The dawn of rock ‘n’ roll was heralded by “Rock Around the Clock” in 1954, while TV ushered in “Father Knows Best” along with “The Steve Allen Show.” Scott Siegel, host of Town Hall concert series “Broadway by the Year,” also noted that Godzilla was not the only monster in town that year, which saw the Broadway musical debut of controversial producer David Merrick, who slapped an unprecedented $7.50 top ticket tab on his show “Fanny.” In “The Broadway Musicals of 1954,” an assembly of musical performers once again offered a spirited display of song and dance from the Rialto’s golden era.
Maintaining the tradition of the 8-year-old series, Sean Palmer sang the title song from Harold Rome’s “Fanny” sans microphone. Palmer, who appears as Prince Eric in “The Little Mermaid,” offered a fervent reading that began as a privately whispered inner thought and built to an ardent declaration of eternal devotion.
Truman Capote’s only outing as a lyricist served Harold Arlen’s musical score for “House of Flowers,” which starred Pearl Bailey and introduced a teenaged Diahann Carroll. Natalie Venetia Belcon here reprised the blowsy declaration “One Man Ain’t Quite Enough” and the plaintive “A Sleepin’ Bee.”
The real treasure from the show about rival whorehouses found Belcon assisted by lithe dancer Kendrick Jones for “Slide, Boy, Slide.” Jones’ spirited tap and slides fueled the concert with a blast of elegance and energy.
Pert young Brit Julie Andrews debuted on Broadway that season in Sandy Wilson’s “The Boy Friend.” Vet hoofer Harvey Evans (the original Young Buddy of “Follies”) paired with Debbie Gravitte for the geriatric courtship song “It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love,” followed by Mark Price and flapper Jen Cody performing “Won’t You Charleston With Me?” The Roaring ’20s choreography was freshly conceived by Josh Rhodes.
The dancing was exceptionally fine in this installment, particularly when Noah Racey (“Curtains”) teamed with Melinda Sullivan for a knockout new take on “Steam Heat” from “The Pajama Game.” The number was reconceived with sexy, nimble patterns that brought the house to its feet, cheering.
It turned out to be a hard act to follow, but Gravitte belted a defiant take on “I’m Not at All in Love,” while Cheyenne Jackson (“Xanadu”) gave vigor and dash to an unplugged “There Once Was a Man,” charmingly assisted by “Little Mermaid” star Sierra Boggess.
Emily Skinner’s performance of “Distant Melody” from “Peter Pan” served as a sweet benedictory, followed by the entire cast in a journey to “Never Never Land.” It was a bountiful evening of what Broadway does best.