Archive for Featuring the Archive – Page 2

Musical Theatre Melodies features Henry, Sweet Henry

The next ‘Musical Theatre Melodies’ to be broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 24th October will feature a 50th Anniversary tribute to Bob Merrill’s “Henry, Sweet Henry”  from the original 1967 Broadway cast recording starring Don Ameche, Neva Small, Robin Wilson, Carol Bruce, Louise Lasser, Baayork Lee, Priscilla Lopez, Alice Playten, and Pia Zadora  . This will be preceded by an introduction from New York-based theatre critic and Internet columnist, Peter Filichia. 

The remainder of the programme will feature song highlights from the 1972 original Broadway cast recording of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s Sugar, (based on the film “Some Like it Hot”), starring Robert Morse, Tony Roberts, Elaine Joyce, Cyril Ritchard and Sheila Smith.


The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EDT local Melbourne time; (= 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. BST in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZDT; = 6 – 8 a.m. EDT New York time; = 3 – 5 a.m. PDT Los Angeles time.)

N.B.  Melbourne is now on Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, hence the earlier starting times elsewhere. 

For those listening in via the Internet on 96.5 Inner FM’s website the webpage link for the Inner FM Web Radio player is  http://right-click.com.au/rcPlayer2/index.php?c=innerfm or go to the Inner FM homepage at www.innerfm.org.au and follow the links.

Musical Theatre Melodies presents Kander & Ebb’s THE ACT

The next “Musical Theatre Melodies” to be broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 17th October will feature a 40th Anniversary tribute to John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “The Act”, from the original 1977 Broadway cast recording starring Liza Minelli in her second Tony Award winning role, with Wayne Cilento, Michael Leeds, Roger Minami, Albert Stephenson, Carol Estey and Laurie Dawn Skinner. This will be preceded by an introduction (via Skype) from New York-based theatre critic and Internet columnist, Peter Filichia. 

The remainder of the programme will feature Act 2 of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Allegro”, from the 2008 New York studio cast recording with Laura Benanti, Norbert Leo Butz, Liz Callaway, Nathan Gunn, Judy Kuhn, Audra McDonald, Marni Nixon and Patrick Wilson.


The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EDT local Melbourne time; (= 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. BST in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZDT; = 6 – 8 a.m. EDT New York time; = 3 – 5 a.m. PDT Los Angeles time.)


N.B.  Melbourne is now on Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, hence the earlier starting times elsewhere.


The on-line “address” of the 96.5 FM web-player has changed:

For those listening in via the Internet on 96.5 Inner FM’s website the webpage link for the Inner FM Web Radio – go to the Inner FM homepage at www.innerfm.org.au, simply click on the menu item “LISTEN LIVE” at the top of this page or click on the following link – https://right-click.com.au/rcPlayer2/index.php?c=innerfm
ILLUSTRATIONS  FROM THE OVERTURES ARCHIVES

Musical Theatre Melodies features the complete recording of Allegro

The next “Musical Theatre Melodies” to be broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 10th October will feature a 70th Anniversary tribute to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Allegro”, from the 2008 New York studio cast recording with Laura Benanti, Norbert Leo Butz, Liz Callaway, Nathan Gunn, Judy Kuhn, Audra McDonald, Marni Nixon and Patrick Wilson.

This will be introduced by New York-based theatre critic and Internet columnist, Peter Filichia.


The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EDT local Melbourne time; (= 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. BST in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZDT; = 6 – 8 a.m. EDT New York time; = 3 – 5 a.m. PDT Los Angeles time.)


N.B.  Melbourne is now on Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, hence the earlier starting times elsewhere.


The on-line “address” of the 96.5 FM web-player has changed:

For those listening in via the Internet on 96.5 Inner FM’s website the webpage link for the Inner FM Web Radio – go to the Inner FM homepage at www.innerfm.org.au, simply click on the menu item “LISTEN LIVE” at the top of this page or click on the following link – https://right-click.com.au/rcPlayer2/index.php?c=innerfm
ILLUSTRATIONS  FROM THE OVERTURES ARCHIVES

The Night ‘West Side Story’ Opened in Washington

When West Side Story premiered in the summer of 1957, Felicia Montealegre wanted to be in Washington.

