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Broadway By The Year: 1930

We can finally breathe a sigh of relief: Broadway by the Year has returned to Town Hall, and all is right with the world. Beginning the sixth season of the widely-loved series with The Broadway Musicals of 1930, creator and host Scott Siegel entertained and enlightened the enthusiastic audience with stories and songs from what has become known as a Golden Year in Broadway History.

Directed with sharp and smart wit by Marc Kudisch, the evening introduced the cast with an energetic "I Got Rhythm" from Gershwin's Girl Crazy. Bat Boy 's Deven May leapt right into the first "Unplugged" song of the evening with an unamplified powerhouse rendition of Cole Porter's "Take Me Back to Manhattan/>/>" that would have made James Cagney proud. 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee star Celia Keenan-Bolger and Songs from an Unmade Bed creator Michael Winther sang an endearing "Embraceable You," and Miles Phillips conjured spring with the classic "On The Sunny Side of the Street." Emily Skinner and Douglas Ladnier performed a charming and lovely "Soon" from Strike Up The Band. Mr. May serenaded Celia Keenan-Bolger with the adorably anti-romantic "If I were You, Love, I'd Jump Right in the Lake/>," and Keenan-Bolger up'd the cuteness ante with the giddy "I've Got A Bug In My Head." Fanny Hill herself, the inimitable Nancy Anderson, sang a beautifully unsentimental "But Not For Me" from Girl Crazy, and the men of the evening performed a rousing "Strike Up The Band" from the eponymous show. Ms. Testa brought the first act to a close with a quietly defiant "I Happen to Like New York" from Cole Porter's The New Yorkers.

Director Marc Kudisch began Act Two with a smooth and sweet "Right From The Start Of It" from Three's A Crowd. In a rare move, Mr. Kudisch performed the song with a microphone, allowing him to croon the ballad and remind the audience that a powerhouse voice can also be gentle and elegant. Mr. Ladiner returned to sing the classic "Body and Soul" from Three's A Crowd, and Jennifer Simard's only song of the evening, "Barbary Coast" from Girl Crazy, was a charming delight. Ms. Keenan-Bolger showed off her all-too-rarely heard soprano voice with "He Was Too Good To Me" from Simple Simon.

Nancy Anderson returned to perform a perfectly weary and poignant "Ten Cents a Dance" that makes one wonder why Ms. Anderson did not play the legendary taxi dancer Charity Hope Valentine. Worth much more than ten cents was Sean Martin Hingston and Shannon Lewis' funny and sexy rendition of "Serenade of Love," from Nina Rosa, with elegant choreography courtesy of Andy Blankenbuehler.

Mmes. Anderson, Skinner, and Keenan-Bolger sang a quietly intense (and wonderfully unamplified) "Love for Sale/>/>" that aptly captured the weariness and despair not only of the prostitutes, but of all the people suffering in the Depression. The mood was brought back up with Ms. Skinner's sultry "I've Got a Crush on You," which also featured Ross Patterson's Little Big Band in an excellent all-too-short interlude. The evening was brought to a rousing finish by the full company performing "Get Happy," proving that Judy Garland isn't the only one who can sell that number.

As Mr. Siegel explained, in this first full year of the Depression, Americans were only vaguely aware of the economic trouble that would plague them for another decade. Hope was still reigning on the Great White Way—after all with the music, rhythm, and sweet dreams of some of Broadway's most legendary songwriters, who could ask for anything more?

Photographs courtesy of Maryann Lopinto

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