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BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL - new series on PBS

 
 
bree
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Oct, 2004 09:14 pm
I've been watching this program out of order, having started with the fifth hour on Thursday night and then watched the first hour this afternoon. (I plan to tape the other segments from the overnight reruns tonight.) Starting with the fifth hour actually worked well for me, because that hour covered the period when I began going to the theater regularly. Some of the first Broadway musicals I ever saw were covered in that hour, including Hair, Company, A Chorus Line, and Sweeney Todd. I saw the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd twice -- once with Len Cariou and once with George Hearn. I think Angela Lansbury was the Mrs. Lovett in both performances, but I wouldn't swear to it. (By the way, do you guys know about ibdb.com? It's the Internet Broadway Database, and it kind of does for Broadway what imdb does for movies. It doesn't have anything like as complete data as imdb has, but it does have complete opening-night cast lists for most Broadway productions, and, if you click on the words "Replacement cast information" (or something like that) at the bottom of the cast list, it'll bring up a window with information about replacements and when they went into the show.)

I was in college (just the right age for it) when I saw Hair for the first time, so imagine how old I felt when Encores (the great musicals-in-concert series at City Center, which started out as a way of giving people a chance to hear old, forgotten musicals like Sweet Adeline or DuBarry Was A Lady) revived Hair in 2001! An interesting (to me, anyway) side note about Hair: it played at the Biltmore Theater, which sat empty and derelict for many years. By some Manhattan real estate miracle, the theater wasn't razed and replaced with an office building. Instead, it was bought by the Manhattan Theater Club (a not-for-profit, subscription-based theater company), which renovated the theater and re-opened it last year. So far, the renovated Biltmore hasn't housed any musicals: its current tenant is a revival of Craig Lucas's play, Reckless, starring Mary-Louise Parker, which I'll be seeing next Friday.

In the first hour, I loved the snippets of interviews with the former Ziegfeld girls, especially the one who did a few dance steps on the stage of the New Amsterdam Theater. I assume those interviews must have been done some time ago, because one of them had been a Ziegfeld girl from 1918 to 1920, and -- even if she was only 16 years old when she started -- she'd be over 100 now, and she appeared to be a mere 90 or so in the interview!
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Lightwizard
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 09:06 am
I'm putting Episode 1 & 2 now. I haven't done a search for the five disk Broadway song set -- I wonder if Deep Discount isn't carrying it under another title. I guess I knew mac was a she instead of a he.
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Lightwizard
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 09:20 am
That's www.ibdb.com

Internet Broadway Data Base

That's where I corrected myself about George Hearn but haven't found the info on his starring in the London Production although he did take over for Len Cariou on Broadway about half way through its run.

Episode 1 and 2 were the most informative and I agree with bree that many of the interviews were from footage from the past. It's the painstaking compilation of all the old footage, albeit they did rely on the movie versions from time to time. The Ed Sullivan show always had the stars of the current Broadway hits on his show which provided a lot of the archival stuff.
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Lightwizard
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 09:30 am
Here's a more complete history of "Sweeney Todd" which reveals that George Hearn took over the part in 1979 (must have been late '79 as Cariou opened the show in February). Angela Landsbury also left the show. The PBS TV taping was at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in LA during its road performances with Hearn and Landsbury. I was incorrect about Hearn being in the London production (over 30 years and my memory isn't exactly reliable). Link:

http://www.geocities.com/sondheimguide/sweeney.html#BWP
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Raggedyaggie
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 07:00 pm
I don't remember seeing Showboat. Was it in the first segment? (Maybe I didn't catch it in the later segments) I'm going to watch the last two segments again. There were so many shows I was anticipating, like Milk and Honey, Fanny w. Ezio Pinza, Walter Slezak, Florence Henderson; I Do, I Do (The Four Poster) with Mary Martin and Robert Preston; The Most Happy Fella with Robert Weede to name a few.
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bree
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 07:18 pm
Yes, Showboat was in the first segment. Much was made of Ziegfeld's daring in putting on a show that was so different from the plotless revues that people were used to at that time.

In the fifth segment, I was anticipating Oliver!, which was the very first musical I ever saw, and finally realized it wasn't going to turn up because the program was devoted to American musicals on Broadway!
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Raggedyaggie
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 07:34 pm
Oh, that's why Oliver wasn't shown. I had forgotten that they were all American shows.

Today, I copied a Richard Rodgers PBS 2 hour special onto DVD. It was superb. Would you believe he left a legacy of 900 songs and 70 productions. And, that Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics before Rodgers wrote the music. But, I'm digressing again. Mac still has to post her comments. (I don't remember seeing Tammy Grimes in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, either.)
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mac11
 
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Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 08:26 pm
I watched that Richard Rogers program last night! It was an American Masters episode, and I think there was some shared footage with the Broadway series? Or at least some of the stories got told again! The story I'm sure of is Julie Andrews telling about her first audition for Rogers and him telling her it was "Absolutely...adequate."

I haven't had time to watch any of the B'way program! Life had been amazingly busy, keeping me away from the TV and the computer too.

And I think I didn't get all of the series either. The published schedule wasn't correct. I'll be buying the DVDs too I guess.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 24 Oct, 2004 10:02 pm
I did get all three burned onto DVD but I'm looking for the five disk set of full song performances.
"Showboat" is considered the landmark for the modern American musical theater. There's a great performance of "Ol' Man River" sung by Frank Sinatra (in a snazzy white suite yet!) with a full symphony orchestra at the end of the musical film "'Til the Clouds Roll By."
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mac11
 
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Reply Mon 25 Oct, 2004 06:43 am
That sounds great, LW.

