Bravo Pops Symphony Orchestra- Gigi/ My Fair Lady

Only three more posts for this Broadway salute.  This record was only a dollar.  It contains two works of the Broadway team of Lerner and Lowe, the film the dup composed Gigi, and perhaps their most famous work, My Fair Lady.  For the purposes of this post, we are going to pretend the Gigi side does not exist, despite the fact that the duo would covert the movie into a Broadway musical in 1973.

I posted the Original Cast Recording for My Fair Lady a couple months back and had a pretty lengthy write up so I am not going to rehash many of the specifics here other than the fact that it ran for 2,717 shows, which at the time (1956-1962) was the longest Broadway production.

On the last post,  I noted that I am not a huge fan of this piece.  That has not changed.  Still do not find it believable.  I mean Professor Henry Higgins clearly prefers the company of men.  

This album is credited to the Bravo Pops Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Senati.  Senati, the orchestra and Bravo records did a series of musical albums in the late 50’s/ early 60’s.  Broadway musical albums that is.  I get that all music is musical.

But despite my feelings about this work, “The Street Where You Live” is still one of my favorite songs.  Here it is as a sample. 

Meh.  Could have used some vocals. Also, maybe at this point, I am just sick of listening to musicals.

Original Cast Recording- Little Mary Sunshine

All most done this month.  So close.  Keep focused.  Let’s get this done.  This record was $3.20.  Not sure why I bought it other than I wanted to check out a musical I was not familiar with.  Maybe the Mounties in the gatefold influenced me as well.

Little Mary Sunshine, with book, music, and lyrics by Rick Besoyan (1924-1970), was a throw back to the old timey operettas of earlier times.  Besoyan, himself, cut his teeth in performances of Gilbert and Sullivan.  The production itself, which opened in 1959, was an off-Broadway affair and is perhaps among one of the most successful, running for 1,143 shows. A West End production followed in 1962.  Today, this piece remains popular by small time/ amatuer groups.

The original production was directed and choreographed by Ray Harrison.  Eileen Brennan stared in the title role with William Graham as Captain Warington and John McMartin as Corporal Jester.  The stage production consisted of two pianos but an orchestra was added to this cast recording.

Set in the Colorado Rockies, the play involves Native Americans and Little Mary Sunshine in a land dispute with the Gubermint led by the Mounties (the play calls them Forrest Rangers which is more American but come on man, look at them.  they are clearly  Mounties). Trouble, conflict, hilarity, and love then ensue. 

The musical numbers hark back to those earlier romantic operettas and are very tongue in cheek as I am told.  Besoyan was highly influenced by the duets of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald as well as lyrical waltzes, and counterpoint medleys. All of which are here on this album, recorded and released in 1960.

For a sample, I went with what Wikipedia seemed to highlight, “Playing Croquet” which unfortunately has become annoying stuck in my head. So listen at your own risk.  I also like “Mata Hari” as well.

Descent album.  Satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- George M.

At last  My last week of riding this train wreck of a month I devoted to Broadway.  Not a bad idea to start but I am quite sick at this moment of listening to showtunes.  Also, not to bright of me to leave the works I am less familiar with to the end.  Oh well, lets burn thru these.  Here is this that I bought for $4, probably to dedicate some space to the subject matter.

 

And what better way to celebrate a month of Broadway than to pay tribute to its very own bard, George M. Cohan.  An Irish American born to vaudevillian parents in 1878, Cohan went on to write and perform in more than three dozen musicals, beginning with Little Johnny Jones in 1904.  An early pioneer in the book musical which most of these posts have been celebrating this month, Cohan wrote over 300 songs including “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “You’re A Grand Old Flag”, “Over There”, “45 Minutes to Broadway’, and “Mary Is A Grand Old Name”.

Perhaps, Cohan is best known today (or last century) by his portrayal by James Cagney in the bio movie Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Cagney, who was a former vaudevillian and dancer, was a good fit for the role, although Cohan, an advisor to the film, preferred Fred Astaire.  Nevermind that the film was a good old dose of Hollywood bullshit of things that did not happen as true as they are presented.  It remains one of my favorites. Cohan himself, who was in ill health, would pass shortly after its release in 1942.  As tribute, he has a statue in Broadway.

This production, based on Cohan’s life, opened on Broadway in 1968 and ran for 433 performances.  Driven by actor Joel Grey, who was coming off the success of Cabaret, the music, of course was Cohan’s with the book by Michael Stewart, John Pascal, and his wife Francine. The cast also featured Bernadette Peters.

Reviews were mixed.  The book was called a mess but the directing work of Joe Layton as well as the performance of Joel Grey were generally praised.  Layton won a Tony for choregraphy for his efforts with this and a television adaptation was produced in 1970. Grey was nominated for a Tony but alas did not win.  Did you know Joel Grey is the father of Dirty Dancing‘s Jennifer Grey?  This is the fun fact I learned with this post.

