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FLASH SPECIAL: A Richard Adler Retrospective - THE PAJAMA GAME, DAMN YANKEES & More

On Thursday, three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway composer Richard Adler passed away at the ripe old age of 90. Responsible for two of the biggest Broadway smash hits of the 1950s, THE PAJAMA GAME and DAMN YANKEES, Adler never quite managed to equal his career-high double-hitter of that era, yet his earlier work with Tony Bennett ("Rags To Riches"), Doris Day ("Everybody Loves A Lover") and Marilyn Monroe (the iconic "Happy Birthday, Mr. President") surely shall solely solidify his place in the firmament of entertainment history, along with his two classic musicals from the Golden Age. Winning both Best Score and Best Musical for both THE PAJAMA GAME and DAMN YANKEES, Adler's partnership with lyricist Jerry Ross - which began on Broadway in 1953 with John Murray Anderson'S ALMANAC - was tragically cut short just months after the DAMN YANKEES premiere when Ross was diagnosed with lung disease and passed away soon thereafter. Yet, thanks to the beloved film versions of THE PAJAMA GAME and DAMN YANKEES and continued interest in the entities as expressed in the revivals and reappraisals of both onstage from Broadway to Biloxi to Bombay year after year, the snappy, snazzy tunes of Adler and Ross live on eight times a week all around the world - even now, more than fifty years after they originally premiered. Unfortunately, Adler's subsequent shows with other collaborators post-1955 failed to capture the early magic of his previous projects with Ross and his earlier musical and theatrical endeavors in the pop arena, with the racially charged KWAMINA flopping on Broadway in 1961 (though he took home a Best Composer Tony Award for his efforts anyway) and the awkwardly titled MUSIC IS failing to recreate the magic of its source material, Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT, in 1976. A MOTHER'S KISSES, starring Bea Arthur and a young Bernadette Peters, died on the road to Broadway, as well. In the intervening years, Adler attempted musical adaptations taken from a number of intriguing sources - OF HUMAN BONDAGE and others among them - though only his ballet scores seemed to reach a large audience; particularly his last, commissioned for a new production of Lorca's THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA, in 1998. Of course, THE PAJAMA GAME has had two Broadway revivals - most recently the rapturously received Kathleen Marshall-directed production starring Harry Connick, Jr. and Kelli O'Hara - and DAMN YANKEES famously returned to the Great White Way with much ado in 1994 starring Victor Garber. Indeed, now seems to be a particularly ripe time for remounting YANKEES, as we approach twenty years in its absence - especially given the musical's seriously smashing showing at Encores! a few years back. Who knows, perhaps some risky producer will even take a chance on a new production of KWAMINA, MUSIC IS, A MOTHER'S KISSES or one of the bottom drawer shows someday soon to see if they possess any of the limitless potential shown by Adler's earlier work. Or maybe a stage treatment of his TV musical GIFT OF THE MAGI (originally composed for then-wife Sally Ann Howes) ? Or, better yet, how about a revue? What a stupendous songstack Adler created over the course of his career - "Whatever Lola Wants" to "Hey There" to "Hernando's Hideaway" to "(You've Gotta Have) Heart" to "Steam Heat" to the aforementioned Bennett, Day and Monroe standards and so many more chestnuts. What a life; what a career - top pop hits, two Best Musicals and some classic films, as well.

Miles And Miles Of Heart

Today, in honor of his passing, let's celebrate the finest musical moments from the accomplished and impressive resume of Richard Adler with this YouTube retrospective highlighting the most must-see moments of all - and a few surprises, too.

Starting with the clip sure to be known more than any other, see Richard Adler's brilliant arrangement and direction of the presentation of Marilyn Monroe honoring then-president John F. Kennedy, Jr. with a birthday serenade, fifty years ago last month, on May 19, 1962. As recently as the pilot episode of NBC's musical series SMASH, this pop culture moment of moments has been endlessly evoked and imitated - with good reason. Relive it here.

Though she made movie musical history with her endearing performance in the 1957 film version of THE PAJAMA GAME, Doris Day took another Richard Adler pop confection (where he uncharacteristically wrote lyrics, incidentally) to the hit parade in 1958 with "Everybody Loves A Lover".

See Tony Award winner Victor Garber introduce the 1994 Broadway revival cast of DAMN YANKEES in this toe-tapping "Shoeless Joe" on that year's Tony telecast, which was also hosted by Garber with his characteristic elegance and panache.

