Posts Categorized: Composers and Writers

One of those Holy Sh*T, OMG Performances – Audra McDonald

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There are certain performers that people have a hard time taking their eyes off of.  It isn’t about having a presence, it’s about facial expressions, movements and most importantly a voice.  Audra McDonald is one of those people.  The problem with many of her variety show and charity performances is that Producers are always combining her with other just as or almost as amazing performers.  In the video below you’ll see her along side two amazing women, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn, who can sing, but lack Audra’s ability to to create emotions from their faces that pull in an audience and make them feel whatever the Actor wants.  However, when you get three voices and an actress like Audra McDonald on a stage together and have them belting out some of the most loved showtunes during a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber, you get a holy sh*t and OMG that was an amazing performance and something you won’t soon forget.  Unlike the Oscars and the Grammys, broadway charity and tribute shows can combine songs, talents and also create mashups that traditional entertainment shows can never pull off.

The Grammy awards may have a ton of great singers, but unfortunately they do not have the ability to get people that can belt out and create blended voices (not harmonies) while taking three gorgeous songs and turning them into one incredible medley.  This is something that is almost exclusively reserved for Broadway and theatre.  That’s what makes the Tony Awards and tribute shows so amazing.  Instead of just listening to a cast perform a song from their show, you get things like Avenue Jew, The cast of Spring Awakening Auditioning for Grease and even events like Bravo TV’s featured Best of Broadway that brought us incredible performances from Linda Eder, Adam Pascal and a ton of amazing talent from numerous other Broadway Veterans.  I’ll post a few of those videos later this week.  I don’t the Bravo show was for charity though, I think it was just for Bravo to bring a ton of talent onto their Network and make a ton of money.  With that said, the music and performances were incredible and they really did an amazing job.

If you ever get a chance to go to a Broadway fundraiser or charity event, or even a tribute to a composer or Broadway legend, go.  You’ll get to see so much talent performing things you’ve never heard of.  It may be the only time you ever see numerous stars performing insane songs together, in one place and songs that are normally saved for soloists.  You will more than likely also get to experience hearing showtunes from musicals that haven’t run or been on stage in decades making these events once in a lifetime experiences that may never come again.  If you are planning a trip to NYC and haven’t figured out when you want to go, try to schedule it around one of these events.  You’ll absolutely thrilled you got to see one.   Audra’s performance singing “Love Changes Everything” is amazing and the other two performers Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn did an incredible job with their songs.  The three really created an OMG and Holy Sh*t moment that we are lucky enough to have on film.  Please feel free to leave a comment below if you like or didn’t like the performance and also feel free to share this post on Facebook and Twitter by using the buttons at the top of the post.

Rodgers and Hammerstein Take on the Movies – A Full R&H Movie History

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This Sunday’s Curtain Call @ MOVA Lounge DC pays tribute to what is arguably the most prolific songwriting team in American musical theater history: Rodgers & Hammerstein. Particular attention is paid to the 6 screen adaptations of their most famous works, from OKLAHOMA! (1955) to THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). During this 10 year span, the tunesmiths had their creations showcased on motion screens all over the world.
OKLAHOMA! was produced by Rodgers & Hammerstein themselves. They did not trust their “baby” to Hollywood. In fact, to guarantee a faithful stage-to-screen adaptation, the team enlisted the talents of those who had contributed to the Broadway hit: choreographer Agnes de Mille, art director Oliver Smith, orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett, and conductor Jay Blackton. Because Rodgers & Hammerstein were by then household names and the title equally famous, they did not have to solicit big stars to add luster (and expense) to the marquee. On location filming near Nogales, Arizona (because it was more photogenic than 20th century Oklahoma) and the decision to basically film each scene twice – once in 70mm TODD-AO and once again in 35mm CinemaScope– had already guaranteed this was the most expensive film musical up to that time. OKLAHOMA! also had the distinction as the first film musical to be distributed as a prestigious “road show,” one-theater-per city, at advanced prices, with just one screening per night (twice daily on matinee days), all seats reserved. Watch Gordon MacRae entice co-star Shirley Jones about “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top”:

Rodgers & Hammerstein left production chores to 20th Century-Fox for their next film outing: CAROUSEL (1956). Frank Sinatra had been signed to play the lead, but he left the production early on. Star Shirley Jones once remarked her portrayal as Julie Bigelow would have benefited dramatically had she played opposite Sinatra. Seen today, the film suffers from poorly matched location shots and those obviously studio bound sets, often in the very same scene. However, this movie greatly benefits from what is arguably Rodgers & Hammerstein’s best score, and it was Rodgers’s personal favorite. One of the most popular musical number from the film was “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” shot entirely in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, as seen here:

THE KING AND I (1956), released just months after CAROUSEL, was personally produced by 20th Century-Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck . Starring Deborah Kerr and reprising his Broadway triumph as the King of Siam, Yul Brynner, the production benefited from the stellar performances of its charismatic leads, a handsome production design, and superb musical direction by Alfred Newman. Brynner collected a Best Actor Academy Award and created a trend: many young men at the time shaved their heads after having seen THE KING AND I. Watch Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner in a brief clip from the movie.