So I figured out the deal with the local PBS schedule. Apparently if you pay the $$ for digital cable, there's a digital PBS channel. They're running Broadway on that channel over and over again all week... Sad

I'm off to order the DVDs now!
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Raggedyaggie
 
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Reply Mon 25 Oct, 2004 07:02 am
But Mac, I have digital cable and I can't find the PBS channel on it. I think I'll call PBS today to get the scoop. They weren't open over the weekend. I, too, will order the DVDs of the special. Did you catch the Rodgers special on TV recently or watch it on tape?

LW. I remember Sinatra's Ole Man River in Till the Clouds Roll By, but I was most impressed by Caleb Peterson's rendition in that movie. The other "girls" I was with all went "ga ga" over Frankie.
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mac11
 
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Reply Mon 25 Oct, 2004 07:33 am
Yes, I did see the Rogers special the other night. (I was looking for the B'way series.) It was great!
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Raggedyaggie
 
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Reply Mon 25 Oct, 2004 08:09 am
I got a kick out of Julie Andrews quoting Rodgers as saying her performance was "adequate" and Shirley Jones saying he reminded her of her father to avoid a "come on" and seeing Barbara Cook and Diahann Carroll. I have the CD of "No Strings". The only performers are Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley and there are NO strings in the orchestra. That was the first, I believe, musical for which Rodgers wrote both music and lyrics and, of course, it was very controversial for the time. I was watching an old tape of it. Maybe, we saw it together. Very Happy
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mac11
 
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Reply Mon 25 Oct, 2004 08:18 am
Sounds like we did! Very Happy
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Lightwizard
 
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Reply Mon 25 Oct, 2004 09:49 am
It is being rerun on KCET HD over and over. The picture and sound are terrific but as I've said before, when I record it onto DVD I get DVD quality. Most of the material, however, is not really great resolution and sound so it doesn't matter much. It will be as good as the DVD's. The site's price is about ten bucks more than Deep Discount if you also figure in the shipping but use your own judgement. I'm not sure what the site's percentage is for DVD sales.

BTW, that's a misconception about hi def -- it will only reproduce the quality of the source material. If it's TV film, one doesn't see a great deal of difference. If it's newer motion picture film, it's a noticable difference. Of course, if the source material is hi def film or digital tape, it's superb. I couldn't see much difference between the original broadcast and my recordings of this series.
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Raggedyaggie
 
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Reply Wed 27 Oct, 2004 09:18 am
Thanks, LW. I've decided to wait for the first segment to show up on PBS before I buy the DVDs. For the simple reason, that now my DVDs are beginning to pile up. (lol) I've just recorded 8 movie musicals onto DVD and have at least 4 more to go from TCM this month, and since the DVD will only take four hours and the movies are over 2 hours each, it's getting a bit out of hand. I fear I may not last long enough to watch them all again. (lol)

I found a great PBS show on one of my tapes that I transferred to DVD. It's called My Favorite Broadway Love songs and aired in 2001. Julie Andrews was a hostess and sang a few lines of I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face and waltzed with Michael Crawford and the audience went wild.

Chita Rivera and Brent Spiner sang Rosie; Linda Eder sang What Kind of Fool Am I, Michael McCormack and Michael Mulheren sang Brush Up Your Shakespeare, Bebe Newirth performed I'm A Brass Band; Ron Raines sang Gigi; Rebecca Luker sang Too Late Now (a favorite of mine);Marin Mazzie did Not A Day Goes By and many more. It was a great show.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Oct, 2004 09:59 am
I've waited for VOOM to show musicals in hi def and have burned DVD's of a gorgeous print of "The Music Man" and "Silk Stockings." There was also a reshowing of a 50's muscial Bing Crosby and Donald O'Conner (okay, here I go, he was our neighbor on the corner house in Glendale when I was in grade school!). I'm working on my first cup of coffee and haven't popped my Gingko Biloba this morning so the name escapes me at the moment and I'm too lazy to go searching through my DVD's yet. I'm hoping the soon show "My Fair Lady," "Gigi" and "Oliver!" soon. The VOOM hi def movie channels show new 35MM prints and the sound has been digitally restored.
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Lightwizard
 
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Reply Wed 27 Oct, 2004 10:02 am
OH, and they are wide screen, albeit processed to fit a 16 to 9 ratio screen from the nearly 3 times as wide Cinemascope or Panavision. It does leave some of the image cropped off but the only time it's noticable is when two characters appear left and right in a conversation. I would rather have "The Music Man" in the original ratio for that finale!
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Raggedyaggie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Oct, 2004 10:16 am
Oh, it might have been Anything Goes.

No HiDef here, and I'm quite satisfied with my DVD copies, but I can understand your passion for picture quality. I used to be that way about sound quality. Oliver and Fiddler on the Roof are being aired on TCM tonight.
O'Connor was so talented. Did you know him personally?
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Oct, 2004 10:33 am
'Twas "Anything Goes," (how could I forget?) a remake of the 1936 filming of the musical based on the Broadway show and also with the Bingo. Rather a lukewarm Cinemascope offering and the musical needed a Broadway revival to spruce it back up. There was also a TV version.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027302/
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