Next, here we have Harry Connick, Jr., Kelli O'Hara and the rest of the spunky 2006 Broadway revival cast of THE PAJAMA GAME performing a medley of "There Once Was A Man" and "Hernando's Hideaway" on that year's Tony Awards telecast.

Sample a selection from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical FOSSE with this slinky and sinuously attractive "Steam Heat" - some of the most famous Fosse choreography ever to grace the stage or screen - from the fabulous video rendering of the hit Broadway revue.

Following that, see Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon recreate another of the most fondly remembered musical moments from DAMN YANKEES - the unforgettable "Whatever Lola Wants" - in this riveting 1962 TV discussion and performance showcase.

Now, compare that to Verdon's turn in the film version of DAMN YANKEES from 1958.

Also, check out Gwen Verdon alongside Fosse himself performing "Who's Got The Pain?" in this riotous clip from the feature film.

See Gwen Verdon alongside hoofer Harvey Evans in a spirited rendition of the same number on THE Ed Sullivan SHOW.

Click through to see Lauren and Allisson from Season 7 of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE? performing "Who's Got The Pain?" here.

Now, see Gwen Verdon recreate her inimitable Lola on the 1971 Tony Awards, introduced by original Mr. Applegate (aka the Devil) in DAMN YANKEES, Ray Walston.

With another musical theatre gem that undoubtedly has crossed over to the mainstream since the debut of DAMN YANKEES, here is "(You've Gotta Have) Heart" from the 1958 film adaptation.

While the original feature film is beloved by many, there is also a 1967 TV adaptation of DAMN YANKEES that lives on on YouTube. See a mod and slinky Lee Remick enact the showstopper "A Little Brains, A Little Talent" below.

Jane Krakowski and Cheyenne Jackson certainly made their own unforgettable marks on DAMN YANKEES at Encores!, starring Sean Hayes as Mr. Applegate. For those who were not lucky enough to catch them live, here is a look at the stylish Rob Marshall-directed mounting.

First, "Two Lost Souls".

Second, "Those Were The Good Old Days".

Take a look at the Papermill Playhouse's 2012 production of DAMN YANKEES, starring Howard McGillin, in this clip collection.

KUKLA, FRAN & OLLIE's Fran Allison joins Jerry Lanning for a DAMN YANKEES duet montage from this 1967 TV production that also features cut-up Phil Silvers.

Richard Adler composed the music for a TV film adaptation of the celebrated Christmas story "Gift Of The Magi" by O. Henry in 1958 to show off his wife, actress and singer Sally Ann Howes, but, unfortunately, no footage of the film exists online. If any BroadwayWorld readers are aware of its existence, please send us a line!

Broadway legend Bea Arthur leads a showstopper from A MOTHER'S KISSES, "There Goes My Life", in this moving clip from the 1974 Tony Awards, as warmly introduced by Robert Preston.

Richard Adler's 1984 ballet commission EIGHT BY ADLER is addressed and shown in this intriguing television presentation, starring prima ballerina Suzanne Farrell.

In 2000, Debelah Morgan based her #8 Billboard hit "Dance With Me" on "Hernando's Hideaway" from THE PAJAMA GAME and brought the songwriting team of Adler & Ross mainstream attention almost fifty years after the song originally debuted.

Teaming up two music titans, enjoy Tony Bennett and Elton John jazzing up "Rags To Riches" from Tony Bennett: AN AMERICAN CLASSIC, directed by CHICAGO director Rob Marshall.

The King himself, Elvis Presley, takes on "Rags To Riches" in this 1970 studio session outtake.

Hear Peggy Lee's idiosyncratic salsa take on "Heart" here.

Sarah Vaughan contributes her own impassioned and impressive "Hey There" cover here.

Sammy Davis, Jr. does due diligence with the pop classic here in his own smooth and stylish way.

Harry Connick, Jr.'s "Hey There" will be remembered for many seasons to come for those lucky enough to catch him in the sensational recent revival, but, for those who did not see it, we thanfully have this excellent performance capture clip.

Finally, since no Richard Adler retrospective would be complete without it, here is Rosemary's Clooney's incomparable "Hey There".

As a special bonus: what would Martin Scorsese's acclaimed mafia hit GOODFELLAS be without Tony Bennett's "Rags To Riches"? Forgettaboutit!

The eyes of the skies have one more star in them tonight.

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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)