Felicia, wife of composer Leonard Bernstein, had come down with the flu while on a trip to Chile and was missing the August 19 premiere of Bernstein’s show at The National Theatre. A contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that takes place in New York’s Upper West Side, the show was scheduled to open in Washington for a three-week pre-Broadway tryout.

“Well, look-a me. Back to the nation’s capitol, & right on the verge,” Bernstein wrote to Felicia days before the premiere. “This is Thurs. We open Mon. Everyone’s coming, my dear, even Nixon and 35 admirals. Senators abounding, & big Washington-hostessy type party afterwards.”

After hearing news of the premiere’s success, Felicia sent her husband a letter from Chile.

“I’m bursting with pride and frustration — of all the moments to miss sharing!” she wrote. “Oh God how exciting it must have been! Were you very nervous — did you sit through it or pace?”

Bernstein wasn’t nervous, and he didn’t pace. It was opening night, and Bernstein stood in the theater among senators, ambassadors, Mrs. Robert Kennedy, and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter when an acquaintance grabbed his arm and felt his pulse. It felt normal. Bernstein was calmer than she was, the woman announced.

According to National Theatre staffers, the audience was the dressiest they had seen in a long time. But perhaps less renowned than the prominent political leaders in the theater that night was a woman named Helen Coates, whom Bernstein described as “someone I couldn’t live without.” Coates had been Bernstein’s music teacher when he was 14, and had worked as his secretary since. Also in attendance was associate producer Roger L. Stevens, who had decided to buy his own ticket. He sat in the last row, in the center aisle. A superstitious man, he refused to sit anywhere else.

Throughout the evening, Bernstein remained a dynamic presence in the theater — he joked with friends, hugged and kissed audience members, and spoke to reporters and admirers. At one point, a woman approached Bernstein and said that she used to be a social worker in a rough neighborhood with a lot of gang activity, just like the setting of West Side Story.

“It’s all so real, so true,” she told him. “It chills my blood to remember.”

“It isn’t meant to be realistic,” Bernstein said. “Poetry — poetry set to music — that’s what we were trying to do.”

In the weeks leading up to the premiere, Bernstein had talked a lot about poetry. He wrote to Felicia near the end of July complaining that the “‘big,’ poetic parts” of his score — which were also the parts that he liked the most — were being criticized for being too operatic, and a show that was too operatic wouldn’t be as profitable. “Commercial success means so much to them,” he wrote. “To me too, I suppose — but I still insist it can be achieved with pride. I shall keep fighting.”

“You are so far ahead of all that mediocrity,” Felicia wrote back, “and in the long run they’re only interested in the ‘hit’ aspect of the theatre. What you wrote was important and beautiful. I can’t bear it if they chuck it out — that is what gave the show its stature, its personality, its poetry for heaven’s sake!”

One of the critics of Bernstein’s big, poetic score was Stephen Sondheim, the show’s 27-year-old lyricist. Sondheim also talked a lot about poetry. But for him, poetry meant simplicity.

“My idea of poetic lyrics is, because music is so rich, I think you have to underwrite them, not overwrite them,” he told NPR in 2007. “And that accounts for lines like, ‘Maria / I just met a girl named Maria,’ because with music that soars that way, if you start trying to put ‘poetry’ — or purple prose — into it, it just becomes like an overly rich fruitcake.”

Sondheim was a late addition to the show’s creative team. Before Sondheim — and even before Bernstein — it was Jerome Robbins who originally thought to turn Romeo and Juliet into a modern love story.

 “I remember all my collaborations with Jerry in terms of one tactile bodily feeling: composing with his hands on my shoulders,” Bernstein said. “I can feel him standing behind me saying, ‘Four more beats there,’ or ‘No, that’s too many,’ or ‘Yeah — that’s it!’”

Robbins, who was also the show’s director and choreographer, came to Bernstein in 1949 with the idea to create a show about the Jews and the Catholics at the overlap of Easter and Passover. The collaborators eventually abandoned the religious conflict (the Jews and Catholics became Sharks and Jets, rival gangs on the West Side). Later that year, Bernstein and Robbins asked Arthur Laurents to write the book, and Laurents asked Sondheim to write the lyrics.   

