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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Broadway's Lost Treasures


Broadway's Lost Treasures I

"Broadway's Lost Treasures" is a compilation of 17 musical numbers from several annual editions of the Tony Awards, all produced under Alexander Cohen's aegis. A disproportionate percentage of these numbers are from the 1971 Tony Awards ceremony. The 1971 Broadway theatre season was less distinguished than usual, and the American Theatre Wing expected that year's edition of the Tony Awards to be thin pickings. With one of his legendary bursts of inspiration, Alex Cohen realised that this year (1971) was the 25th anniversary of the Tony Awards. He decided to celebrate the occasion by having several of Broadway's most legendary performers reprise their most famous musical numbers. "Broadway's Lost Treasures" contains several of those re-enactments.

Unfortunately, some of the re-enactments in "Broadway's Lost Treasures" are less than first-rate. From the 1971 Tony special, we see Vivian Blaine doing an abbreviated version of "Adelaide's Lament" from 'Guys and Dolls', plus Robert Preston doing 'Trouble' from 'The Music Man', Yul Brynner doing 'Shall We Dance?' from 'The King and I' and John Raitt singing 'Hey There' from 'The Pyjama Game'. But all of these performers did these songs much more brilliantly in the respective film versions of these musicals, which are now (although not in 1971) readily available on video. The John Raitt number is especially disappointing: why didn't he reprise for the Tony Awards his greatest number of all, 'Soliloquy' from 'Carousel'? This is especially regrettable, since -- unlike 'The Pyjama Game' -- Raitt didn't get a chance to repeat his performance in the film version of 'Carousel'. Also on offer here, Zero Mostel repeats his biddy-biddy-boom routine from 'Fiddler'. I've always thought of this grossly overrated and undisciplined performer as Less-than-Zero Mostel, and his performance here does nothing to convince me otherwise.

On the plus side, we get Joel Grey's brilliant performance of 'Wilkommen' from 'Cabaret'. Here too is a number which the Broadway performer has repeated in the movie version ... but Grey's characterisation here, as the German cabaret's compere, is astonishingly different from his Oscar-winning performance of this same role in the film. I was thrilled to see this. (Intriguingly, Joel Grey is backed here by an interracial chorus ... a surprising decision, as this show takes place in 1930s Berlin.) The great Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera are slinky and sexy in their Bob Fosse duet from 'Chicago': it's intriguing to see their different dance styles side by side. (Ms Verdon's legwork had much more amplitude than Ms Rivera's, even before Chita Rivera's taxi accident.)

Also extremely enjoyable here are 'Kickin' the Clouds Away' from 'My One and Only', performed in sprightly fashion by Twiggy, Tommy Tune and some tap-dancing bridesmaids, and 'Hello, Argentina' from 'Evita'. I found the 'Lullaby of Broadway' number from '42nd Street' much too overblown, but some people will like it. Angela Lansbury performs a rapid-fire patter song (with tongue-twisting Sondheim lyrics) from 'Sweeney Todd'. A close-up reveals that she's lip-synching to her own pre-recorded voice. Since the Tony Awards were broadcast live, I can't blame Alexander Cohen's decision to take this precaution.

The most pleasant surprise here is Julie Andrews warbling 'Send in the Clowns' from 'A Little Night Music'. Ms Andrews was one of those rare singers who actually emoted a song rather than merely performing it: her rendition here is warm and enchanting. At one point during this live performance, she glances offstage to check the lyrics on a cue card ... but her performance is so deft that you'll barely notice this.




Broadway's Lost Treasures II

A second collection of great performances from the Tony Awards. Some of the classics of the Broadway stage have been lost to history - except for the archives of the American Theatre Wing and its collection of films of the Tony Awards ceremonies. Performances in the on-air version included "Anything Goes" from the 1987 revival of Anything Goes, "Bosom Buddies" from Mame, "I Believe in You" from the original production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, "La Vie En Rose" from Piaf, "The Impossible Dream" from the original production of Man of La Mancha, "Take A Glass Together" from Grand Hotel, "That's How You Jazz" from Jelly's Last Jam, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, "We Are What We Are/I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles, "Les Miserables Medley", "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the 1994 revival of Carousel and "All I Care About" from the original production of Chicago.



Broadway's Lost Treasures III

A third collection of great performances from the Tony Awards. Some of the classics of the Broadway stage have been lost to history - except for the archives of the American Theatre Wing and its collection of films of the Tony Awards ceremonies. Performances in the on-air version included "Anything Goes" from the 1987 revival of Anything Goes, "Bosom Buddies" from Mame, "I Believe in You" from the original production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, "La Vie En Rose" from Piaf, "The Impossible Dream" from the original production of Man of La Mancha, "Take A Glass Together" from Grand Hotel, "That's How You Jazz" from Jelly's Last Jam, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, "We Are What We Are/I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles, "Les Miserables Medley", "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the 1994 revival of Carousel and "All I Care About" from the original production of Chicago.


Storyboards I, II & III






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