OST-The Pirates of the Penzance

When I first got this, Kevin Kline was on cable on a pretty solid basis, most notably the Cole Porter Biopic De-Lovely.  When I was picking out records for the month, this trend continued but with the movie based on the Broadway production this soundtrack is from.  So it kind of went full circle.  Plus bring a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan in general made this purchase inevitable, especially with the low price of $1.20 with discount for a double record.

The Pirates of the Penzance, was G&S’s fifth collaboration and actually the first of their productions to open in the US (it opened in New York in 1879).  This was done to combat the lack of international copyright laws in the US. With their previous works such as HMS Pinafore, over 150 production companies staged unauthorized performances in America with many liberties to the text and no money in the pockets of the creators.  After a three month run (that initially remedied the fore mentioned problem), the production was opened in London in 1880 and ran for 383 performances, garnishing praise from both critics and audiences. Filled with the patter and counterpoint vocals common in G&S’s work along with a playful parody of the works of Verdi, Gounard, Mozart, and Donizetti, Pirates remains one of the pairs most popular works today.

Though there have been many productions over the years, the most notable was staged in 1980 by Joe Papp and the New York Shakespeare in the Park organization.  After 10 previews and 35 performances, the production was moved to Broadway  were it ran 20 previews and 787, becoming a massive success. The performance featured more swashbuckling (which makes me cringe to think what prior versions were like), more musical comedy, enhanced instrumentation and arrangements, and a restoration of the original G&S ending. The production was nominated for seven Tony’s, winning three including one for Best Revival and a Best Director nod for Wilford Leach. It is this Broadway production for which this album is based. It has also served as the musical basis for most productions since.

Based on the success on Broadway, a movie version of this production was made with most of the principals in place.  This was released in 1983 but was not as successful as its stage counterpart.  Maybe perhaps as America was not ready to accept movie-musicals again but also in part because a good amount theater owners boycotted the release due to the fact that it was also released to a direct home market thru subscription tv at the same time.  What ever reason you want to believe, the movie was a box office bomb.  However, growing up in the mid-80’s, I do vividly recall HBO playing the crap out of this as well as making a big deal about it.  This and a half naked Brooke Shields were my early memories of HBO (reinforced because Rex Smith looked very similar to the actor in Blue Lagoon).  Anyway, back to this narrative, I tried watching it as a 10 year old on TV at the time but could not as ultimately I found it too silly. (I also found Blue Lagoon to be boring despite a half naked Brooke Shields).

Well,  I watched again for the first time last month and again, I found it was still rather silly.  But then again, wast G&S production isn’t?  I was impressed this go around by both the music and the actors and found it to be an enjoyable movie.

The star of both the Broadway production and the movie, was undoubtedly Kevin Kline who played the Pirate King.  This was one of his early roles but the Tony he won for Best Actor in a Musical was his second.  As he would later win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in A Fish Called Wanda, he is only short an Emmy and a Grammy to complete the EGOT.  Also, Kline did what Judge Reinhold could not, land Pheobe Cates.  The pair has been married since 1989.  But back to something relevant, Kline’s performance shows a strong comedic timing and great vocal performance.

When the movie played on HBO, the station made a big deal over the performance of Linda Ronstadt, who at the time was a major singing star.  Given her penchant for collaborating with many different styles of artists.  Ronstadt, who played the female lead of Mabel, was nominated for a Tony for her role and generally gave a great performance in the production from at least what I have heard.

The only role that really changed radically thru the Papp productions was that of Little Ruth.  Ruth was played by Patricia Routledge in the Shakespeare in the Park version.  She was later played by Sweeney Todd murderess/ Murder She Wrote sleuth Angela Lansbury in the movie version.  However, for the Broadway run, the role went to Estelle Parsons.

After seeing performances from all of the above (well more like hearing), my favorite tends to lean towards Parsons, although both Lansbury and Routledge gave fine performances. It does prove however, the G&S were able to do something that Hollywood can not do today: provide great roles for older actresses.

