Broadway by the Year: 1964, Part II
Five years back, Scott Siegel presented Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1964, featuring songs from such mega-hits as Hello, Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, and Funny Girl. With such a plethora of wonderful shows, it was impossible to give every memorable song from that year its due. At the end of the concert, Siegel said that he would, someday, return to 1964 and share more songs that time limits had forced him to omit. Last Monday, he kept his promise and brought a packed audience at the Town Hall back to that magnificent year, repeating nothing and proving once again what an extraordinary year 1964 was for Broadway. Aptly directed by Dan Foster and backed by Ross Patterson's Little Big Band, the evening was a lovely send-off to the seventh season of the hit series.
The full company opened the show with "To Life" from Fiddler on the Roof, setting the fun and energetic mood for the evening. After Mr. Siegel greeted the crowd and verbally set the scene, Gregg Edelman kept the mood up with a bright and passionate "Everybody Says Don't" from Anyone Can Whistle. 110 in the Shade cast member and new cabaret darling Devin Richards, dressed in a brown corduroy suit and looking devastatingly dapper, sang a warm "This is the Life" from the Sammy Davis, Jr. vehicle Golden Boy, which could certainly use a revival and a star like Mr. Richards.
The Pirate Queen herself, Stephanie J. Block, proved herself a natural for cabaret with "You'd Better Love Me" from High Spirits. If a return to Wicked doesn't seem to be in Ms. Block's cards, she would probably do just as well with a gig at the Algonquin or the Metropolitan Room. Bedecked in red plaid pants, Sean Martin Hingston tapped a self-choreographed routine to "Ev'rything I Want" from I Had a Ball. Liz Calloway followed with a poignant "Night Song" from Golden Boy, and Block and Edelman returned to do the entire "You Are Woman, I Am Man" scene from Funny Girl. (They really would make an excellent Brice and Arnstein in some long-overdue revival. Fran? Barry? Are you listening?)
Tony nominee David Pittu of LoveMusik joined Tony winner Beth Leavel of The Drowsy Chaperone to sing a gentle "Do You Love Me" from Fiddler, nicely balancing the blush-of-first-love-ness from the previous song with a more mature feeling. Scott Coulter sang a rich "My Hometown" from What Makes Sammy Run, and, balancing it, was a heartbreaking "Far from the Home I Love," performed by last-minute replacement Sarah Uriarte Berry. Frequent BBTY performer and director Marc Kudisch must have loaned one of his signature tunes, "My Fortune is My Face" from Fade Out - Fade In, to Gregg Edelman, who sang it with great bravado and appropriate smarminess. Mr. Pittu and Liz Callaway returned to sing a sweet "Now I Have Everything" from Fiddler, and the first act came to a close with a rather bizarre number from Ben Franklin in Paris called-- I couldn't make this up-- "God Bless the Human Elbow," belted nicely by Ms. Berry.
After the entr'acte ("Soon" from the Chita Rivera vehicle Bajour), David Pittu opened with a strong "Yes I Can" from Golden Boy, and was followed by Mr. Coulter and Ms. Berry (and most of the rest of the cast) with "To Be Alone With You." A rare Sondheim dance number-- "Come Play Wiz Me" from Anyone Can Whistle-- was next, sung and danced (and choreographed) by Joyce Chittick and Hingston. (Mr. Hingston's microphone experienced some technical difficulties during the song, but with his strong voice, it didn't much matter.)
Ms. Callaway returned to sing an emotional "See What It Gets You" from Anyone Can Whistle, and Ms. Leavel sang a heartbreakingly poignant title song from "Funny Girl." Keeping the emotional mood going, Mr. Richards sang a wonderfully intense "I Wanna Be With You" from Golden Boy without a microphone. (He should never use one again.)
Lightening the mood, Ms. Block and Ms. Leavel sang a fun and dishy "There's Always a Woman" from Anyone Can Whistle, a song that could be the theme song for Desperate Housewives, and Mr. Edelman and Ms. Callaway returned to sing a lovely "With So Little to be Sure Of" from the same show. Scott Coulter sang a simple and gentle "It Only Takes a Moment" from Hello, Dolly!, and Stephanie Block, in an unfortunate Stepford Wives-esque dress, sang a rousing "Don't Rain on My Parade" that truly made a revival of Funny Girl not just a pleasant dream, but a necessity.
The evening, and season, was brought to a poignant close by a choral rendition of the World War I anthem "Keep The Homefires Burning," a song used in the 1964 revue Oh, What a Lovely War. Simple and effective, the song can still jerk plenty of tears, and sent the audience home thinking instead of humming. Not a bad way to end Lucky Season #7.
Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy - 1) Gregg Edelman and Stephanie J. Block; 2) David Pittu; 3) Joyce Chittick and Sean Martin Hingston