Rodgers & Hammerstein returned to film producing for a final time, 1958’s SOUTH PACIFIC. Starring Italian actor Rozanno Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor, the film was 1958’s most popular. Like OKLAHOMA!, it was initially distributed on a “road show” basis in TODD-AO before it was broadly released later in standard 35mm Panavision. Watch several songs from SOUTH PACIFIC here, including “Bloody Mary,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “Happy Talk,” “My Girl Back Home,” and “Carefully Taught” here:

I once thought the film version of SOUTH PACIFIC was overproduced, with its garish, distracting color filters used in its musical numbers, until I watched the Glenn Close vanity production. This SOUTH PACIFIC television version suffers greatly from miscasting: Close was far too old and sophisticated to portray provincial Little Rock-born Nellie Forbush. When she sings “Cockeyed-Optimist,” it is not very convincing. The dramatic tension Oscar Hammerstein and Joshua Logan had created on stage and adapted in the film version between the naïve, racist navy nurse and French born island plantation owner was absent here. Only Harry Connick Jr. as Lt. Joe Cable was adequate.
1961’s FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961) was the first big-budget film to feature an all-Asian cast. Set against the backdrop of contemporary San Francisco, the film stressed the tension between the old and young generations (“The Other Generation”) and the Old World versus the New (“Chop Suey”). This movie faced formidable competition from the multi-Oscar-winning “West Side Story” that year but was a mildly popular success. Watch Nancy Kwan sing about San Francisco’s wondrous “Grant Avenue”:

THE SOUND OF MUSIC was the most financially successful film adaptation of all Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. No one can deny its popularity. Premiering March 2, 1965, it was not withdrawn from its first release until Labor Day, 1969 over 4 years later. It was not unusual for the film to have runs lasting a year or more in major markets, and in Washington, DC, THE SOUND OF MUSIC had an exclusive run at the Ontario Theater for 97 weeks on a reserved-seat basis. Extravagantly underestimated by the critics, who took perverse delight in tearing it to shreds due to its “sugary” sentiment, the movie lured people again and again. Repeat business was phenomenal. It collected 5 Academy Awards including “Best Picture,” impressive when factoring its major Oscar competition, epic blockbuster “Doctor Zhivago.” Watch Peggy Wood as The Mother Abbess counsel Maria (Julie Andrews), singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”:

Marvin Hamlisch – We’ll Miss You. Idina Menzel’s Tribute

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I don’t know what more to say when a Broadway Legend like Marvin Hamlisch dies. Not only was he absolutely one of the best song writers and creators of amazing scores, but some of his music is still my favorite from when I was a kid. I remember watching the movie version of shows like A Chorus Line when I was younger and singing a long with it and even though it is a lot later, when I hear those songs I can still sing them word for word without having to use lyrics. When someone can crate music that can be remembered more than 20 years later and that isn’t repetitive rock or pop music, that is the sign of an amazing genius.

We all recognize music from great composers like Beethoven, Mozart and other classical musicians, but if they added in words, I think most of us would only remember a chorus or a melody. With the music created by Marvin Hamlisch, people can hear it and years later still remember the words. Marvin had an amazing way of creating music that ripped apart your emotions and then either put them back together or left them falling out of you. Either way, he created music that ripped at your heart and your body and let you know exactly what the music was about and what the character was feeling. To be able to do that with music, sound and an amazing song is something that only a few modern composers have been able to do. With the loss of Marvin Hamlisch, we have unfortunately lost one of the most amazing contributors to Broadway and music.

Marvin was an amazing person and I’m heading to NYC this weekend. I am hoping to get to see the public viewing of his funeral. If you are in NYC and want to say goodbye to one of the best composers on broadway, it is opened to the public and they recommend which types and colors of flowers to buy for Marvin. Marvin gave us all a million amazing memories and gave the world some of the best music in modern shows and movies. He will be missed by all of his friends, family and especially his fans.

Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber sing together

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Today is both The Legendary Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthdays. Not only are these two of the most amazing people in Broadway History bringing us countless showtunes, musicals and performances, but they have helped many Actors and Actresses become famous stars. Their shows have been turned in to Movies for the TV and the Theatre and their songs are known and sung by generation after generation. These two broadway giants also share the same birthday today and one other thing you may not have known is that they also share something else, a video of them playing and singing at the piano together.

In this video you’ll see them playing two of their most well known and loved songs in a mashup, Send in the Clowns and Music of the Night. Both songs are amazing songs with a ton of emotion in them and to hear these two broadway celebrities perform them with each other is absolutely amazing. This amount of talent playing and singing each other’s songs is absolutely insane and I am very excited to be able to place the YouTube video version of it here for all of you to enjoy.

I grew up listening to both Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber and have always loved their music. Their songs speak to everyone and their shows are timeless pieces of art that will always be remembered and hopefully performed throughout history and in touring casts. When I saw the video of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber playing the piano together I had to watch it and when I found out they have the same exact birthday, I had to play it for you all on their birthday. Happy birthday Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber and thank you for creating such amazing shows, music and everything else you have done. Here is the video of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber playing piano and singing together. Happy birthday again and looking forward to your next shows.

Unexpected Song from Song & Dance

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If there is one song that is absolutely gorgeous and amazing and not many people remember until they hear it, it has to be Unexpected Song from the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show Song & Dance. Not only is this one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, but when you have someone like Bernadette Peters singing it you have an amazing team. Bernadatte Peters offers her voice which is a mix of musical theatre and opera to a gorgeous love song from an Andrew Lloyd Webber show and you have one of the most amazing combinations in theatre history. This is also the song that I couldn’t remember the name of that Julie James sang when I went to see Live on Broadway in NYC.

I miss Andrew Lloyd Webber shows because he has always created the best music with some of the best singers. The music is memorable and gorgeous and almost any of his love ballads are the perfect songs for first dances at weddings. Unexpected Song from Song & Dance is one of those songs that I love and is definitely one that will be on the play list for my wedding day, if I ever get married.

It won’t be played while we are eating dinner or walking down the isle, but it is perfect for pre-wedding drinks and conversation as well as when people are sitting in the chapel or synagogue and waiting for the wedding party to start entering the building. Unexpected Song from Song and Dance is one of my favorite broadway showtunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber and one that I hope you will love as well. If you love this song or any of the other songs from Song & Dance, feel free to leave a comment below and maybe we’ll post it as one of our next showtunes posts.