The most popular song in the production as well as perhaps the most popular song in all of G&S’s catalog is the “Modern Major General”song.  It has been widely covered, parodied, lampooned, and praised as it showcases the rapid fire patter execution that is the work of the duo.  For the Papp production, the role of the Major General was played by George Rose.

Of course the main plot device centers around the main protagonist, Young Frederick who finds that he is still a slave to duty to the pirates as he was born on the last day of February in a leap year and thus, going by birthdays as per his agreement, is 5 years old and not 21 as he believed.  There was a teacher at my middle school who had the same affliction (although not contractually bound to pirates or such).  She used to tell students that she was 8 years old.  Honestly even at my age back then, I found it annoying. It should also be noted that the role of Frederick, who is the central character was played by Rex Smith, who did an excellent job. He was also the first actor to portray Marvel Comic book hero, Daredevil and I am speculating he was neither the best or the worst at it.

Also of note, the music to the song “With Cat Like Tread” was used for the American song, “Hail, Hail The Gangs All Here” in 1917.  It was subsequently borrowed by Glasgow Celtic fans for their cheers.  The original melody by Sullivan was meant to parody Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus”.

The Papp production also added two songs from other G&S works; “Sorry Her Lot” from Pinafore, and “My Eyes Are Fully Open” from Ruddigore.  It is the latter that has become one of my favorites as it again highlights the rapid fire delivery as well as the vocal interplay that G&S made famous.  The lyrics have been slightly modified to fit the subject of Pirates, but in general, the verse that was suited for Mad Margaret seems a bit strange for Ruth.  However, you fans of  meta-reference should note that Ruth mentions that this is from Ruddigore. And yes, that is Vincent Price in the video below.

In general, I find plot and story wise, that the endings of G&S work are quite silly and Pirates does not detour much from this route.  To find that suddenly, the pirates are all actually noblemen and thus resolved seems kind of weak. Plus I am not sure how stopping pirates by reverence to the Queen would play for a US audience. Music-wise, however, I have the opposite opinion as I feel G&S finales really wrap up the production.  This finale references the big numbers including “General” and “Poor Wandering One”.  It should be noted that for Papp’s version, he restored the original G&S ending as well as returned the “General’s Song” to the finale.

Man, that is a lot of writing.  Well for samples. I decided to go with the “Matter Patter” as well as the Finale.

Top rated album for sure.  Really good job by all involved.  Man, this post turned into more of a book. Expect short posts the rest of this week.

 

VA-This is Broadway’s Best

At a dollar for this double record, I might as just of have walked out without paying for it.  Besides all the really great Broadway songs from some of the greatest Broadway productions by some of the most talented people to grace the stage, this record also includes a detailed booklet of some of the more popular Broadway productions as well as a cover with illustrations from the famous New York cartoonist, Al Hirschfeld.

 

Hirschfeld’s Web Page

Hirschfeld, born in St Louis in 1903, moved to New York with his family and studied art.  He became a commissioned cartoonist for The New York Times and as a self described “Characterist”, he drew countless portrayals of artists, performers, politicians, and other celebrities for just about every publication there was at the time.  

His unique use of pure black lines against white backgrounds made his work iconic.  Hirschfeld passed on in New York in 2003, just months shy of his 100th birthday.

This record, as suggested above, is a collection of iconic Broadway tunes from top productions such as Gypsy, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Finian’s RainbowShow Boat, Kiss Me Kate, West Side Story, Pal Joey, and The Sound Of Music among others.  Performers include Carol Channing, Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Ethel Merman, Carol Lawrence, Mary Martin, the list goes on and on.  What more can I saw?  Iconic performers giving performances from iconic productions.  The booklet is also real neat as it has a bunch of pictures. It was released by Columbia Records in 1961.

