"The Sound of Music" original cast television appearances

I’m still reeling from attending the 50th anniversary celebration at Lincoln Center, but before I wrap my head around all that I experienced today, I thought I’d continue The Sound of Music festivities with some choice videos of the original cast.

First up are the Tony-nominated von Trapp children (all seven in Best Featured Actress in a Musical…take that, Billy Elliot) appear on an episode of “What’s My Line? during the summer of 1960:

Tony-winner Patricia Neway (not Frances Breeze) and The Sound of Music nuns (including some glorious ladies I met today) perform “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” on Ed Sullivan’s Christmas special on December 20, 1959:

And now for a real rarity, Mary Martin accepts her Best Actress in a Musical Tony for show on April 24, 1960 in the Astor Hotel ballroom. The Tony Awards telecast was a simple banquet affair with no major production numbers and an emphasis on the awards being given out. Eddie Albert was the master of ceremonies and the evening’s sole entertainment was provided by Meyer Davis and his Orchestra:

"The Sound of Music" 50th Anniversary

Due to the overwhelming success of the film adaptation of The Sound of Music, the original stage production often gets lost in the shuffle. The soundtrack is infinitely more popular. Julie Andrews is still a cultural icon and likely to remain so for generations to come. Not to mention the film is still one of the most successful of all time, having broken countless records on its initial release in 1965. And I must confess, the film adaptation is one of the few cinematic adaptations that is an improvement on the original stage source. The show originally opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959 and in celebration of the Golden Anniversary, Masterworks Broadway has reissued the original cast album.

The Sound of Music, which was inspired by the story of Maria von Trapp and her family’s escape from Nazi occupation in Austria, starred three-time Tony winner Mary Martin. Vincent J. Donehue, the musical’s director, had seen the German films based on the Trapp story and thought they would make a good stage vehicle for Martin, as opposed to a proposed Paramount film starring Audrey Hepburn. They brought on Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, who had written the smash hit Life with Father and the libretto for the hit Irving Berlin-Ethel Merman vehicle Call Me Madam, to adapt the story for stage. The original idea was to create a play with music, using actual pieces sung by the family. Things changed when Martin approached Rodgers and Hammerstein, the men behind her greatest stage triumph South Pacific, to write a special song for her. They balked at that idea, insisting that would only write a full scale musical.

When the show opened, it was met with mixed notices. While the score was pleasant, the story and libretto weren’t up to the usual standard of the R&H canon. Their reputation for musical theatre had been to advance the artform, and this was seen by many critics as a step backward. (It was also the only show where Hammerstein didn’t have a direct hand in the libretto, so one can speculate if that might have contributed to the leaden book). For some critics, the presence of seven children, happy singing nuns and bad boy Nazis in a swirl of lederhosen and strudel proved far too treacly and reeked of moldy operetta. However, the critics did little to quell the audience response to the show. It had an advance of $2 million, and would run for 1,443 performances on Broadway and for 2,385 performances in the record-breaking original London engagement. It was to be the final Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, as Oscar Hammerstein died on August 23, 1960 from cancer.

At the 1960 Tonys, Martin famously bested Merman (then appearing in Gypsy) for Best Actress. (The Merm’s equally famous response “Well, you can’t buck a nun.”) Opera singer Patricia Neway won Best Featured Actress, Oliver Smith won for his Scenic Design and Frederick Dvonch won for his Conducting and Musical Direction. In an unprecedented twist, the show tied for the Best Musical Tony with the Pulitzer Prize winning Fiorello! (Gypsy, arguably the best musical ever written, went home empty-handed that night). The original cast album was released by Columbia records, and proved to be a best-seller. I have the original LP release and it’s one of those lavish gatefolds that opens up with pictures and text.