The collaborators revised and rewrote through the summer up until the premiere, and Bernstein was getting frustrated (“I never sleep: everything gets rewritten every day,” Bernstein complained to Felicia). Scenes were switched around, the opening number was changed, and entirely new songs were added.

But when the surprisingly calm composer of big, poetic scores attended the premiere and saw the first performance of the finished show, he was satisfied.

“All the peering and agony and postponements and re-re-re-writing turn out to have been worth it,” he wrote in his log on August 20. “There’s a work there; and whether it finally succeeds or not in Broadway terms, I am now convinced that what we dreamed all these years is possible; because there stands that tragic story, with a theme as profound as love versus hate, with all the theatrical risks of death and racial issues and young performers and ‘serious’ music and complicated balletics.”

Reviews of the show were largely positive. And soon, it had sold out for the entire five-week run. Bernstein had lunch at the White House, and he said everyone there was talking about West Side Story.

“It’s only Washington, not New York; don’t count chickens,” Bernstein wrote to Felicia. “But it sure looks like a smash.”

Musical Theatre Melodies celebrates the 10th Birthday & opening of Young Frankenstein

Coinciding with the London premiere of Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein“, the next “Musical Theatre Melodies” broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 3rd October will feature a 10th Anniversary tribute to the Broadway opening of “Young Frankenstein”, (based on the original film story and screenplay by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks), from the 2007 original Broadway cast recording starring Roger Bart, Megan Mullally, Sutton Foster, Shuler Hensley, Andrea Martin, Fred Applegate and Christopher Fitzgerald.

Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman’s London production have significant differences from the Broadway original with the London show having fewer numbers and some new ones and an all together more intimate feel.


The remainder of the programme will feature song highlights from the 2001 original Broadway cast recording of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, (based on the original film by Mel Brooks), starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick with Roger Bart, Gary Beach, Cady Huffman and Brad Oscar. 


The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EDT local Melbourne time; (= 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. BST in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZDT; = 6 – 8 a.m. EDT New York time; = 3 – 5 a.m. PDT Los Angeles time.)
 


N.B.  Melbourne is now on Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, hence the earlier starting times elsewhere.


The on-line “address” of the 96.5 FM web-player has changed:

For those listening in via the Internet on 96.5 Inner FM’s website the webpage link for the Inner FM Web Radio – go to the Inner FM homepage at www.innerfm.org.au, simply click on the menu item “LISTEN LIVE” at the top of this page or click on the following link – https://right-click.com.au/rcPlayer2/index.php?c=innerfm
ILLUSTRATIONS  FROM THE OVERTURES ARCHIVES

WEST SIDE STORY – ITS BEGINNINGS – STEPHEN SONDHEIM & CHITA RIVERA

Stephen Sondheim, lyricist, tells us that:

‘I was at a party with Arthur Laurents who was about to write a musical with Leonard Bernstein based on Romeo and Juliet. I asked who was doing the lyrics and he said: “Gosh, we’ve been thinking about that. We don’t have anybody.” Lenny wanted Comden and Green (Singin’ in the Rain) but they were in Hollywood under a contract. Arthur asked if I’d play for Lenny.

I really wanted to be writing my own music as well, not just lyrics, but thought it would be nice to meet Bernstein. So I played him some of Saturday Night, about a group of kids at the time of the stock market crash. It was a very New York show, all colloquial. Lenny liked to intimidate people. He asked: “Haven’t you got anything poetic?” I said, well, they’re kids in Brooklyn in 1929. It wouldn’t be terribly appropriate. But he liked what he heard.

December 1956: Conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein (C) with choreographer Jerome Robbins (R) and lyricist Stephen Sondheim discussing rehearsal schedule for the upcoming Broadway opening of West Side Story. (Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

When we worked together, Lenny would sketch out something that was purple prose not poetry. It screamed: “Look at me! I’m being poetic!” I’d learned from Oscar Hammerstein, my mentor, that the whole point is to underwrite not overwrite because music is so rich an art itself. Poetry makes, generally, very poor lyrics unless you’re dealing with a certain kind of show. It’s too allusive, that’s not what you want. When Lenny failed, he failed big. He was always jumping off the top of the ladder. When you’re young, you want to take chances but you get discouraged by failure. I learned, as a composer, to be less square – that you don’t always have to write in four-bar phrases.