Could have gone in many directions with this, but ultimatley decided to go with the Epilogue number, which is a medley of some of Cohan’s songs along with an audio of his famous signoff, “My Father Thanks You, My Mother Thanks You…..Etc”.

Not a bad little album.  Satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- Gypsy

Yay.  It is Saturday and one more week of the Broadway theme I have driven into the ground.  This was $4.  It has been described by critics as the perfect mid 20th century American book musical.  Quite a bold statement.

This production, based on the memoirs of old timey stripper Gypsy Rose Lee was a project of producer David Merrick and actress Ethel Merman.  With direction and choreography from Jerome Robbins, a book by Arthur Larents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show opened in May of 1959 and ran 702 performances.  It also starred Merman, Jack Klugman, and Sandra Church.

Known as musical theater’s King Lear, the production is as much a testament to the lead character, Rose, the demanding stage mother who is either a saint or a monster, depending on what critical analysis you buy into. Regardless, the songs have become popular standards.  Various revivals have gone on over time.  The film version which was posted earlier this month also was released in 1962.

This album itself, won a Grammy. Here from that effort is the catharsis moment for the ultimate stage mother in “Rose’s Turn”.

Satisfactory.

New World Orchestra-WRC Production- The Sound of Music

Broadway month is getting closer to the finish line with this, which I bought for a dollar.  I guess a bought it to write a post on the influential Rodgers and Hammerstein production.

The Sound of Music was the last piece of work for the duo as Hammerstein would die of cancer nine months after its premier on Broadway (which was 1959).  Featuring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel in the leading roles, the story of the Austrian Von Trapp Family, the original production ran 1,443 performances and won five Tony’s including Best Musical.  A film version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer followed in 1965 which itself won five Oscars.  Numerous revivals and production followed and most every song on this has become a standard over time.

I am not sure where this came from other than a reference to the WRC (World Record Club, a UK mail subscription record club) and some information on London productions.  I believe this came out in 1961.  The credits include music by   The New World Orchestra led by Jan Cervenka, with arrangements Bobby Richards and production by Cyril Ornadel.  As far as the principal actress/actors go, that would be two London performers, Adele Leigh and Ian Wallace, both currently deceased.  I am sure I could find something more out on this if I were so inclined, which today I am not.

For some reason, Sound of Music never really took off with me. I know, even with Julie Andrews in the movie version.  I think something about seeing her as a nun probably does not do it for me.  Well, however, I feel, this was a hughly popular musical and score and as a sample I went with ” My Favorite Things”  which served as a basis for his oft-cited jazz cover which served as the basis for the Door’s Robbie Kreiger’s “Light My Fire”.

As far as this album goes though, meh.  Nothing really radical or new on this.  Have not meh’d an album all month.  Feels kind of good.

Original Cast Recording- Fiddler On The Roof

This Broadway gem was $4. This is the second appearance of this production this month.  If you want to learn more about its legacy, I would suggest doubling back to that post, watching the video below, or just going straight to Google for your queries.

 

As the video so neatly states, Fiddler came out at a precarious time for musicals (1964).  With the arrival of the Beatles, rock and roll became the dominate force in popular American music.  Before this, pop music was musical theater.  It was a tectonic shift of sorts but as a result, musical theater would re-invent itself in the second half of the sixties as well as later decades. Anyway, despite this trend, the songs from Fiddler were a smash hit (along with the musical itself) and remain so to this day, a testament to their place in Broadway history.

Zero Mostel originated the role of Tevye on the stage.  However, during rehearsals, Mostel feuded with director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, due to Robbins testimony in front of the House on Un-American Activities Committee.  The original production also featured Maria Kanilova as Tevye’s wife Goldie as well as Bea Arthur as the matchmaker.

The show, which opened Sept of 1964,  was a massive success with a run of 3,242 shows, the first Broadway production to run over 3,000.  For awhile, it became the longest running show on Broadway. Today it ranks #16 of all time.  The production also won 9 Tony’s including Best Musical.  Numerous revivals and productions have been staged around the world as well.

For a sample, I went with what is probably my favorite song from the production and one that due to being an ensemble piece, does not make it on many of the Fiddler records I find.  That would be “Tevye’s Dream” whereas to convince his wife let their daughter marry the tailor, Tevye concocts a dream whereas their dead relatives come back from the dead to warn of ill consequences should their daughter marry the butcher.  Pretty macabre stuff.  Again,  there were a lot of great moments on this record but I fear a may not get another chance to post this song again.

Satisfactory record.

Orginal Cast Recording- Man of LaMancha

This little gem from the Great White Way was only $1.  It contains one of my favorite songs ( and perhaps one of Broadway’s greatest),which I post quite frequently on this blog, “The Impossible Dream”.  As a side note, despite many attempts, I have yet to finish reading the source material, Don Quixote.  I get hung up on Cardenio’s story.  It seems to bring the novel to a screeching halt to me.