For a sample, I was pulled in show many directions.  I could have listed the whole album. However, I decided to go with three samples.  First off , from On The Town, here is the signature song, “New York New York”.  Written by Adolphus Green and Betty Comdon in 1944 with music by Leonard Berstein, the original version which ran 462 performances differed from the movie version, which cut all but three of Bernstein’s song. Comdon had a role in the Broadway play along with Green who is here on this track with John Reardon and Cris Alexander.  Also different from the movie is the exclamation that New York is a H-E- double hockey sticks of a town. I realize this is a side note, but I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the filming of the movie version of this musical, just to see a perfectionist Gene Kelly swear and berate Frank Sinatra for missing cues.

I also went with Bye-Bye Birdie’s “Kids”, mostly as a tribute to the Simpsons who both parodies the song as well as the actor who sung it, Paul Lynde. He is joined by Marijane Maricle on vocals.

Finally, just because I like the song, here is Carol Haney with “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game.

Great album.  Great cover.  Great packaging. Top Rated.

OST- Wildcat

I had seen this record over and over during the years and I am not sure why I finally bit on it this January.  I mean besides the obvious tie in to oil and gas, why now? And why at $4.  On a related note, the HGO’s season closed out for me on Saturday with a performance of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seragilo. Overall it was a very good performance (most notably the singer who played Osmin) but it came to close on the heels of the last opera I saw.  So it was a bit of an adjustment to go from epic German opera with fire, swords, and magic helmets to a Viennese Rom-Com.  Interestingly enough, at the time of the original production, the Ottoman Empire and the Turks were to European entertainment what the Australians were to the US in the 1980’s.

Back to this record, this marks Lucille Ball’s first and only foray into Broadway, at the ripe age of 48.  With the book by Richard Nash, music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, this was largely a Ball driven vehicle.  Nash had originally envisioned his lead, “Wildy” Wildcat Jackson to be in her 20’s.  But when Ball showed interest in staring as well as financing the production, the rewrite took place.  It opened on Broadway and ran 171 performances due to lukewarm reviews and the illness of Ball.  The crowds clearly came to see her and when when fell ill, the production had to be suspended.  When she was able to return, the musician’s union demanded payment for the time spent idle and as a result, the production was permanently shelved.

Broadway Database for Wildcat

The story was set in 1912 at the border town of Centavo City.  Wildy and her sister try to take advantage of the recent discovery of oil, navigating a world normally reserved for rough  men.  Along the way she meets Joe Dynamite and the two fall in love in the Broadway sense of the word.  By that I mean, at first, he rejects her but after some musical numbers and some exposition to the story, Joe realized he loves her as well and by the time the final curtain falls, Wildy gets her man as well as a gusher from her well.  The musical also stars Edith King, Paula Stewart, Clifford David, Keith Andes, and Swen Swenson.

The songs are ok.  The big number that seemed to have a life after the production was “Hey Look Me Over”.  I am not sure if it was my set up but Ball’s vocals on the first side seem to be a bit muffled.  Besides that, the music is ok and there are some decent numbers in the show.

For a sample, I went with “El Sombrero”, sung by Ball and the various people at a fiesta.  I also went with “Corduroy Road” which is sung at the erection of the derrick, which in some ways is much different today and and others, not so much so.

Eh.  It was a bit pricey, but decent enough record.  Satisfactory.

Lotte Lenya/ Kurt Weill – The Seven Deadly Sins

I posted one Brecht/Weill work before but I have never posted anything by Lotte Lenya, I believe.  Well, what better time to correct this than Anniversary April. This was $5.00.

Lotte Lenya, born in Vienna in 1898, was to Kurt Weill’s music what Dionne Warwick was to Burt Bacharach’s.  Plus Lenya and Weill were married twice.  Lenya first gained fame with Bertolt Brecht’s/Weill’s Three Penny Opera. From there she performed Weill’s work on stage across the world as well as on records. As with many performers at the time, she emigrated to New York to flee pre-WWII aggression.

 

In her later life, Lenya worked on film as well as Broadway.  Lenya would die in 1981 of cancer.  She is buried in New York, next to Weill.  Throughout her life, Lenya was quite faithful to her husband’s work, performing and promoting his pieces until the end.

