FLASH FRIDAY: Music, Merriment & Some Fabulous Fireworks - An Independence Day Bonanza!
Today we are tipping our very best top hat to Uncle Sam and celebrating the greatest theatre-themed July 4 moments in honor of Independence Day!
Blame It On The Summer Night
1776. THE MUSIC MAN. RAGS. TAKE ME ALONG. TITANIC. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY. NASHVILLE. RAGTIME. HAIR. WEST SIDE STORY. MISS SAIGON. ASSASSINS. GEORGE M! Heck, even the ANNIE movie (the first one)! The impressive list of notable musical entries in the stage musical and movie musical canons occurring on or directly relating to one of America's most sacred and special holidays, Independence Day, are all more than merely accomplished and in many cases outright classics. Surely no 4th of July celebration is complete without a revisiting of the cherished 1972 feature film adaptation of 1969 Tony Award-winning Best Musical 1776, set to be shown once again this year on TCM as always, nor any Independence Day party worth its weight in hot dogs and hamburgers not stuffed with a George M. Cohan tune or two. After all, what's a real patriotic party without a little "Yankee Doodle Dandy"? To that point, what Broadway collection is complete without WEST SIDE STORY's "America" and MISS SAIGON's "The American Dream", anyway?!
Then, there are the internationally adored musicals that so expertly evoke Americana and a seemingly more quaint and kind time gone by, which can be generously gleaned in notable stage musicals such as RAGS, RAGTIME and THE MUSIC MAN. Of course, the latter features a recurring plotline about the 4th Of July fireworks while the first two showcase the diverse experiences of immigrants as they made their way to the new world, detailing their subsequent various travails here. RAGS even boasts an entire patriotic paean to today's date, as a matter of fact ("On The Fourth Day of July"). Without a doubt, musical theatre is littered with references to Uncle Sam and tried and true red, white and blue American tropes, yet these shows in particular seem to evoke the spirit of today more than the rest, for sure.
As the most diehard of Broadway babies among us also know, there is even a scantly discussed and infrequently revived musical all about and taking place on the 4th itself in the form of TAKE ME ALONG, which was based on hallowed American playwright Eugene O'Neill's classic play AH, WILDERNESS. Then, there is "Lady's Maid" in the Tony Award-winning TITANIC - a song ostensibly all about the American dream, with the recurring chorus of "America, the streets / Are paved with gold". Plus, GEORGE M! is an all-out jukebox musical exploration of the renowned catalogue of multiple famed American anthems author George M. Cohan.
On the totally opposite end of the spectrum from the likes of 1776 and THE MUSIC MAN, there are the famous band of Misfits and society rejects making up the company of ASSASSINS, along with the anti-war urgings and psychedelic hippie love intrinsic to tribal love rock musical mainstay HAIR, as it exists both onstage and onscreen. In intriguing side note, it is informative to recognize that 1776 and HAIR actually shared a season on the Great White Way back in 1969. Those were some truly turbulent times in American history, to say the very least!
In addition to these stage musical takes on a patriotic theme, no collection of clips pertaining to America's birthday would be complete without a nod to two remarkable movie musicals inextricably linked to today - Nashville and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY. While YANKEE DOODLE DANDY is centered around one composer and his pursuit of the American dream, incomparably played by James Cagney, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his efforts, Robert Altman's dizzying phantasmagoria Nashville features 24 - yes, 24 - protagonists in its depiction of a few days in the lives of those involved in the music industry in the hometown of country music. Lest we forget, John Huston's stage-to-screen adaptation of ANNIE also featured a July 4-set singing of "Tomorrow", too.
Whether stage or screen, these many anthemic musical treasures prove that the stars and stripes will not only be seen, but heard, for many more birthdays to come and a large part of that is thanks to Broadway.
The Big Parade
So, now, kick back and relax while we revisit some of the most memorable musical moments relating to Independence Day.
Starting as we must, here is the National Anthem as performed by Broadway superstar Idina Menzel.
Next, check out the trailer for the 1972 film version of 1776.
See original cast member William Daniels on the 1971 Tony Awards with a 1776 classic.
Now, take in the trailer for the film version of THE MUSIC MAN.
View this far our vintage TV commercial featuring a TAKE ME ALONG tune, directed by THE DEER HUNTER's Michael Cimino.
RAGTIME provides an unforgettable societal cross-section of America at the turn of the century.
RAGS covers similar territory in a totally different manner as can be seen in this Tony Awards clip.
Also, don't miss this sensational RAGS stunner, "Blame It On The Summer Night".
ASSASSINS is a dark and controversial exploration of the underbelly of America, complete with "Another National Anthem".
To lighten the mood, take a peek at the original cast of TITANIC performing "Lady's Maid".
Joel Grey stops the show with GEORGE M! on the 1974 Tony Awards.
After that, see George M. Cohan's life as depicted in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY.
Certainly, no July 4 is complete without Robert Altman's complex and endlessly entertaining NASHVILLE.
HAIR highlights a whole other kind of America, one rife with discord but still filled with love - free, in this case.
"America" from WEST SIDE STORY may be the most famous and recognizable patriotic tune not originally written as such.
The finale to John Huston's ANNIE film occurs on July 4th and features the cast singing the iconic "Tomorrow".
Lastly, Judy Garland sets the entire country's hearts and souls afire with "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic".
For a bonus musical moment, revisit this Glee highlight from earlier this year via Neil Diamond's "America".
As one more special bonus, a friendly and rockin' reminder of why HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH deserves a spot on this list, too.
So, what patriotic musical is your absolute favorite of them all? Furthermore, what stage or screen experience most expertly evokes your own ideal American dream? With a collection of clips as genre-spanning as these, there is sure to be something here for everybody - just like the good old USA herself.
Photo Credits: Joan Marcus, etc.