November 8, 2010
Prime Time Musicals
Cabaret pros offer early TV show tunes by Rodgers, Sondheim and others by Jon Burlingame and Marilee Bradford
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—Eighteen great songs – many by some of America's most historically important songwriters – were showcased by a quintet of talented musical theatre pros during Wednesday's "Prime Time Musicals" show at The Gardenia Restaurant & Lounge.
Producer Bruce Kimmel introduced the selections, all of which were written for musicals created specifically for television. Few songs were familiar, but names of their notable songwriters (including Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim) sometimes brought gasps of surprise from the crowd.
As Kimmel noted, most of the musicals were first broadcast during the Golden Age of Television, when it was not unusual — and often fun — to discover that a brand-new musical starring Frank Sinatra or Gene Kelly or Julie Andrews was on the small screen. Most of the programs aired once, got a few reviews and were quickly forgotten. But, as audience members discovered Wednesday night, that doesn't mean the songs weren't great.
Dan Callaway (from the national company of Phantom of the Opera) opened the show with "Come to the Supermarket (in Old Peking)," a witty patter song from Porter's Aladdin (1958) that was originally introduced by Cyril Ritchard in this musicalized tale of the Arabian Nights. Later, Callaway sang the easy-going "One Day at a Time" from Arthur Schwartz and Maxwell Anderson's score for High Tor (1956), a musical fantasy starring Bing Crosby about hauntings on the Hudson River.
Alet Taylor (recently in Cabrillo Music Theatre's Guys and Dolls) came on strong with "One Hand Tied Behind My Back" from the General Electric Theater episode No Man Can Tame Me (1959) about a woman who choses brawn over brains, with a score by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans; and later, "Ride on a Rainbow" penned by Jule Style and Leo Robin, and originally sung by Jane Powell in the 1957 musical Ruggles of Red Gap, based on a turn-of-the-century Saturday Evening Post serial.
Richard Rodgers wrote both music and lyrics for "Strangers," a love song from a tuner based on George Bernard Shaw's version of the fable Androcles and the Lion (1967), and performed by Jane Noseworthy (recently in the Reprise staging of Carousel). Later, Noseworthy sang the sexy "Man Wanted" from Barry Manilow's Copacabana (1985), the only musical in the showcase not from the 1950s or '60s.
Composer Alec Wilder's carefree "I'm Much Too Happy Dancing to Care," first introduced by Barbara Cook and Red Buttons in the 1958 Hansel and Gretel, was sung by Dana Shaw (recently in Cabrillo's Cinderella).
Perhaps the best-known of the TV musicals was Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's Cinderella, which debuted in 1957 with Julie Andrews and re-staged in 1965 starring Lesley Anne Warren. Doug Carpenter (who was in Pasadena's Camelot) sang a medley of "Ten Minutes Ago" and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?," while Taylor and Shaw sang the hilarious "Stepsisters' Lament." Carpenter later returned to sing "Who Needs to Dream" from Manilow's Copacabana.
Taylor and Carpenter dueted on "You're So Right for Me," written by Livingston and Evans for the earliest of all these shows, Satins and Spurs (1954), which starred Betty Hutton.
Dana Shaw was spotlighted with a pair of Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen numbers, the ballad "One Starry Moment" from Jack and the Beanstalk (1967), which starred Gene Kelly and featured Hanna-Barbera animation; and the instant hit standard "Love and Marriage" from Our Town (1955) first tendered by Frank Sinatra (and later the theme for the Fox series Married...With Children). The latter was in a clever medley (pairing Shaw and Carpenter) with "Getting Married" from an ABC Stage 67 musical I'm Getting Married, featuring music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
The finale was a trio of songs from Sondheim's Evening Primrose (1966), another hour-long original musical from the short-lived, risk-taking network series ABC Stage 67. Callaway and Noseworthy sang "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here," "I Remember" and "Take Me to the World." All were a reminder that extraordinary songs were often written for early television by some of our finest songwriting talent.
Accomplished musical director John Boswell was at the piano. "Kritzerland at the Gardenia" is a monthly feature of the famous West Hollywood cabaret nightspot.
©2010 Jon Burlingame and Marilee Bradford