Now Streaming: Merman, Gershwin, “Chess” and More
Our Broadway Babe, Randie Levine Miller has curated some wonderful entertainment this week. It includes a fabulous NBC special from 1959 that celebrated Ethel Merman’s 30 years in show business. You’ll like Randie’s “Gypsy” sidebars. Plus there’s a Gershwin celebration, stories about West Side Story and a very young Josh Grobin in concert with Norm Lewis and Sutton Foster. Delightful!
Ethel Merman On Broadway
This aired on NBC-TV in 1959, as a TV special on Ford Startime that marked her 30th year in show business… at the same time, she was starring in “Gypsy” on Broadway… Her guest stars weren’t exactly a pack of traditional chorus boys: Tom Poston, Tab Hunter and Fess Parker (none noted for being great singers) … but they all pull it off…. singing several duets with the Merm..All of her hit songs are included in this special…. a very special show for Merman fans…. (I am definitely one of them)… But belting on the small screen isn’t the same as performing in a Broadway show. And her voice towers over everyone..I don’t think the sound man was the best in the biz!! This kinescope, though, is a real find!
Sidebar: My parents took me to the Actors Fund performance of “Gypsy”….other than opening nights, the Sunday nite Actors Fund performances were very star-studded (with marquee names from Broadway and Hollywood in attendance) and very glamorous… Needless to say, I was in total awe.. I was 10 or 11 at the time….
Sidebar, two: Starting with “Gypsy”, I started collecting Playbills… I now have 60 years of Playbills all over my apartment, though most are in file cabinets and boxes…. I’m ready to part with them, but not sure who would want them… At one point, when I weighed whether to keep the Playbills in my one bedroom apartment or separate from my husband…. I decided to keep the Playbills!!!
Who Could Ask For Anything More?
A Celebration of Ira Gershwin…was recorded at London’s Royal Hall.. celebrating the centenary of Ira Gershwin’s birth..A musical star studded performance with talent from both sides of the ocean….The show is hosted by David Soul (remember him from “Starsky & Hutch”?) and British actor Charles Dance..Some of the best voices appeared in this BBC special including: Sarah Brightman, Leslie Caron, Maria Friedman, Lorna Luft (singing “The Man That Got Away”), Derek Jacobi, Maureen McGovern, Debbie Gravitte and Lorna Dallas…. Guest musical conductors were Broadway veterans Don Pippin and my good friend,Larry Blank.
Sidebar: Larry Blank was mentored by legendary musical director Don Pippin…. He’s become one of the most in demand musical directors in show business.. He’s worked with literarily everybody, too many to name… He conducted the musical memorial for Jerry Herman, one of the most memorable afternoons, produced by Michael Feinstein..He’s also one of the best storytellers in the entertainment business… And I’m so lucky that he’s become a regular at Randie’s Roundtable… If we were at Sardi’s, instead of being on zoom, I’d say “if these walls could talk”. And Larry certainly can!
“The Making of West Side Story”(1996)
Produced and directed by Peter Fitzgerald, is a history of both the Broadway and Oscar winning movie version of the show. This is one of the most phenomenal, exciting show business documentary’s I’ve ever seen… There are interviews with the creators and casts, showing them then and now, being 1996 (25 years ago), including Carol Lawrence, Chita Rivera, Tony Mordente (Chita’s now ex-husband), George Chakiris, Harvey Evans, Michael Callan, Rita Moreno, Richard Beymer… To think that this show opened on Broadway Theater in September, 1957. And it’s being revived both on Broadway and as a Steven Spielberg movie! I think Tomatoes will find this documentary fascinating.
Sidebar: When the original show was trying out in Washington, DC, a man in the audience had a heart attack after seeing “The Rumble”, and unfortunately died..
The musical, “Chess”
… by the ABBA team (Benny Anderson-Tim Rice-Bjorn Ulvaeus) was presented in concert as an Actors Fund Benefit in 2003. Starring: a very young Josh Groban, Sutton Foster,Norm Lewis, Raul Esparza, Farrah Alvin, Julia Murney, Stephanie D’Abruzzo with Seth Rudetsky musical directing… A total delight that I think Tomatoes will really enjoy.