While I have had a long love affair with the film version, when it comes to actually listening to the score I tend to play the original cast album more often. Martin, who at 46 was far too old to play a postulant, was nevertheless a charmer. While her singing won’t erase your memories of Andrews’ crisp soprano, the cast album performance exudes that warmth and star quality that made her popular with audiences for years. Martin herself said that her voice never recovered from years of belting Annie Get Your Gun and her instrument, rather fragile to begin with went into decline over the rest of her career. Others I know have issue with her performance on this album, but for me it’s Jennie where things really started to become noticably problematic. I feel her performance can be summed up in one fraction of a second: her giggle at the end of “Do-Re-Mi.” That giggle sums up the personality that was Mary Martin – charming, warm and playful; the embodiment of the star presence that made her an audience favorite for thirty years.

It’s also interesting to compare the stage score with its film counterpart. “My Favorite Things” is originally sung by Maria and the Reverend Mother (Patricia Neway) in the scene before Maria leaves for the von Trapp home. “The Lonely Goatherd” was sung to quell the children’s fears during the thunderstorm. Max and Elsa (Kurt Kaznar and Marion Marlowe) had two dynamite numbers onstage: the droll “How Can Love Survive?” in the first act and the unusually catchy “No Way to Stop It” to start the second. The supporting cast on the album is superlative.
Neway’s Mother Abbess is my favorite on record, delivering a stirring, dignified rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Actor/folk singer Theodore Bikel offers a tender rendition of “Edelweiss,” the last song written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The only dud in the entire score, and one of the worst songs ever written by R&H, is the lugubrious “An Ordinary Couple” which was replaced with “Something Good” for the movie. The original cast album was also produced by the master, Goddard Lieberson and boasts the orchestrations of Robert Russell Bennett and the choral arrangements of Trude Rittman.

The album was previously remastered and reissued in 1998. The original material remains the same, though the album itself is now packaged in an environmentally friendly cardboard sleeve. However, there are new bonus tracks with this new release. The most substantial is the highly amusing “From Switzerland: The Family Pratt,” which features Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett in their 1962 TV spoof of the musical (Sony should get that whole special out on CD). There is also a cut from the live 2005 Austrian cast album performance of “Edelweiss,” which was the first time the show was ever staged in the country (the Austrians have long harbored an aversion to the von Trapp story). Finally there is unexpected curio: Tommy Korberg, who was The Russian on the concept album and in the original London production of Chess, singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in Swedish.

There are also brand new liner notes by Bert Fink, Senior Vice President for Communications at the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, offering a concise and informative essay on the show’s history as well as some background on the bonus material. The usual production photos are dispersed throughout, but this time there are also some new shots from the actual recording session (Nov. 22, 1959 at Columbia’s 30th Street Studios), including Bikel with the kids during a break, and Martin embracing the kids during a take. There is also a picture of a very soulful Neway recording her aria. For those who already have this album on disc, I only suggest upgrading for the purists among you who want the new tracks and notes. However, if you don’t own this cast album, I can’t recommend it enough. It’ll never supplant the beloved soundtrack for many of you, but it does offer a warm and inviting alternate reading of a long beloved score.

In the spirit of the 50th anniversary, Simon and Schuster has also released a Classic Collectible Pop-Up book of The Sound of Music, adapted by Mr. Fink, with illustrations by Dan Andreasan and paper engineering by Bruce Foster. Adapted from the Lindsay and Crouse libretto, Fink has streamlined the script into an engaging storybook text, with many of the score’s most well known lyrics incorporated into the book. I am rather impressed with how each page creates such an intricate three dimensional image based on the show, and further smaller surprises in the smaller flip-out sections of the book. I never thought I’d ever find myself reading a children’s pop-up book, but I’m most amused that I have. It’s not suitable for children under three years, so I’m going to have to wait a couple years before I can let the Baby Jack get his hands on it.

Note: Today is the show’s 50th anniversary, and there is going to be a celebration at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble at 66th and Broadway this afternoon with guest appearances by original cast members Theodore Bikel, Lauri Peters and Brian Davies. Mary Rodgers, Anna Crouse (daughter of Russel) and Maria von Trapp’s grandson Sam von Trapp will be special guests at the event. Also present will be R&H, Inc. president Ted Chapin and Lawrence Maslon, author of The Sound of Music Companion. Broadway starlet Kate Baldwin will be on hand to sing the famed title song, and Mr. Bikel will reprise “Edelweiss.” The event starts at 5PM, and will be followed by a CD and book signing.

