Review: ‘The Broadway Musicals of 1964: Part Two’

Season finale for Broadway by the Year is a sequel to 1964, first presented by the cabaret series five years ago and perhaps the most bountiful year in Great White Way history: The musical terrain included "Hello, Dolly!" "Funny Girl," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Golden Boy" and "High Spirits."

Season finale for Broadway by the Year is a sequel to 1964, first presented by the cabaret series five years ago and perhaps the most bountiful year in Great White Way history: The musical terrain included “Hello, Dolly!” “Funny Girl,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Golden Boy” and “High Spirits.” An attractive assembly of Broadway veterans and seasoned gypsies gathered on the Town Hall stage to celebrate its musical legacy and leftovers.

While “The Pirate Queen” was keelhauled last weekend, the short-lived show’s vivcacious star, Stephanie J. Block, assured her audience that she is a welcome Broadway asset, providing the evening’s first pleasures with her buoyantly brittle and pointedly direct rendition of the Timothy Gray-Hugh Martin command “You’d Better Love Me,” from “High Spirits.”

The folksy wisdom and sentiment of “Fiddler on the Roof” was revealed with “Do You Love Me?,” a question playfully posed by David Pittu and “Drowsy Chaperone” Tony winner Beth Leavel. The same show’s “Now I Have Everything” teamed Pittu with a radiant Liz Callaway.

Stephen Sondheim made a brief but indelible mark that season with satirical tuner “Anyone Can Whistle.” It ran for a fleeting week, but the score yielded many blessings, including “With So Little to Be Sure Of,” celebrated here by Callaway with an assist from Gregg Edelman.

A series tradition is the unplugged moment, returning to the days when songs were delivered without electrical amplification. Devin Richards ably demonstrated the technique with his soaring “I Wanna Be With You,” a soliloquy from “Golden Boy,” which easily hit the top of the house. But Scott Coulter’s intensely forced take on “It Only Takes a Moment” from “Hello, Dolly!” skirted the song’s sweet simplicity.

Host Scott Siegel read a laundry list of those divas originally tapped for the role of Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.” Passing on the likes of Mary Martin, Anne Bancroft, Shirley MacLaine and Carol Burnett, among others, the role became the exclusive property of young thrush Barbra Streisand. The show played for more than 1,300 perfs. Running time out of town bordered four hours, prompting necessary cuts including the title song, framed here by Leavel with a lovely touch of sweet heartbreak. Block returned to make “Don’t Rain on My Parade” her own in a fierce and fresh interpretation.

An imported English WWI reflection, “Oh! What a Lovely War” was composed of old tunes, none of them more enduring and timely than “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Callaway led the ensemble in a closing that served as a still-valid patriotic hymn.

The concert had a few sound problems, which Siegel attributed to the altered system prepared for the JVC jazz fest. As staged by Dan Foster, it was a fluent affair carrying plenty of assurance that there’s vital new talent to protect the legacy of Broadway’s past and govern its future.

The Broadway Musicals of 1964: Part Two

Town Hall; 1,500 seats; $45 top

Production

A Town Hall and Broadway by the Year presentation conceived, written and hosted by Scott Siegel. Directed by Dan Foster.

Creative

Musical director-pianist, Ross Patterson. Consultant, Michael Lavine; lighting, John Gordon; stage manager, Charles J. Dishian. Reviewed June 18, 2007.

Cast

With: Sarah Uriarte Berry, Stephanie J. Block, Liz Callaway, Scott Coulter, Gregg Edelman, Xanthe Elbrick, Beth Leavel, Sean Martin Hingston, David Pittu.
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