Kurt Weill began work on The Seven Deadly Sins in 1933 after fleeing Germany and the rising National Socialist Party.  After landing in Paris as a refugee, he received a commission to compose a ballet.  The work was commissioned by a wealthy Englishman, Edward James.

James’ wife, Tily Losch was a ballerina and had a striking resemblance to Lenya.  Therefore, as it was just assumed that Weill would write the lead role for Lenya, James demanded his wife be given the role as Lenya’s dancing doppleganger.  Therefore, the split personality motif was in place before Weill gave the work to Brecht to write the libretto.

The work, known as a Ballet with Song, opened the same year in France and despite being  set in America and sung in German, was actually well received.  The piece tells the story of two American sisters (or perhaps the same sister) who leave their home in Louisiana to gain fortune in the big cities of the US.  Along the way, they came face to face with the seven deadly sins, each in a different city.  Lenya took the main singing role of Anna I, while Losch was the main dancer as Anna II. Their family is sung by a male quartet which functions as a Greek chorus.   Incidentally, after France, the work opened at the Savoy in London as Anna-Anna.  Lenya revived the work in the 50’s and it has enjoyed a few major production ever since.  This piece of work, however, would mark the last collaboration between Brecht and Weill.

As far as the album goes, without a translation and with never seeing the work, I still found it quite enjoyable.  The singing and music are top notch.  I liked it but would probably like to see the performance live at some point.

For a sample, I went with “Zorn (Anger)”.  It this point in the production, the girls are in Los Angeles.  Anna I has a job in the circus when a horse she is riding starts bucking.  As the ringmaster whips the horse, Anna II becomes overwhelmed by anger, grabs the whip from the ringmaster, and begins to whip him.  Anna I reminds her sister that she must tolerate such brutality if they are to get ahead in life.  Anyway, I liked this song the best from the album.

Satisfactory record.  Will try to see a production of this if it ever comes my way.

The Stradivari Strings- Ping Pong Percussion of Rodgers & Hammerstein

There are two things I frequently post on this page: percussion and Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Maybe three things if you separate the duo. And perhaps a more accurate thing to say is among the things I frequently post as I have many recurring theme on this blog.  Anyway, this was a dollar.  I bought it because it combines two of the said recurring themes.

It is not that Rodgers and Hart did not write successful songs a lot of their works have become standards.  It is just with Hammerstein, the everything about productions seemed to be on a grander scale.  Other than Pal Joey, I can no think of another Rodgers/Hart musical.  I can name five Rodgers/Hammerstein musicals off the top of my head.

This record came out on Pirouette Records, a subsidiary of the Synthetic Plastics Company.  I did a post on them sometime back but can not remember which album.  Anyway, apparently there is a whole series of Ping-Pong Percussion records with such stars as Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Leroy Anderson.  Okay, perhaps, three does not a series make, but you get the point. I am sure the Stradivari Strings was a house band.  Not sure why you would connotate a percussion album with a string band, but this is what Pirouette chose to do.  From what I can tell, this came out sometime in the early ’60’s

Overall, I felt the album was a pretty good interpretation of the duo’s work.  On a personal level, I could have used more songs that I like, but to counterpoint, it probably made for a better album by highlighting lesser known songs.  As far as the percussion goes, the album does ok at the beginning of the songs but does tend to go more into the strings about mid-way each tune. I have heard worse percussion albums but I wonder the reasoning behind naming this Ping Pong Percussion.

For a sample, I was torn between Carousel‘s “June is Busting Out All Over” and South Pacific’s “Some Enchanted Evening”.  Carousel, in particular, has been steadily rising for me, while Oklahoma keeps slightly falling.  I feel that the whole resentment of Judd is kind of messed up. Well back to this, I could not choose between the two so here is both.

Satisfactory.

