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A French Toast

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April 4, 2003

Just to demonstrate that not all Americans are petulant, xenophobic boneheads, here's a show dedicated to France in general and Paris in particular.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong Legendary Musical Stars (1980) Sophie Tucker Although recorded in 1927, the lyrics of this song (e.g. "They say the French are naughty / They say the French are bad / The all declare / That over there / The French are going mad") sound relevant all over again, albeit in a somewhat different context.
Paree Follies, Scandals and Other Diversions (1977) Beatrice Lillie This one if from At Home Abroad (1935), a revue designed and staged by Vincenti Minnelli, who would later make his mark as a Hollywood director. Lillie played it dressed as a French grisette. The song is by the team of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, whose credits include The Band Wagon (1931), Flying Colors (1932), Inside U.S.A (1948) and The Little Show (1929).
Anatole of Paris Follies, Scandals and Other Diversions (1977) Danny Kaye This was recorded in January, 1942, when Kaye was a rising Broadway star, having already drawn raves for his performance in Lady in the Dark the previous year. Like most of Kaye's characteristically manic comic numbers, this one was written by his talented wife, Sylvia Fine. The song is from The Straw Hat Revue, the 1939 show that marked Kaye's Broadway debut.
You're in Paris Ben Franklin in Paris (OC 1964) Susan Watson, Franklin Kiser, Company While Ben Franklin (Robert Preston) is in Paris trying to persuade the French to support the American revolution, his grandson Temple (Kiser) becomes infatuated with a French girl, Janine (Watson) while he's browsing bookstores on the Pont Neuf. The show has music by Mark Sandrich, Jr. and book and lyrics by Sidney Michaels. The show was Sanrich's first on Broadway and Michaels' third. Neither ever had a hit, including this one, which ran for only 215 performances despite the star power of Preston.
Do You Want to See Paris? Fifty Million Frenchmen (Studio Cast 1991) Howard McGillin, Peggy Cass, Kim Criswell, James Harder, Karen Ziemba, JQ and the Bandits Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929) was the first Broadway hit for Cole Porter, running 254 performances. The score included hits such as "You do Something to Me" and "You've Got That Thing". In this number, a tour guide takes his charges (including a typically gauche pair of wealthy Americans) on a whirlwind tour of Paris.
Ah, Paree! Follies in Concert (1985) Liliane Montevecchi Stephen Sondheim's Follies has had its ups and downs over the years, and has never had a really satisfactory production on Broadway (although the 1971 original won multiple Tony awards). This all-star concert version was presents for two days in September, 1985, at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. I was videotaped, and still shows up now and then on PBS stations during pledge drives.
Can-Can Steve Ross and Cole Porter: Close (1996) Steve Ross Another of Cole Porter's musical valentines to Paris, Can-Can (1953) ran 892 performances. The story concerns the efforts of cafe owner Pistache (the French actress Lilo in a role originally intended for Carol Channing) to seduce judge Aristide Forestier into abandoning attempts to shut her down for presenting the "scandalous" can-can. The title song is a witty example of Porter's facility with rhymes and word play. Ross' performance is typically classy.
La Vie en Rose La Vie en Rose (1999) Edith Piaf, orchestra conducted by Guy Luypaerts No tribute to France would be complete without this classic by one of the country's greatest vocalists, recorded in 1946. The lyrics are by Piaf. "In his arms, listening to his words of love my heart tells me we belong to each other. This is life as it should be."

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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