Jerome Robbins was a taskmaster, as choreographers are. He’s the only genius I’ve ever met but he was demanding and easily offended. You came out scarred, but you came out with good work.

There’s a lot of plot in West Side Story but its scenes are probably the shortest of any book musical that’s ever existed. Arthur packed so much into it. He also did something very smart. He said the trouble with street slang is that it dates. So he made up a lot of language and has the guys say things like “riga tiga tum tum”. It’s a sort of Alice in Wonderland language that doesn’t date. There is almost no real slang. The simplest songs, like Maria, were the hardest to write. Gee, Officer Krupke was easier. I wanted to be the first guy to use a four-letter word in a musical. I did but the line became “krup you” instead. The record couldn’t have been shipped over the state line if I’d used an obscenity. I Feel Pretty still bothers me. It’s just too elegant for a girl like Maria to sing.

We knew we were going to write a number about America for the Sharks and their girls. Lenny went on vacation to Puerto Rico and said: “I’ve been listening to this wonderful musical form called huapango.” He played this very fast tune and I said, boy it’s going to be hard to shoehorn lyrics into that but I’ll try. It’s a very crowded lyric: some of it works and some of it doesn’t. I found out, years later, that he’d written the tune in his teens for an unproduced ballet called Conch Town. Someone at the Library of Congress sent it to me and said turn to page 17. I looked and found: “yuh-duh-duh yuh-duh-duh durr-durr-durr.” Lenny had made up this entire story to make it seem more spontaneous, then just pulled out an old tune that he liked.

We opened out of town. By the time we got to New York the audience had heard the show was a “work of art” and sat as if at church. The first half hour was just deadly. They forgot they were at a musical until the girls came on and did some fancy dancing and shook their skirts for America. The reviews were great but the danger is always: don’t get complacent.

You know something? There aren’t any fantastic rhymes in West Side Story. They’re almost all day and may, go and show. It would have been betraying the characters if they’d rhymed too well. I Feel Pretty still bothers me. It’s just too elegant for a girl like Maria to sing. I mean, “It’s alarming how charming I feel”? That wouldn’t be unwelcome in Noël Coward’s living room. I don’t know what a Puerto Rican street girl is doing singing a line like that.’

In a separate meeting with Chita Rivera she reflected on her involvement with West Side Story in its early days:

‘I must have had about five auditions. I decided to perform My Man’s Gone Now from Porgy and Bess, which is usually sung soprano but I’m sort of bass baritone. Lenny chuckled when he asked me to do it again. He was either thinking, she has a lot of guts or she’s pretty stupid.

I loved playing Anita: she’s a mother image to Maria, protective of her, but also saucy and passionate, very much in love with Bernardo. We had a whole cast of young, excited dancers and all that energy in a room feeds off itself. America was tremendous fun to perform because of the tempo, the Latin rhythm. Stephen’s lyrics for that song are so biting and comical. I got letters from Puerto Rican people who had totally misunderstood it – they thought that I really meant it was an “ugly island” and didn’t realise that Anita was joking to make a point. They were highly emotional about it. The Sharks and the Jets weren’t allowed to socialise in order to make things much more tense when they meet on stage.

We were taught how to sing America so every word could be heard clearly. You had to put air through certain consonants and hit the “k” in “like” very hard. You’re dancing at the same time so it’s hard, but it’s your job to make it seem easy. We desperately wanted to please our choreographer – that’s how dancers should think. We expected things to be hard and we liked it that way. But Jerry Robbins only allowed me to do the taunting scene – in which Anita is tormented by the Jets – once a day because he wanted to keep it as fresh as possible. I wouldn’t have wanted to be Mickey Calin, who played Riff. He had to be pushed a little harder. He was perfect for the role – smooth, handsome, and the girls loved him. During rehearsals he’d take breaks upstage and the girls would be all around him. One time I walked past Jerry and he was about to let Mickey have it. I said: “Please, don’t do it!”

