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April 18 - 24, 2001

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Bells Are Ringing

A Broadway revival of the Jule Styne classic Bells Are Ringing provokes an examination of the telephone on stage.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Bells Are Ringing Bells Are Ringing (OC 1956) Eddie Helm, Jean Stapleton, Girls Eight dejected girls lament the lack of phone calls; but hark! - Susanswerphone has the service they need!
Hello, Central, Give Me No Man’s Land Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (1977) Al Jolson Recorded April 3, 1918, this is from Sinbad, Jolson’s WW I-era hit. America’s brash confidence upon entering the war had, by now, been considerably blunted by German victories and mounting American casualties.
Hello Frisco Come, Josephine, in My Flying Machine (1977) Elida Morris and Sam Ash Recorded June 30, 1915 to celebrate the first trans-continental telephone call, (placed by Alexander Graham Bell to his old colleague Thomas A. Watson in San Francisco) this was the hit of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1915. Morris and Ash were not a regular team, but were put together for this particular number in the Follies.
All Alone Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (1977) Lewis James This Irving Berlin classic was recorded in 1924. Previously known mostly for his recordings rather than his stage appearances, James was, at this time, becoming more popular as a live performer and toured Europe successfully in 1926.
It’s a Perfect Relationship Bells Are Ringing (OC 1956) Judy Holliday Ella Peterson, the backbone of Susanswerphone, is in love with a man she knows only as a customer - and he knows her only in her persona of kindly old “mom”, who takes his calls.
I’m Going Back Bells Are Ringing (OC 1956) Judy Holliday Near the end of the show, a dejected Ella renounces the answering service business and resolves to return to her former job as a plain old operator.
It’s a Perfect Relationship Bells Are Ringing (OC 1956) Jule Styne The composer himself singing on a “publisher’s demo” tape. Styne’s music was given lyrics by the redoubtable team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Telephone Mike Nichols and Elaine May: Retrospect (1972) Mike Nichols and Elaine May A classic routine from (I think) 1958, and still relevant today.
That Makes It Hollywood Hi-Fi (1996) Jayne Mansfield From 1964, this is a rather late answer to the 1958 hit “Chantilly Lace”, in which we discover The Big Bopper was actually calling sex bomb Jayne. Ironically enough, Mansfield was actually highly intelligent, although you wouldn’t know it from records like this.
The Telephone Hour Bye Bye Birdie (OC 1960) The Teenagers A parody on the Elvis phenomenon that keeps getting revived because, I guess, Elvis isn’t really dead. It opened on April 14th, 1960 at the Martin Beck Theatre and ran for 607 performances. It was a star vehicle for Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera. Director Gower Champion took the bold step of casting real teens in the chorus, which may be why this sounds so believable.
The Telephone Song Cabaret (OC 1966) Company At the other end of the innocence spectrum, the denizens of the Kit Kat Klub arrange rendezvous’ with each other using telephones at their tables.
I’m Back in Circulation You Never Know (Revival cast 2001) Angela Teek with David Garrison Music and lyrics by Cole Porter. This recording features the cast of the 1991 Pasadena Playhouse revival that restored the show to the small cast dimensions that Porter originally intended.
Telephone Girlie No, No, Nanette (OC 1971) Bobby Van, K.C. Townsend, Loni Zoe Ackerman, Pat Lysinger Due to the usual comic misunderstandings, Billy (Van) is on the outs with his wife Lucille (Helen Gallagher). But all ends happily. Technically this was a revival since No, No, Nanette originally played 321 performances on Broadway in 1925, but the 1971 version was massively re-written.
Them Conkheads Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk (OC 1996) Ann Duquesnay Harlem, 1950: Da Singer (Duquesnay) chats on the phone while (according to the stage directions) “four men in doo rags hang out on stoops, strutting about with a ‘50s street swagger.” The show covers over two centuries of African-American history in song and dance. The music is by Daryl Waters, Zane Mark and Ann Duquesnay; book and lyrics are by Reg E. Gaines.
Call Me Debbie Harry - Blondie: Once More Into the Bleach (1988) Debbie Harry and Blondie As heard in the 1980 turkey American Gigolo, which stars Richard Gere as (surprise) a glamour guy who makes a lucrative living as an escort to older women in the Los Angeles area. When one of his clients is murdered he becomes a suspect.

Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.

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