy working on film as she did not feel a connection with the audience.  She did enjoy working on television from time to time.  Also of note, she is the mother of Larry Hagman.  Martin would pass of cancer in 1990, weeks shy of her 77th birthday.

John Raitt, on the other hand, was born in 1917 in Santa Ana, CA.  Despite being trained for a classical singing career, Raitt decided to switch to popular music.  He graced the stage in such productions as Oklahoma, Carousel, and A Joyful Noise among others.  His only film appearance for with Doris Day in the big screen version of The Pajama Game, a role he performed on Broadway.  He, too, was a frequent guest on the TV.  He also had a famous offspring, blues singer/guitarist Bonnie Raitt.  John would pass in 2005 at age 88 of complications due to pneumonia.

Anyway, here is this.  Pretty decent.  Two Broadway heavyweights belting out a heavyweight piece. For samples, I went with the duo and “They Say It’s Wonderful”.  Also because I am a slave to personal tastes, here again is one of the most popular duets in show bidness, “Anything You Can Do”.

Satisfactory. Feel ripped off that you did not learn more about the original production?  Well keep your spurs on as this is not the last time we will see Annie this month.

 

VA- A Stephen Sondheim Evening

Back to Back Stephen Sondheim efforts as we conclude our first week of Donkey Show’s month long salute to Broadway.  This double album was $1.  Pretty darn cheap from this Broadway legend.

In fact, if Sondheim retired in the 1950’s with the lyrics to West Side Story and Gypsy under his belt, it would have been a pretty good career.  But no, Sondheim went on to achieve greater fame writing music and lyrics to such musicals as A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, Assassins, In The Woods, and my favorite, Sweeney Todd, of which I saw a wonderful version by the HGO two years ago. In a way, he really bridged the gap between the Rogers and Hammerstein era of the 40’s and 50’s with the later theater style of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Coming from a broken home, a young Sondheim befriended one James Hammerstein son of Oscar Hammerstein II.  The elder Hammerstein became a father figure, mentor, and teacher extraordinaire to the boy.  Wikipedia relates a tale how a young  Sondheim brought an early piece of work to Hammerstein for his opinion.  Hammerstein remarked that it was terrible, but if he wanted to know why, Hammerstein would tell him.  That day, the elder gave his pupil a master class in song writing.

Hammerstein’s death in 1960 was a blow to the composer and I am sure there is something to be said about his pre-1960 work as compared to his post 1960 work in relation to this event but would take more journalistic effort on my end which I am not willing to do on a Saturday post.  The video below also sums it up better that I could (or am willing today- it is Labor Day at the time of this writing).  In short, post 60’s, Sondheim not only pushed the envelope; he broke though it.  I will also say this:  Sondheim is an Emmy short from going EGOT so start working on those TV shows.

 

Anyway, here is this.  A recording from a 1983 concert sponsored by the Whitney Museum’s Composer’ Showcase series, under the direction of Charles Schwartz.

With a six musician ensemble, Sondheim’s work from his repretoire of music and lyrics (no Gypsy or West Side Story) is performed by actors and actresses who previously performed his work on the stage.  Such personnel include Judy Kaye, Cris Groenendaal, Steven Jacob, Thomas Faye, George Hearn, Victoria Mallory, Liz Callaway, and Bob Gunton.

Normally, I like the more obscure numbers on albums for samples, but for reasons unbeknownst to me, I decided to go with one of Sondheim’s more popular numbers, from A Little Night Music, “Send In The Clowns” sung by Angela Lansbury, who was not only in the Todd clips above, but made her first musical theater debut in 1964’s production of nine shows, Anyone Can Whistle.  If you notice the laughter and applause when she mentions she brought her own accompanist, that is because she is joined by Sondheim on the piano.

Sondheim’s body of work along with his many Tony’s speak for themselves.  Satisfactory record.