We came out of the stage door one night and there were six or so gang members who’d come to take a look at the guys portraying their lives on stage. After the Broadway run, we went to Manchester – I’d never seen so much fog – where we opened at the Opera House and then to Her Majesty’s in London, where Terence Stamp was a stagehand at our theatre. One day Judi Dench took class with us.

I was offered the part of Anita in the movie version but had agreed to be in Bye Bye Birdie in Philadelphia with the delicious Dick van Dyke. My agency asked if they’d hold the film until I’d finished the show. I’m a little embarrassed to remember that. I’d signed up to do Birdie and just thought it was wrong to leave.’

 

WEST SIDE STORY – MUSICAL THEATRE MELODIES MARK THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY

The next “Musical Theatre Melodies” broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 26th September will feature a 60th Anniversary tribute to Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “West Side Story“, from the 1957 original Broadway cast recording starring Carol Lawrence, Larry Kert and Chita Rivera, with Mickey Calin, Marilyn Cooper, Reri Grist, Eddie Roll, Grover Dale, Hank Brunjes, Tony Mordente and David Winters. This will be introduced by New York-based theatre critic and Internet columnist Peter Filichia. 

The remainder of the programme will feature an archival interview with leading-lady, Carol Lawrence talking about her career to Kevin Trask, (host of “That’s Entertainment”, heard on 96.5 FM each Sunday at 12 noon), during a visit to Melbourne in 1999.

The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EST local Melbourne time; (= 12 noon – 2 p.m. BST in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZST; = 7 – 9 a.m. EDT New York time; = 4 – 6 a.m. PDT Los Angeles time.)

The on-line “address” of the 96.5 FM web-player has changed:

For those listening in via the Internet on 96.5 Inner FM’s website the webpage link for the Inner FM Web Radio – go to the Inner FM homepage at www.innerfm.org.au, simply click on the menu item “LISTEN LIVE” at the top of this page or click on the following link – https://right-click.com.au/rcPlayer2/index.php?c=innerfm
ILLUSTRATIONS  FROM THE OVERTURES ARCHIVES

First Recipient of the Overtures Award for SSSSPOTY gets Lead in Major Biopic

Of all the famous musicians that resonate across generations, Elton John is among the most deserving of being the subject of a biopic. So much so, in fact, that in 2011, it was reported that John would be producing “Rocketman”, a musical biopic about his life. However, the project has hit a number of obstacles the main one being finding the right actor that can sing the challenging songs.  However, now it’s been announced that Taron Egerton will play Elton John.

Taron Egerton had been having conversations with “Rocketman” producers Matthew Vaughn (Egerton’s Kingsman director) and Dexter Fletcher about boarding the biopic to play Elton John. Elton John, who also features in the new Kingsman movie, is reported to have loved working with Egerton and that he has experienced first hand that he has no problem with belting out tunes in a way that makes him ideal for the role. The “Rocketman” team is to start shooting the movie before 2017 is finished.

A 21 year old RADA student Taron Egerton won the coveted Stephen Sondheim Society Student Perfomer of The Year Award 2011 in the finale of the competition at the Queens Theatre in London’s West End. The competition featured all 12 finalists selected from the qualifying heats and required them to perform 2 songs, a Sondheim number and a new work from a musical theatre composer. Taron chose to sing ‘Giants In The Sky’ from “Into The Woods” and “May As Well And Why Not” by Craig Adams and Nona Shepherd. Asked why Taron stood out as the unanimous winner, judge, Kerry Ellis said one thing that set him apart was his totally believable, understated performance which was echoed by another of the judges, Timothy Sheader who had recently produced Into The Woods at the Regents Park Open Air. Anna Francolini thought that his ability to hit and hold every note made his performances faultless, whilst composer and musical director, Sarah Travis, thought that there was a magic in his ability to draw the audience into the songs that he performed. Edward Seckerson, chair of the judges, believed that in another year anyone of the 12 would have been good enough to win but Taron gave a complete performance and as it says in the title it is “Performer Of The Year”. Presenter Julia McKenzie told Taron that his performance was faultless – no faint praise.