 

The D’oyly Carte Opera Company- Gilbert & Sullivan/ Highlights from The Mikado and Patience

This was $3.  I have posted other versions of the Mikado on this blog.  It is probably Gilbert and Sullivan’s most famous work.  At least it is my favorite. Anyway that is why I bought it and why I am posting it this month.  The color scheme of the cover probably influenced me on some level as well.

There is an excellent movie which I am sure I plugged on this site before called Topsy-Turvy, which tells the story of the creation of light opera, its first performance and the lives of the principles involved.  It is a great period piece and is pretty entertaining.

Anyway, this was released by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company,  The company was formed in 1875 when Richard D’Oyly Carte brought Gilbert and Sullivan together to write a short piece.  From there, a partnership was born and more works followed. most notably 1878’s HMS Pinafore.  With the success of the work, the Savoy Theater was built and the Opera Company was formed.  Richard’s offspring carried on the tradition until the copyright on Gilbert’s words expired in 1961.  No longer having a monopoly of the duo’s work, the company withered away slowly, closing in 1982.  However, the Company re-established itself in 1988 and has been performing sporadically over the years, struggling with funding as so many fine artists find themselves doing nowadays.

Current Web Page

This album was recorded under the personal supervision of Richard’s grand daughter, Miss Bridget D’Oyly Carte, who served as the company’s head from 1948 to 1982. Released by London Records, it is a pretty good album with some of the more popular songs from the two pieces of works. From 1961, it features the New Promenade Orchestra, conducted by Isidore Godfrey.  I believe a series of G& S records were made from these.

 

From the Mikado, we have such classics as ” A Wandering Minstrel I”, “Three Little Maids”, Here’s a How De Do”, “The Mikado Song” and “Tit Willow” which I first heard here.

I was a bit disappointed with exclusion of the “Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze” although I am not surprised as it is not as popular as some of the other tunes.  The piece was used at the end of Topsy Turvy and really highlighted the struggles of the actress Leonora Braham and her loneliness of  being a single mother (widowed) in Victorian England.

I was less familiar with Patience, but it has some good numbers in it as well.  Seen as a satirical look at the Aesthetic Movement of the 1870’s and 1880’s, the work features some decent songs such as “Twenty Love Sick Maidens” and “Am I Alone”.

For samples, I went with “Who Is This ” from Patience as well as the finale, “So He’s Gone and Married Yum Yum” from the Mikado.

Satisfactory record.

Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte- Porgy and Bess

I think this was $4.  I also think I got this specifically for Black History Month.  Tried getting caught up this weekend but failed miserably and now have to gun thru this post.

Porgy and Bess is a mixed bag of sorts.  George Gershwin’s’ great jazz opera premiered in 1935 but received mixed reviews due to its racial charged theme.  Basically, it appealed to no one.  Several of the songs, however, including ” Summertime” and “I Got Plenty O’ Nothing” became popular standards.  Oddly enough, the musical/opera got a second life when it was done in 1976 at the Houston Grand Opera.  I meant to write more about all these subjects but time has gotten the better of me.  Use Google to answer any questions you may have.

The director for the HGO’s production had trouble finding black actors who wanted to play the roles.  This would be a common theme for stagings of the musical.  In particular, Harry Belafonte refused the screen role of Porgy in the 1950’s film.  Which makes his participation of this record strange on one hand and a testament to the quality of the song writing on the other.   It might also explain his lackluster effort on this album.

This was released in 1959.  Both Lena Horne and Belafonte recorded their solo pieces with their own orchestras.  They came together for a few duo’s.  Horne’s performance, is in stark comparison to Belafonte’s, whereas she hits the songs out of the park.  

Well, for a sample, I went with “There’s  A Boat That’s Leaving Soon For New York”, as it showcases the two together and I really did not have time to write about any of the other songs.

Good Album. Satisfactory. Spelling, grammar, and facts be damned.

