It isn’t often I hear something and go wow. That’s actually a complete lie since I am always impressed by people or shocked at how bad someone who is usually amazing is. These two videos got the wow thing from me. The one is a guy named Gabriel Lopez who randomly takes on Glitter and Be Gay from Candide and actually pulls it off without having to go into a high soprano. The other one is from Glee, which I stopped watching, and is Rachel Berry singing Being Good from Swan Song. I heard it last night at showtunes at MOVA lounge in DC.
We all know Rachel (Lea Michelle) has an amazing voice. Whether I am a fan of hers or not, I love her voice and think she is incredible. I don’t know how much of this song is the studio making it sound amazing, and how much is her actually singing, but it sounds amazing. She’s a bit like Barbara Streisand when she’s singing this song, but at the same time her character wants to be Barbara. It’s great to see that they are letting her show off what she can do with her voice and this song is absolutely amazing when she does it. When the VJ was talking about the song being a wow song, I didn’t understand why until he played the clip and you hear Lea Michelle belting it out. The way she performs it really is a wow moment and the song is absolutely amazing.
The reason Gabriel performing Glitter and Be Gay from Candid is a wow moment is because 1. he is a guy and 2. he didn’t have to try and go soprano. The song is insanely hard and takes a ton of control. To take it randomly and perform it without trying or practicing is insane. That is why I had a wow moment when I heard him sing this song and not even mess it up. It was a definite wow moment because I was waiting for him to go high and he didn’t or to have him mess up and he pulled it off perfectly.
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”:
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!