Pictured is Taron reprising Giants In The Sky as the competition winner, and receiving the Award from Patrick Hayward, CEO of Overtures (The Bunnett-Muir Musical Theatre Archive Trust) and with judge Kerry Ellis.

Taron was brought up in North Wales where he established himself as a more than competent performer with Aberystwyth Arts Centre featuring in “Oliver!”, “Little Shop Of Horrors”, “The Tempest” & “Return To The Forbidden Planet”. With RADA he has excelled in “Three Sisters”, “A Doll’s House”, “Ajax” and “The Brothers Karamazov”, proving that he is much more than a one trick pony and he still had a further year before graduation.

 

Upon graduation he appeared in plays at the National Theatre and Royal Court before starring in a Sky TV series “Smoke” about the London fire brigade. His first film role was in the 2014 WWI drama “Testament Of Youth” and then his Hollywood career kicked off in 2014 (early 2015 in the U.S.) with the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service, where he played lead protagonist Gary “Eggsy” Unwin. Egerton has recently reprised Eggsy in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” alongside Colin Firth and Elton John, which hits cinemas this week, but outside the world of finely-dressed British says, Egerton’s other notable credits include playing Edward ‘Mad Teddy’ Smith in the Krays biopic “Legend”,  the eponymous character”Eddie The Eagle” alongside Hugh Jackman (as his coach) and voicing Johnny in the animated movie “Sing”.

He also stars as “Robin Hood” from the director of tv’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ in next year’s big IMAX release. One completed film missing from this list is “The Billionaire Boys Club” where Egerton plays Dean Karny, a pro tennis player, alongside Kevin Spacey and although completed in 2016 no release date has been published. Suffice to say that Egerton has cemented himself as a notable talent, so him playing Elton John would be another boost for his rising fame.

The Elton John biopic is expected to explore several decades of the performer’s life, from when the young Reginald Dwight (Elton John’s real name) started going to the Royal Academy of Music through the time he became a pop sensation in the 1970s to the he was time scoring popular musicals, like The Lion King for Disney. Rocketman will also look at some of the “juicier details” of John’s personal life, but the movie’s main focus will be to show how John became one of the world’s greatest singer-composers and how he’s stayed relevant despite being hit by certain scandals.

 

The Stage Debut Awards 2017 – the Musical Category Winners

Musical Theatre Melodies Heralds THE GLORIOUS ONES

The next “Musical Theatre Melodies” broadcast on 96.5 FM on Tuesday, 19th September will feature a 10th Anniversary tribute to Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “The Glorious Ones“, (based on the novel by Francine Prose), from the 2007 New York Lincoln Center Theater cast recording starring Marc Kudisch, David Patrick Kelly, Natalie Venetia Belcon, Julyana Soelistyo, John Kassir, Erin Davie and Jeremy Webb.

There will also be highlights from the 1994 original London cast recording of Ahrens and Flaherty’s “Once On This Island” , (based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy ), starring Lorna Brown, Anthony Corriette, Shezwae Powell, Johnny Worthy, Trevor Michael Georges, Clive Rowe and Suzanne Packer.

The broadcast will go “to air” between 9 – 11 p.m. EST local Melbourne time; (= 12 noon – 2 p.m. BST in Britain; = 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. NZST; = 7 – 9 a.m. EDT New York time; = 4 – 6 a.m. PDT Los Angeles time.)

The on-line “address” of the 96.5 FM web-player has changed:

For those listening in via the Internet on 96.5 Inner FM’s website the webpage link for the Inner FM Web Radio – go to the Inner FM homepage at www.innerfm.org.au, simply click on the menu item “LISTEN LIVE” at the top of this page or click on the following link – https://right-click.com.au/rcPlayer2/index.php?c=innerfm
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE LONDON LANDOR PRODUCTION  FROM THE OVERTURES ARCHIVES

Our Memories of Sir Peter – A True Hallmark Of British Theatre

It has been announced that Peter Hall has died at the age of 87.  One of the major figures of post War Theatrical Britain he was renowned for his direction of the classics and modern plays and operas.  However, Sir Peter directed three musicals.  The first was a Vivian Ellis children’s show (see also our feature on Ellis published today) and the other two much larger adult animals.