Man of La Mancha, with book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, and music by Mitch Leigh, was based on an earlier tele-play by Wasserman, titled I, Don Quixote, with no music.  The musical, set in a dungeon, tells the story of the author, Miquel de Cervantes telling the story of Quixote while awaiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition.  You know, a kind of play within a play thing. Apart from a double bass and flamenco guitars, no stringed instruments were used in the score.

Man of La Mancha opened after 21 previews in November of 1965.  With a run of 2,328 shows, and five Tony’s including Best Musical, it was pretty successful. The original production started Richard Kiley, Irving Jacobson, Ray Middleton, Robert Rounseville, and Joan Diener A touring production as well as numerous revivals followed (including one by Dr Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap).  A film version with Peter O’Toole was released in 1969.

Finally, the song “Impossible Dream” has become an enduring standard with many, many cover versions.

For a sample, I went with the Finale as I felt it tied up all the great musical numbers together.

Great little album.  Satisfactory.

Original Cast Recording- Jennie

 Broadway month just keeps rolling on with this that I bought for $2, although I can not remember why.  Perhaps it was because it was a little known piece from a stage legend.  Maybe I was hoping for a piece of gold to come out of this. Also try not reading this post in a Forrest Gump voice.

Jennie was the last major work from the team of Howard Dietz (lyrics) and Arthur Schwartz (music).  The two had paired to write songs for over a dozen or so musicals mostly in the 1920’s and 1930’s (pre-Oklahoma days).  Among their most famous songs perhaps are “Alone Together” and “That’s Entertainment”.

With a book by Arnold Schulman, the original intent was to base the story around the life of silent film star, Laurette Taylor. But as with many biographic productions of the 20th century, it strayed pretty far off from the source material and in the end, bore little resemblance to Taylor’s story.  Also, the production was produced by Mary Martin’s husband, and financed by the both of them.

Jennie opened in October of 1963 and closed after 82 performances in December of the same year.  Pre-Broadway tryouts were plagued with problems and although audiences and critics enjoyed the songs as well as Martin’s performances, they liked little else.

For a sample, I was pulled in a few directions.  I liked the dancing instrumental “Sauce Diablo”.  I also really liked “High is Better Than Low”.  Finally, here is the only song I know of about Seattle, “See Seattle” sung by Commando Cody, himself, George D Wallace.

Eh.  I could go both ways on this.  There was nothing that really jumped out as great but I did like several numbers and I posted three samples.  Satisfactory.

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.

Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli- Live at the London Palladium

Not exactly Broadway but very Broadway theme, we have this little gem I have been kicking around for some time. For a double record set, it only cost me a dollar.  I bought it because I thought I could get a good story out of it and it was only a buck.  However, soon after purchase, I kind of dreaded listening to it, seeing it was a double album.  In the words of my friend Sam, it seemed a bit much for one listening, at least for a straight man who likes old school country music.

However, I will say, for a double album, it went quick and relatively painless.  I mean two records of two women singing showtunes, it could of been a lot worse. It could have easily spun into a Sweeny Sister’s type affair (even though that would not be bad either).

So there was this, recorded at London’s Palladium during a series of concerts Judy Garland put on in 1964.  The first show sold out quick, prompting a second performance, which did the same, at which point the duo performed an hour long set for the BBC.  This was Judy’s first performance from her daughter, Liza Minnelli, who I believe was still in High School at the time and was really not too famous at the time, other than for being Garland’s daughter.  Garland would pass five years later in 1969. This album, incidentally, came out in 1965 and peaked at #41 on the Billboard charts.

This show is from the first performance, although I am not 100% sure “live” is in quotes.  For a rising up and comer, Liza has a good chunk of songs on her own, along with duets with her mother.  The album does a really good job of showcasing Liza’s then emerging talent  at times, kind of serves as a debutante’s coming out party of sorts.  Of course there are solo efforts by Judy as well.  Mostly all stage and movie standards on this. Medley count is a bit high with four (so it is slightly Sweeny-ish in that regards).  Did I mention I dreaded listening to this?  In actuality, it was not a bad album but I would not listen to it again any time soon.

 

For a sample, I went with Liza’s Medley on side 3, as I was really impressed with her work on this record.  Consisting of songs in tribute to her famous mother, here is “Take Me Along”, “If I Could Be With You”, “Tea For Two”, “Who”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, By Myself”, ‘Take Me Along”, and “Mammy”.  Also for good measure, here is one of the encores which is mentioned at the start of the album, “Chicago”, featuring the duo.

OK.  I was pleasantly surprised by this album.  Not nearly as painful to listen.  Satisfactory.