Saturday, March 31, 2012

Broadway Torch

Dorothy Loudon Leslie-Uggams5
Audra McDonald Diahann Carroll
Clockwise: Dorothy Loudon; Leslie Uggams; Diahann Carroll; and Audra McDonald.

Some of the greatest love songs have been written for the Broadway stage, and sung by what are some of the most talented ladies available. This has been true for much of the 20th century, and in the 21st as well. Sometimes the most vivid songs came out of the shows with greatest reputation, while others were first heard in shows that might be forgotten, save for a single song that touched all. Take, for example, when the amazing Dorothy Loudon starred in the 1979 musical Ballroom. The show had a book by Jerome Kass and music by Billy Goldenberg, with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It was based on a 1977 television movie. In it, a middle-aged widow finds new love when she goes to a local dance hall. However, she finds out her new love is not hers alone. He is married. That is why she sings Fifty Percent.

Loudon was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance, only to lose to Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd. If you enjoyed this song, you can find the Original Broadway Cast album for Ballroom on iTunes and Amazon.

The next show opened on Broadway in December 1954, and had a pretty incredible pedigree. House of Flowers had music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and book and lyrics by Truman Capote. This was the only music Capote had written. It was based on Capote's short story, first published in Breakfast at Tiffany's, one of three companion pieces along side the famous story and movie. The production featured a young and beautiful Diahann Carrol, as well as Pearl Bailey, Juanita Hall, Ray Walston, and Geoffrey Holder. The following clip shows Carroll singing A Sleepin' Bee from the score.

This was the first theatrical production outside of Trinidad and Tobago to feature the new Caribbean instrument - the steel pan. If you enjoyed this song, you can find House of Flowers on Amazon, and featured on The Lady, The Music, The Legend album on iTunes.

This next treat came from an anti-war show with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Indeed, Hurray For What! had the same men who wrote the score to The Wizard of Oz, and the immortal Over The Rainbow. The song was written in 1937 for Broadway star Kay Thompson. She was replaced before opening by Vivian Vance, who later went on to gain fame as Lucy Ricardo's friend Ethel. The song went on to become a Pop and Jazz standard, and be performed by some of the greats, including Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Bobby Darin. But here we are graced with the gorgeous voice of the beautiful Audra McDonald to sing Down With Love.

Try as I might, I could not find a cast album for Hooray For What! But you can find the song on The Second Barbra Streisand Album on iTunes and Amazon.

The next story began life as a 1955 novel, Auntie Mame. By 1956, it was a Broadway play starring the incredible Rosalind Russell as the free-spirited aunt. Russell earned the Academy Award for her performance in the 1958 movie. It seems almost surprising it took another eight years for the first musical version to appear on Broadway, with a book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee and music and lyrics by the legendary Jerry Herman. This time, Angela Lansbury starred as Mame, and Bea Arthur as her drunken friend, Vera. The show had a great score, including a stunning song Mame sang to her nephew, Patrick. Enjoy while Leslie Uggams sings If He Walked Into My Life from the musical Mame.

If you enjoyed this song, you can find the Original Broadway Cast album of Mame, featuring Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur, on iTunes and Amazon.

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