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February 18, 2004

In celebration of Black History Month, a quick historical overview of some great black performers from the vaudeville and Broadway stages.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Brainduster Memory School Give Us a Break! (1978) Proctor and Bergman Arnold Brainduster guarantees he'll improve your memory in the time it takes your check to clear. Give Us a Break! was an LP of short comedy "breaks" ideal for DJs looking for quick comedy bits to drop into their shows. Proctor and Bergman are half of The Firesign Theatre.
I’m Sorry I Ain’t Got It Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 (1977) Bert Williams Recorded 11/24/1919. Although largely forgotten today, Williams was a major star of the Follies but, in accordance with the virulent racism of the time, had to perform his act in "black face".
Baltimore Buzz American Musical Theatre, V. 1 Noble Sissle Recorded 3/18/1921, this is from Shuffle Along, which Sissle wrote with his frequent collaborator, Eubie Blake.
Doin the New Low Down Follies, Scandals and Other Diversions (1977) Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Don Redman Orchestra Recorded 12/29/1932, this is originally from the revue Blackbirds of 1928, which, as you might guess from the title, featured black performers.
Ol’ Man River American Musical Theatre, V. 1 Paul Robeson Recorded 7/21/1932. Robeson was supposed to be the original Joe in Show Boat, but didn’t actually play the role until the 1932 revival.
Takin’ a Chance on Love American Musical Theatre, V. 2 Ethel Waters Recorded 11/7/1940. This is from the 1940 Vernon Duke/John Latouche musical Cabin in the Sky.
Ain’ It De Truth? Jamaica (OC 1957) Lena Horne With music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. (“Yip”) Harburg, this calypso-flavored show ran a respectable 558 performances. Horne’s co-stay was Ricardo Montalban.
Night Song Golden Boy (OC 1964) Sammy Davis, Jr. This show, based on a Clifford Odets 1937 play about a fighter who aspires to better things, was an auspicious Broadway dramatic debut for Davis, who was already an immensely popular entertainer.
Simple Joys Pippin (OC 1972) Ben Vereen The Role of the Leading Player – a kind of Mephistophelean narrator in this commedia dell’arte take on the life of Charlemagne’s less-than-great son Pippin – was a major break for Vereen, following his success the previous year as Judas in Jesus Christ, Superstar. Many other starring roles followed. It ran for 1,944 performances.

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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 Back to Playlists  |   Previous Show— That's Fantastic! (February 4, 2004)   |   Next Show— You're Getting to be a Hobbit with Me (March 3, 2004) 
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