Mary Martin as Nellie Forbush

Ever wonder how the original South Pacific looked? Well here’s your chance to have a look at the original staging and design. These are some excerpts of the original London production starring Mary Martin and Wilbur Evans. The musical opened in late 1951, running for two years at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane. The video quality isn’t spectacular, it looks like an old kinescope, but I believe it was shot on 16mm film. However, it offers a truly rare glimpse into musical theatre history. Enjoy. (Note: Mitzi Gaynor completely stole Mary Martin’s “Wonderful Guy” dance!)

Opening scene – “Dites Moi,” “A Cockeyed Optimist” & “Twin Soliloquies”

“I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”

“Some Enchanted Evening – reprise” & “A Wonderful Guy”

Random Thoughts on This and That

I’ve been looking over the upcoming season and I gotta say I’m most excited this fall for Hamlet with Jude Law as it’s my favorite Shakespeare tragedy (and I’ve never seen it live), Oleanna because I enjoy Bill Pullman, A Little Night Music because of its rumored cast and the Kennedy Center import of Ragtime. Did I fail to mention Superior Donuts? After August: Osage County, I’ll see anything Tracy Letts writes. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that I’m forgetting about… Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to?

I’m watching the the 1955 film version of Oklahoma! as I type. For those who don’t know, the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein smash was shot twice, once in CinemaScope (an anamorphic lensed widescreen system using an aspect ratio of 2.55:1) and in the brand new Todd-AO, a large format 70mm system developed by Mike Todd. Todd-AO used a wide-angled lens, and a deeply curved screen which was meant to rival the expensive and impractical three camera Cinerama. Todd-AO didn’t require anamorphic image compression and displayed a spherical aspect ratio of 2.20:1.

Each scene was shot twice in each process which means there are two versions of the film available. The most notable difference between the two are the opening credits, but there are also differences in line readings and camera angles. When it originally opened in 1955, the Todd-AO format played the major roadshow engagements in NY and other major markets. The traditional CinemaScope version played other theatres throughout the country. The CinemaScope version made the initial video releases, but was supplanted by the restoration of the Todd-AO print, which was marked with superior sound and image quality. In 2005, 20th Century Fox released a 2-disc special edition containing both versions, though for some reason the Todd-AO transfer doesn’t improve on the 1999 release, except in making it 16:9 friendly. There’s a comprehensive website called the American Widescreen Museum which goes into explicit detail on the history and technological details of these different processes that are for the most part no longer used in filmmaking.

This video of Gloria Grahame singing “I Cain’t Say No” gives you an idea of the different versions:

The following year, Carousel was shot twice in CinemaScope and a process called CinemaScope 55 in an attempt to combat Paramount’s VistaVision process. The new CinemaScope process was an experimentation with 55 mm film that was heralded in both Carousel and The King and I. The idea of shooting Carousel twice is what led Frank Sinatra to quit the project, since he didn’t like the idea of shooting two films for the price of one. Ironically enough, they abandoned the 35mm shoot during filming. CinemaScope 55 was actually never really used: both R&H films were shot in 55mm stock and had their prints reduced onto regular 35mm, since it was more feasible than requiring movie houses to accommodate the unusual film size. From what I understand, the 55mm prints were never even used.

I’m still unable to get The Norman Conquests out of my head. So I decided to watch Table Manners from the 1977 BBC adaptation. It’s an entirely different animal from the recent revival, but it is still quite extraordinary. The television version stars Tony-Award winner Tom Conti as Norman. After Stephen Mangan it is seriously difficult to imagine any other actor in the part and unfortunately Mr. Conti’s performance suffers (The problem here is he’s not nearly as likable in the breakfast scene, in fact he’s downright irritating). David Trougham is a bit too stiff for Tom. However, Richard Briers makes for a game Reg, while Fiona Walker scores as Ruth. Penelope Keith won the bulk of the praise and a BAFTA award for her turn as Sarah (deservedly so – she was the only original London cast member to reprise her role onscreen). It was particular fun discovering that Jessica Hynes’ fellow Shaun of the Dead actor Penelope Wilton played the same role here in the TV adaptation (and quite well). Will be getting around to Living Together and Round and Round the Garden before long.