 

Oscar Levant- Levant Plays Gershwin/ Rhapsody In Blue

dscn6184This was one dollar.  I got it because of “Rhapsody In Blue”‘s connection with United Airlines.united-airlines

I scheduled this post to correspond with my trip to Amsterdam two weeks ago.  Being from Houston, I tend to fly United quite a bit as IAH is a major hub.  This trip’s flights were ok I guess.  I watched movies pretty much through both flights.  Of the movies I saw, I really liked the Chet Baker story (more on that next month).  The Miles Davis movie was ok.  Did not like the Hank Williams movie at all.  From the non music movies, I really liked The Lobster.  Anyway, the pre flight safety video, a highly produced feature was interesting, taking the “Rhapsody” theme and setting it to different musical styles of the world, including Scottish, Chinese,Peruvian, Hawaiian, and Chicago blues among others. Pretty interesting, musically.

I was wrong about what I thought were the origins of United’s usage of this song.  Based on the CEO message from the front of the In Flight magazines some time ago, I thought the song’s licensing was done by Jeff Smisek in an act of extravagant management spending after the United/Continental merger.  I had this image of him in a hot tub smoking stogies listening to this song for some reason.  Anyway, this is wrong.  The licensing was done back in 1976 for $500K, way before the merger. Never really liked Smisek much.  I did not like Larry either but many ex-Continental employees tell me he was alright.  Hard to say much about Oscar at this time.  It should be noted that I draw my opinion of the CEO’s based on their In Flight blurbs.

Gershwin
Gershwin

But regardless, here is this album, featuring actor/ pianist Oscar Levant, tackling the works of George Gershwin backed by orchestral arrangements.  “Rhapsody In Blue” features Levant backed by Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.  On “Concerto In F For Piano and Orchestra”, Levant is helped by Andre Kostelanetz conducting the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York.  A third track, “An American In Paris” is done by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Artur Rodzinski.dscn6185

For a sample, I am going with “Rhapsody” as this was the dominate theme of the post.quote-roses-are-red-violets-are-blue-i-m-schizophrenic-and-so-am-i-oscar-levant-17-35-68

As far as the album goes, meh.

OST- La Leysenda De La Cuidad Sin Nombre (Paint Your Wagon)

dscn5555Vacation officially started two days ago. As you read this, I am currently abroad.  Where am I?  I am sure that will be the subject of December posts.  For the meantime, here I am today churning out the rest of November’s posts so proper spelling be damned.  This was $2.50. I suppose I can classify this musical as one of my favorites. The album title incidentally, translates to ” The Legend of the City Without Name”.paint-your-wagon

I recall seeing the musical as a kid. Written by Alan Lerner and Frederick Lowe and debuting on Broadway in 1951, the musical tells the story of a miner and his daughter and their lives in a mining town.  The musical as well as the music was well received at the time. I think I enjoyed the musical as well.
dscn5556

The movie version, released in 1969 is radically different from the stage version.  Focusing on the love triangle between Ben Rumson, his wife and his partner, it is a 180 degree turn to be precise.  Most of the original music is used, however.  Andre Previn also composed a few new numbers as well.  The movie did not do well with critics and only modestly well with movie goers, mainly because at that point in time, movie musicals were on their way out.  The movie has also been famously spoofed by the Simpsons.

But in contrast to the movie, the soundtrack was a hit. There are many great musical instances on the record and many choice for a sample. For instance, there is the number “Hand Me Down The Can Of Beans”, a hoe down number performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who were up and coming at the time. The band also made an appearance in the film.

Then there is perhaps the most famous number , “They Call The Wind Maria”, a solemn piece made famous by Vaughn Monroe.  In the movie it is sung by Rotten Luck Willie, who was played by Harve Presnell.  Presnell also played the stingy father in law in the movie Fargo.

“There’s A Coach Comin’ In” is reminicent to The Music Man’s “Wells Fargo Wagon” (which came out later).  However, whereas the people of River City are singing about getting instruments and uniforms for their children, the miners of No Name City are singing about getting whores.  I found that comparison funny.

