"That’s Him"

This is one of those stories that is repeated in all the books about musical theatre. Mary Martin, who was still a rising figure in the American musical during the early 40s, was cast in her first major lead in One Touch of Venus. The score was by Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash, with a book by S.J. Perelman, involved a barber putting a ring on a statue of Venus, thus bringing her to life and leading to romance. The team hoped to recruit the famed designer Mainbocher to design the costumes for the production. The audition involved Mary Martin turning her chair around, sitting with her arms resting on the back and singing “That’s Him,” directly to the designer. Upon finishing the song, Mainbocher agreed to do it, but under one condition: that Martin never perform that song any other way. The chair stayed in, and the show was a smash hit.

Here is Martin, many years later, recreating this song. Her voice lost quite a bit of its luster as she got older, but she never lost that charm that seduced Mainbocher into designing for her. Enjoy.

Random Thoughts on This & That

One of the things I enjoyed best about “It’s a Business” from Curtains was that we were getting yet another fantastic auteur vamp from John Kander. It’s especially prevalent in the jubilant exit music that was unfortunately not recorded on the original cast album.

The complete cast for the Roundabout revival of A Man For All Seasons was announced today. Over which name do I get the most excitement? Maryann Plunkett!! A Tony-winner for Me and My Girl, she hasn’t been on Broadway in fifteen years and it’s wonderful to see that she’s to make a triumphant return as Alice More. (For those Sondheim-philes out there, she was also a replacement Dot in the original production of Sunday in the Park With George).

There has been much hoopla made over the selection of Bailey to replace Laura Bell Bundy in Legally Blonde. To quote a great literary/cinematic (and occasionally musical theatre) hero: “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.” I will never align with the ideas of casting professional musical theatre productions on any side of the pond based on a reality show. Thankfully the LB show didn’t allow the audience to decide (oh the humanity!), but still, there are too many qualified individuals pounding the pavements looking for a chance that have to audition along with all the rest. The determined ones who are in the closed room with the deadpan (dead?) casting director or assistant, minus the immediate criticism. You know, the old-fashioned way… So let us hope this lunacy is just a trend. (Though sadly it appears to be becoming a West End phenomenon, though you should check out Seth Rudestky’s recaps on playbill – they are brilliant, insightful, honest and HILARIOUS).

As promised, I was at The Dark Knight on July 18 at 12:01. The film is one of the most remarkable achievements of its genre, with much-deserved praise for the performance of Heath Ledger. It’s one of iconic stature, and not just because of his unfortunate and untimely death this past January. The boldness and bravery of an actor making such fantastic choices, and making them work brilliantly is a testament to the talent we, the world, have lost. Like so many other great artists we’ve lost at an early age, from George Gershwin to James Dean to Michael Bennett, we lament the greatness we will never know from Ledger’s woefully premature death.

And no, I will not be seeing Mamma Mia! Truth be told, I’ve not seen Hairspray, Dreamgirls, The Phantom of the Opera, or Rent, so it’s not really a big surprise that I wouldn’t be seeing a big-screen adaptation of a musical. I saw Sweeney Todd, but since that’s one of my all-time favorite shows, I was chomping at the bit to get there. For some reason I don’t take as well to the stage musical adapted for screen like I once did, though I still appreciate them immensely.

With Daniel Day-Lewis now signed for the role of Guido Contini in Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of Nine and rumored for the film remake of My Fair Lady, do you think he’s going to become a full-fledged musical theatre star? The only actor I know who has played both of these uniquely different roles is Jonathan Pryce in a London concert of the former and the 2001 Cameron Mackintosh revival of the latter. I only hope the actress cast as Eliza Doolittle will do her own singing, do it well.

Long-rumored negotiations over the film adaptation of August: Osage County are now officially under way. The show has settled in nicely for what appears to be a decent run, with Amy Morton continuing to tear up the stage as Barbara and Estelle “I can stand on my head” Parsons as Violet. Though we’ve discussed the play here often enough, I can’t get enough of it. The experience I’ve had as an audience member each time has knocked me for an adrenaline-rushed cathartic loop. However, that said, I feel a film adaptation may lessen the impact experienced when seeing the play when its alive with its electric intensity. Ideally, a taped for PBS version with the original cast would have been the best bet, preserving the legend for all-time, but I’m still intrigued at the prospect of the film. And everyone who’s anyone in Hollywood is interested – and rightly so. Thank God Tracy Letts is writing the screenplay.

There’s been a huge release of Jerry Herman music on itunes, amazon (digital) and at arkivmusic.com (CD issue). Most notably, they are reissuing the 1967 cast recording of Hello, Dolly! with Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway, which for my money is the best Dolly recording out there. (Pearlie Mae’s sass on “So Long, Dearie” is worth the price of the disc alone). But also, the Original London Cast Recording of the show with Mary Martin is getting its first-ever digital release. I’ve heard the album from an LP rip I received a couple years back. What’s most amusing is Martin’s yodeling “ole!” on the second pullback in the title song. I practically fell out of my chair laughing. It’s a cute album.

I love my blogging. I love the people I’ve met taking up this little venture of mine and am grateful for their kinship. Too many people have told me I should be a theatre critic as a result. But if anyone recalls my very first post, waaaay back in October of ought-7, I specifically stated that I refuse to be a critic, and I find that I really must stick to that gun. My blog is my hobby and I daresay, I doubt I will ever write an official “review” for anything ever again. In the meanwhile, I’m also finding myself simultaneously pulling back toward the creative individual I was when I was eighteen; dabbling in opera performance, musical theatre, acting, directing, creative writing, etc. Right now I find myself working on a project that came to me over the weekend. I won’t elaborate yet as the sperm has yet to penetrate the wall of the egg. (Wow, how’s that for graphic imagery?) Hopefully what I come up might be something of interest to all you out here in Blogsville, 😉 For the occasion, I’ve purchased my very first laptop, so I can have my writing and blogging accessible to me wherever I may go. This venture here has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve undertaken in a long time and am glad that I can continue to share my thoughts and information with you all. Oh, and of course the youtube/bluegobo videos…

Mary Martin Goes to Hollywood

Mary Martin made a cameo as herself in the 1946 Warner Bros. musical Night and Day, quite possibly the most factually inaccurate biopic ever made. Cary Grant starred as a suave and debonair – and decidedly heterosexual – Cole Porter, with Alexis Smith, 17 years Grant’s junior as Porter’s older wife, Linda. Almost every aspect of his life is made up, exaggerated or just extremely far-fetched. Apparently Porter loved every minute of the fiction they created of his life.

Here Martin recreates her 1938 show-stopping, star-making number “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” from Leave it to Me, which accurately places the number in its original setting: Siberia. What? Oh well… here goes! (Doesn’t Jane Wyman look like the eager little beaver?).

I also unearthed this gem of Martin singing “Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay” from Happy Go Lucky, a starring vehicle for Martin that didn’t jumpstart her film career the way I’m sure the suits would have hoped. This number reminded me of the hilarious floor show number from Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth. (Anyone?)

"Some Enchanted Evening – reprise"

From General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein. The special featured lots of performers from the R&H hits, including Yul Brynner, Jan Clayton, John Raitt, Patricia Morison, Florence Henderson and Gordon MacRae. Hosted by Groucho Marx. This was at the height of their popularity – a sign of just how popular: this special aired on all four networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and the long forgotten DuMont network. And you didn’t have PBS in the ’50s to turn to, so your viewing options were limited. They’ve included excerpts on the recent 2-disc editions of Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I and Carousel. Though it would be fascinating if VAI or Kultur could release the entire evening on DVD. Or perhaps PBS could jump on the wagon and show it.