Listen to the Wind happened at the beginning of his career when he was directing for the Arts Theatre in London in 1956.  The cast included Clive Revill, Ronald (Ronnie) Barker, Roderick Cook and Miriam Karlin.  Hall also directed a production of this at the Playhouse in Oxford with some of the London cast and a then unknown Margaret Smith – better known now as Maggie.  It was a success but, in the way of things, a minor one.

In the seventies Peter Hall became the artistic director of the National Theatre.  He had an eye on producing a hit musical that could transfer and earn money for the theatre (two years later the RSC would have Les Miserables to help their coffers).  Earlier he had worked in the States with the playwright Julian Barry who came forward with an idea of a musical based on the life of Jean Seberg, a tale of Hollywood, fame and disaster.  Originally the score was to be by lyricist Christopher Adler (the son of Richard Adler of The Pajama Game fame and the one who approached Barry with the idea) and with music by Nathan Hurwitz.  However, the offer of composer Marvin Hamlisch to take over was too much (the success of A Chorus Line made him a hot contender) and Hurwitz left the production while leaving some musical interludes without credit.

Jean Seberg was considered an American musical for obvious reasons, something the British press and others thought was not quite right for the National Theatre – if the show had been a success then they may well have changed their minds.  But it was not.  The show opened on 1 December 1983 with a valiant cast headed by Kelly Hunter and Elizabeth Counsell playing the younger and older Seberg.  It closed with no original cast recording or transfer and has never been seen since.  Amongst the cast was a young Bill Deamer who is now back at the National as choreographer for Follies.

 

Sir Peter’s last attempt at directing a musical was at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1990 in a collaboration between the theatre and his Peter Hall Company.  The piece was Born Again based on the play Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco which had been fairly successful especially in New York some years before.

It was obviously another attempt to produce a Broadway hit.  The stars were American Mandy Patinkin and Jose Ferrer.  Described as a ‘daring modern musical’ it was set in a Californian shopping mall where rhinoceros roam.  The librettos was written by Julian Barry (of Jean Seberg fame) and Peter Hall with music by Jason Carr.

The vivid memory of Many Patinkin’s escape from the stage in a Mary Poppin’s style umbrella in the sky maneuver over the audience was, next to the life like animals on stage, all that remains in the memory.  There was no original cast recording.  Peter Hall refused from that day to tackle another musical.

British Theatre owes a lot to Sir Peter Hall and his moments with the Musical should not be forgotten.

Rexton S Bunnett                                                                                             Illustrations from the Overtures Archive

 

Remembering Bruce Forsyth and Jerry Lewis on the London Stage

Two giants of the business called show have left this world within days of each other.  They may or may not have met each other, but both came from the same background of variety / vaudeville.  One owed his initial fame to television, the other film.  One was American the other English.  Neither had extensive legitimate theatre credentials, but what they did was memorable.

English Bruce Forsyth was a man of television and a past master of hosting family orientated quiz games and inventing catch phrases.  Jerry Lewis made his name on film but hosted a marathon of charity fund raising on television.  Lewis was a knockabout, child-like comedian gaining his stardom in a duo with the singer and straight man Dean Martin.  Forsyth was multi-talented and earned the title of an all-round entertainer as well as becoming a ‘Sir’ late in life.

Film made Lewis a star on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the fifties he and Martin topped the bill at the London Palladium with huge success.  Forsyth attempted success on Broadway with his one-man show but left without succeeding.  Americans will only know him through his limited film spots such as playing Julie Andrew’s father in Star. 

Sir Bruce starred in two West End shows, the American import Little Me and a semi-revue of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse songs called The Travelling Music Show.  The first was a terrific hit for him, as it had been on Broadway for Sid Caesar.  Having to play many characters played to his talents.  These talents unfortunately could not save the other.

Jerry Lewis was to appear in a Broadway revival of Damn Yankees playing Applegate, the Faust character.  He took over from Victor Garber in the 1994 production and then toured with it around the States before bringing it to London in 1997.  He cleverly wove into his solo number ‘Those were the good old days’ a Vegas like cabaret act that landed right back into the story proper.  Unfortunately Lewis’s performance was not committed to disc.

The world of entertainment has lost two great and unique performers.

RSB