“The Gospel of No Name City” was one of the tunes written for the movie by Previn.  It is a pretty decent number.

Likewise, “Best Things” is a pretty good number with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood talking about the dirty things in life.

And on that note, one of the best numbers of the movie, is “Wand’rin Star” sung by Marvin.  The ultimate loner song sung by the rugged Marvin, it became a #1 single in the UK.  Oddly enough, it relegated the Beatles’ “Let It Be” to the #2 spot.  Marvin was adamant about singing his own parts.  It was noted some time ago that Marvin turned down the lead in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to do this movie.   I like William Holden in the picture alright but I can’t help thinking how the movie would have turned out, especially the ending, with Marvin.

Anyhoo, with all these choice to pick, I decided to go with the “Finale” which is a collage of many of the movie’s numbers.  Is this a lazy way out? Perhaps.

Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, and Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon, 1969.
Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, and Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon, 1969.

Satisfactory record despite the vocal limitations of the movie’s principals. Whew, that is a lot of video on today’s post.

 

OST- The Music Man

dscn5286-800x773This was $3.00.  It is not a stretch to say that this musical is perhaps the greatest of the last century.  At the very least, it would be in the top five.meredith_willson_1967

Meredith Willson wrote the music, lyrics, and book for this effort, his first musical.  Before this, he had worked in Hollywood, composing scores for movies, radio, and television.  He started adapting a story based on his Iowan boyhood for Broadway after being rejected for television and movies.a33cc024e00c9393de3fabbe4befc3c2

A smashing success in 1957, The Music Man ran for 1,375 performances and won five Tony awards.  This album also was a hit, winning a Grammy while remaining on the album charts for 245 weeks. In 1962, a film adaptation was made.  Numerous revivals and smaller productions have gone on thru the years and continue today. Wilson’s second musicals, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was a modest success.  He made two more musicals with limited success.  Wilson would die in 1984 of heart failure.  He was 82.

Broadway Database info on The Music Man

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One of the things I found amazing about this musical is the background of its star, Robert Preston.  I was a bit shocked to find out that Preston had no background in vaudeville.  He had started acting after high school and to this point, had mainly been in a B-level actor in westerns.  Granted, he is no Gene Kelly, but he does manage to do a good job of both singing and dancing in his role of Harold Hill.  In one such anedote, it was his acting skills that helped him get the job.  Most singers trying out for the role had trouble with “Ya Got Trouble”whereas Preston nailed the song with little difficulty.  1101580721_400

For his efforts, he won a Tony for a role.  Furthermore, Wilson insisted he revisit his role for the movie version as Jack Warner wanted Frank Sinatra. I just can’t see Ol’ Blue Eyes doing the role justice.  Preston would die in 1987 of lung cancer.  He was 68. The clip below is pretty bad quality but I think it is one of the best in the movie version and it also illustrates Preston’s abilities in both song and dance. Granted, you don’t have to be a great dancer to perform the routine but you do need some level of skill.

I also came across this video of a flashmob doing the same act that I thought was ok. I really liked it when I first saw it. Now, a little less so.

As far as the musical goes, it is a lesson in syncopation, juxtaposition, and onomatopoeia. For an example of this, I would look no further than the opening number.

The songs are infectiously catchy and have become classics.  As stated before, the songs have been covered and parodied extensively.  Most notably in The Simpsons and The Family Guy.

For samples, I went with the perhaps one of the more popular numbers, the above mentioned “Ya Got Trouble”.  I also went with “Pick A Little Talk A Little/ Good Night Ladies” because it is a good example of the components I spoke of in the a couple of paragraphs prior.  I originally wanted to use “Piano Lessons” which features a great duet between Barbara Cook, who originated the role of Marion Paroo, and Pert Kelton, who performed the role of Mrs Paroo on both Broadway and on the screen.  Alas, it skipped and I was too lazy to go upstairs to clean it.f1649944a6e3719ae648ad2890c59b49

Top Rated album for sure.