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June 6 - 12, 2001

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Critics' Choice

We welcome our special guests Bob Wilcox and Gerry Kowarsky of the Double Helix cable TV theatre review program Two On the Aisle and play some of their musical theatre favorites. Bob also reviews for KDHX-FM (where our show is produced) and Gerry for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
A Bob Wilcox pick: Of Thee I Sing opened on 12/26/1931 and ran for 441 performances – only so-so by contemporary standards but good enough to make it the third longest-running musical of the 1930s, when multi-year runs were not so common. It was also the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Music and lyrics by the Gershwin brothers, book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.
Love is Sweeping the Country Of Thee I Sing (Revival cast 1952) Jonathan Lucas, Ensemble Presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen and his wife Mary Turner are being swept into office on a Love platform.
Of Thee I Sing Of Thee I Sing (Revival cast 1952) Jack Carson, Betty Oakes, Ensemble And this is the campaign song that does it.
Another one from Bob: Kiss Me, Kate opened on 12/30/1948 and ran for 1,070 performances and was filmed in 1953 with Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson instead of Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison. A new Broadway revival opened last year and a national tour based on it will play St. Louis in the 2001 – 2002 season. The quarreling Shakespearean stars played by Drake and Morison were inspired by the Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, whose backstage squabbles were legendary. Music and lyrics are by Cole Porter, book by Sam and Bella Spewack
Brush Up Your Shakespeare Kiss Me, Kate (OC 1948) Harry Clark, Jack Diamond A couple of hoods, waiting around to lean on actor Bill Clahoun for his outstanding gambling debts, are impressed by Shakespeare.
So in Love Kiss Me, Kate (OC 1948) Patricia Morison Lilli Vanessi expresses her lover for her husband and co-star Fred Graham (Drake).
Always True to You (In My Fashion) Kiss Me, Kate (OC 1948) Lisa Kirk Actress Lois Lane (!) explains her novel notion of fidelity to her erstwhile boyfriend.
A Gerry Kowarsky pick: The Most Happy Fella is Frank Loesser’s masterpiece and probably one of the best American musical theatre works of the previous century, with a tuneful, sung-through score that inhabits that netherworld between opera/operetta and musical comedy. It opened 5/3/1956 and ran for 676 performances; a 1992 revival lasted only 229 performances and a 1979 revival with Giogio Tozzi in the lead was even more short-lived. Based on the 1924 Sidney Howard play They Knew What They Wanted, Most Happy Fella tells the bittersweet story of a middle-aged Napa Valley vintner (Robert Weede) who proposes marriage by mail to waitress Rosabella (Jo Sullivan), using a photograph of his young, handsome foreman instead of his own. Frank Loesser wrote the book music and lyrics.
She Ain't Got No Place to Go The Most Happy Fella (OC 1956) Mona Paulee, Robert Weede, Susan Johnson A dramatic trio or near-operatic dimensions.
I Made a Fist The Most Happy Fella (OC 1956) Susan Johnson, Shorty Long The mild-mannered Herman discovers that he can, when necessary, get aggressive.
Finale The Most Happy Fella (OC 1956) Robert Weede, Jo Sullivan All ends happily; bring your hankies!
A Bob Wilcox Pick: The Fantasticks is, of course, the longest-running musical in New York history (41 years and counting). It opened on 5/3/1960 but started out life as a longer and more grandiose piece entitled Joy Comes to Dead Horse. Authors Harvey Schmidt (music) and Tom Jones (book and lyrics) decided both the title and treatment were overblown so the shortened it to one act, re-titled it The Fantasticks, and presented it at Barnard College in 1959. Producer Lore Noto so it there, persuaded Schmidt and Jones to re-do it as an intimate two-act show and the rest, as they say is history.
Try to Remember The Fantasticks (OC 1960) Jerry Orbach The Narrator sets the scene and the theme.
Plant a Radish The Fantasticks (OC 1960) William Larsen and Hugh Thomas The fathers rebuild the wall between their properties and compare the joys of gardening with the annoyances of parenthood.
Finally, some picks from Gerry.
The Glamorous Life Sondheim (Book of the Month Club album 1985) Betsy Joslyn A re-written version of the song for the ill-fated 1978 film version of A Little Night Music, which inexplicably re-sets the story in Vienna.
Sorry-Grateful Sondheim (Book of the Month Club album 1985) Timothy Nolen From Company, the first of six Broadway musicals created by Stephen Sondheim and producer/director Harold Prince, Company opened on 4/26/1970 and ran 706 performances. The book is by George Furth, based on his own collection of one-act plays of the same name.
Act I Finale Candide (OC 1956) Robert Rounseville, Barbara Cook, William Olvis, Irra Petina (Max Adrian) Leonard Bernstein’s problematic masterpiece, Candide has gone through at least three revisions over the years. The original had music by Bernstein, lyrics by Richard Wilbur (among others) and a book by Lillian Hellman. It opened 12/1/1956 but ran only 76 performances. A revised “total theatre” version in which the audience was surrounded by playing areas opened on 3/10/1974 and ran for 740 performances. It had a book by Hugh Wheeler.

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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