Review: ‘Broadway by the Year –1962’

Scott Siegel's nostalgic "Broadway by the Year" series winds up the season by turning back the pages to 1962, a year that celebrated the birth of free Shakespeare in the park. Folk music was topping the charts, and composer Frank Loesser won a Pulitzer Prize. It was the year Anne Bancroft won a Tony for her perf in "The Miracle Worker."

Scott Siegel’s nostalgic “Broadway by the Year” series winds up the season by turning back the pages to 1962, a year that celebrated the birth of free Shakespeare in the park. Kennedy was our youngest president, and the country faced the Cuban missile crisis. Folk music was topping the charts, and composer Frank Loesser won a Pulitzer Prize. It was the year Anne Bancroft won a Tony for her perf in “The Miracle Worker.”

Host Siegel recalled a legendary advertisement devised by enterprising producer David Merrick that enlisted New Yorkers who just happened to share the names of celebrated Gotham theater critics — such as Walter Kerr, John Chapman, Howard Taubman, etc. — to promote “Subways Are for Sleeping,” a less-than-successful musical that eventually shuttered in 1962.

A surprise guest at the Town Hall concert was Robert Goulet, currently on Broadway in “La Cage aux Folles.” The veteran baritone offered some affectionate, amusing anecdotes about his working relationships with Julie Andrews and Richard Burton while making his Broadway debut in “Camelot.” Without a microphone, Goulet reprised the ardent fervor of questing knight Sir Lancelot with “If Ever I Would Leave You.” It remains a robustly romantic musical moment, and Goulet rose to the occasion with stunning clarity.

There were a couple of songs from “Bravo Giovanni,” a short-lived tuner about a ristorante in Rome with tunes by Ronny Graham and Milton Shafer. Brad Oscar sang “I’m All I’ve Got,” a fierce declaration of independence originally introduced by promising L.A. teenager Michele Lee.

A regular feature of the concert series re-creates the days before the use of electronic enhancement in theaters. Sans mic, Scott Coulter sent “What Kind of Fool Am I?” to the balcony seats with a soaring theatrical savvy that served as a tribute to the Broadway debut of Anthony Newley in “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.”

Christine Pedi also re-created a memorable moment in musical theater with “Miss Marmelstein,” from Harold Rome’s “I Can Get It for You Wholesale.” The song was originally a showstopper for then-newcomer Barbra Streisand, and Pedi, a belter of the first order, expertly mined its audacious humor.

The expansive concert memoir also tapped songs from Richard Rodgers’ “No Strings”; Irving Berlin’s final Broadway show, “Mr. President”; Stephen Sondheim’s solo debut, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”; and “Little Me,” by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh.

Even James Lipton, now host of “Inside the Actors Studio,” was on the boards as co-writer of “Nowhere to Go but Up.” Coulter and a radiant Liz Callaway recalled its title song with gleeful abandon.

Siegel’s series resumes in March for its sixth season.

Broadway by the Year --1962

Town Hall; 1,500 seats; $45 top

Production

A Town Hall presentation conceived, written and hosted by Scott Siegel. Directed by Bryan Batt. Musical director, Ross Patterson.

Crew

Consultant, Michael Lavine. Lighting, John Gordon; production stage manager, Charles J. Dishian. Reviewed June 13, 2005.

Cast

Performers: Robert Goulet, Liz Callaway, Scott Coulter, Felicia Finley, Danny Gurwin, Brad Oscar, Christine Pedi, Will Taylor, Eric Stretch. Musicians: Don Falzone, Gene Lewin, Aaron Heick, Lisa Matricardi.
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