 

 

OST-Gypsy

Broadway month continues to roll on here at the show and I am still at the time of this writing waiting for Houston to dry up after the weekend that Harvey struck.  Hopefully I can go back to work in another day or so.  This was $1.  I got it mainly because I love Rosalind Russell.

Which is strange as the vocals on this record are not 100% hers.  Rather, they are blended with contro-alto Lisa Kirk.  Russell, who was not stranger to singing having performed on Broadway in Wonderful Town, found that the vocals were beyond her scope (or more likely this was found for her).  Oddly enough, Russell and her husband had flirted with a straight drama adaptation of the source material. the 1957 autobiography of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee but were unable to get the rights.  The actress who played Gypsy Rose Lee, Natalie Wood, sung her own songs, which is surprising as she did not do so on West Side Story.

But here is this 1962 movie, based on the 1959 production of which some critics have called the perfect musical.  With a script written by Leonard Spigelgass based on the original book by Arthur Laurents with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jules Styne, the film was a critical and financial success, earning three Oscar nominations.  The film also stared Karl Malden and was produced and directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

For a sample, I went with “Some People”.

Satisfactory.  Again, I would expect to hear more about the Broadway production when that album comes up. For the record, I liked Russell’s version of “Rose’s Turn” better then Merman’s but felt perhaps that song should go to the originator.

 

Doris Day & Robert Goulet- Annie Get Your Gun

Our month long salute to Broadway continues with this $3 selection based on the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun, with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and book by Dorothy and Herbert Fields.

The musical was a fictional account of the romance between sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.  So in love were the real couple that when Oakley passed in 1926, Butler quit eating and starved to death 18 days later.  In the 1950 film version, however, that romance was fictionalized as in the fact that the principle actors, Howard Keel and Betty Hutton, hated each other.

This album released in 1963, was the one in a series of albums by Columbia Records featuring contract artists interpreting musicals.  I.E. there was no underlying production to accompany this.  As both principles were huge stars, this was probably the biggest release of the series. Under the direction of Franz Allers and the arrangements of Phil Lang, Doris Day who was  a huge star at the time recorded the vocals on the West Coast and sent them to the East for production.  Lang then wrote the arrangements around Day’s vocals.

Day, for her part, does great with this giving Annie’s songs a touch of country bumpkin which I feel is needed for the role.  I think that Hutton did the best in this vein as compared to a Merman or a Garland, but this is my opinion.  Goulet, does as Goulet does.  That is quite well.

For a sample, I decided to showcase Day’s contribution with “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” along with her and Goulet with “Anything You Can Do”, which I feel is a bit more remarkable since it was recorded so disjointedly.

Satisfactory

Herschel Bernardi- Sings Fiddler On The Roof

This was one dollar.  October is Donkey Show salute to the musicals of old Broadway.  If you look at the last century of musical theater, hand down without comparison, America has produced the most important works of the genre, and this one, Fiddler On The Roof, is one of the best.

Opening on Broadway in 1964, it surpassed 3,000 shows to become at the time, the longest running show until being surpassed by Grease.  Today it still ranks #16. The show was based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories of Tevye and his daughters, with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein. The 1964 production would be nominated for 10 Tony’s, winning 9.

Many of the songs have become musical standards including “Tradition”, “If I Were A Rich Man”, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “The Sabbath Prayer”, “To Life” , and “Sunrise, Sunset”.  Furthermore, the songs have been covered by a diverse array of artists including these two which have been featured on the blog and have become among my favorites.

Fiddler Post 1

Fiddler Post 2

The original role of Tevye went to Zero Mostel.  However, sometime in 1965, Mostel split and Herchel Bernardi assumed the role.  Other notable actors have been Mostel’s understudy Paul Lipson, Theodore Bikel, and Topol. all of which whom clocked 2,000 or more performances as the character.  Topol would later star in the 1971 film version.

This recording , from 1966 perhaps, is a collection of 10 songs, 8 from the what was the current production as well as two from the original production.  For a sample, I went with one of these two numbers, “When Messiah Comes”.

Satisfactory