For a very long time, musical theater composers have visited – and revisited – the subject of marriage. This week’s “Curtains,” Sunday Showtunes at Mova Lounge, highlights marriage, its highs and lows with 7 songs relating to marriage, from composer Stephen Sondheim’s caustic take on the institution (“Not Getting Married Today”) to a joyful wedding reception (“Flash! Bang! Wallop!) in the underrated “Half A Sixpence.”
The first song, the wistful “If Mama Was Married” by Jule Styne and Sondheim from the musical “Gypsy,” is sung by Mama Rose’s two daughters, Dainty June and Louise. They wish for normalcy, a home to call their own, and, as June sings, “and for once and for all to get Mama out of my hair.” Yes, kids don’t want mothers controlling their lives, not then and not now, and Mama Rose was perhaps the most infamous Stage Mother of all time. Rose’s marriage to Herbie, their stage manager, would solve all their problems.
After his partnerships with Leonard Bernstein (“West Side Story”) and Julie Styne (“Gypsy”), Sondheim became a force to be reckoned as a double threat: lyricist and composer. After his first hit, “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum,” followed by his unsuccessful “Anyone Can Whistle,” Sondheim acquitted himself quite nicely with his landmark “Company,” often noted as one of the first so-called “Concept” musicals. “Not Getting Married Today,” one of but many memorable songs from its score features an insecure bride-to-be, her mother and the groom. This version is from a Sondheim concert is performed by the incomparable Madeline Kahn, as seen here:
“His Love Makes Me Beautiful” from the screen version of “Funny Girl” is an amusing take about a bride (Barbra Streisand, in an auspicious Oscar-winning debut) who is “in the family way.” Against a lavish Ziegfeld Follies backdrop with beautiful, scantily dressed chorus girls, Streisand’s expert comic delivery (we all know she has the vocal chops) makes this number a true show stopper.
A popular number from the celebrated “My Fair Lady,” “Get Me to the Church On Time” is performed by Stanley Holloway who originated the role as Alfred P. Doolittle both on Broadway and in the West End. Watch here as Doolittle and his cronies make a night long pub crawl in the memorable “Get Me to the Church on Time” by Lerner and Loewe:
A standard at weddings for years, “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof needs little introduction. Its universal themes of parenthood, childhood and the life cycle transcend mere musical theater. Director Norman Jewison exacted sensitive portrayals from all concerned. The music is adapted and arranged by Oscar winning John Williams. Watch it here:
“Trinkt le Chiam,”another Jewish Wedding Song was composed especially 1967’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” I have included it here for the sole reason because Julie Andrews – yes, that Julie Andrews, sings Yiddish! Her clipped English diction works marvelously here. Yes, a Brit sing Yiddish, and it has to be seen (and heard!) to be believed!
As a finale to the marriage theme, what could be more appropriate than a wedding reception? “Flash! Bang! Wallop!,” performed by star Tommy Steele and chorus, provide a veddy British rousing romp. Excitingly choreographed by Gillian Lynne, who would go on to stage “Cats,” “Half A Sixpence” was little seen in the U.S. but scored a box office triumph in its native England.
These are just a handful of magical musical numbers which await you at “Curtains,” Sunday Showtunes from 5 to 9 at Mova Lounge, 2204 14th Street NW (between W Street NW & Florida Avenue NW – U Street is the closest Metro station). Note that all clips are obtained from the best possible source, many of which are subtitled so you and your pals can sing-along!