Sadly, this is out of print on DVD in the UK and has only been released on VHS in the US. BBC America, get on it! However you can get a sampling of it on youtube. Here are the first ten minutes of Table Manners:

There are two weeks left for you to catch Mary Stuart. If you haven’t had the opportunity, run don’t walk to the Broadhurst. Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter are giving titanic performances as Mary and Elizabeth I, respectively. It’s worth the price of admission for the first scene of the second act alone, which depicts the fictional meeting between the two monarchs. The two leading ladies are breathtaking and deserve to be seen, again and again and again. Plus, there’s a fantastic discount code for the rest of the run. This one is not to be missed.

I’m off to Long Island for the weekend. A friend is getting married in Centereach (sadly no East Hampton this trip) and the honor of my presence has been requested, so I will resume my blog perch on Sunday evening. I’ll be thinking of my friends spending some quality time with those titans at the Broadhurst tomorrow while enjoying marital libations.

Vintage Photo: "South Pacific" closing night

This snapshot was taken at the closing night party for the original production of South Pacific on January 17, 1954. Rodgers and Hammerstein are about to help three Knucklehead Nellie’s wash the men right outta their hair, with (from left-to-right) Tony-winning original Mary Martin, Janet Blair and Martha Wright. Gotta love these vintage posed-publicity shots.

One of My Favorite Things

Waxing nostalgic with Roxie, I was recalling the film adaptation of The Sound of Music and its special place in my memory. The 1965 blockbuster was the third film of which I have a clear memory of enjoying (the first is Mary Poppins – go figure, the second is Lady and the Tramp, which my brother gave me for Christmas when I was three or four).

The Sound of Music was my father’s favorite film. He’d never admit it, of course. But when I was a child growing up, every year when it had its annual airing on Easter he would be watching it. For the first couple of years, I wasn’t allowed to stay up – each time I got to see a few minutes more and as a commercial came up my mother would declare my bedtime much to my dismay. I was eight when I found out that the Captain and Maria were married. The annual presentation was something of a big television event, even though the film was shown in a heavily edited version (cutting a half hour to fit the three hour timeslot). Then they restored the film to its original length in 1995 for a four hour showing. I now own a VHS and 2 DVD editions of the film, as well as the original sountrack album, 30th, 35th and 40th anniversary CD editions, so needless to say I don’t watch it on TV anymore.

Though it took four years for me to see the entire film, I was nonetheless captivated by it – and continue to be to this day. It’s a superlative adaptation of the stage show, with screenwriter Ernest Lehman making monumental improvements on the libretto (though interestingly enough, the stage show is much more political than the film). The film floored everyone with its overwhelming international success. It was the first film to topple Gone with the Wind from the top spot as the highest grossing film of all time, took home five Oscars including Best Picture and became something of a phenomenon, running in movie theatres for several years in its initial release. (Of course there was the obligatory Sound of Mucus backlash).

Back in 1996, my parents and I made a trip to Europe to visit my brother who was then going to school in Helsinki, Finland. He had to leave us to go to Oxford, so my father arranged a trip down through the continent of Europe with Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland and Belgium as major stops on the way. The one thing I really wanted to do the entire trip (and for my coincidentally concurrent 13th birthday) was go to Salzburg so I could see the town where the story took place, and where they shot most of the principal photography. (Note to trivia fans: the famed opening shot was done a couple of miles away from Salzburg across the German border).

My parents and I traveled all over the town over the span of about three days taking in whatever sights we could. We stopped off first at the Nonnberg Abbey on the hillside where I was awestruck to be standing there where both the real Maria von Trapp and Julie Andrews had once stood. We traveled up to the Hohensalzburg, the ancient fortress on the top of the hill in the middle of town. There were the Mirabell Gardens, where they shot a great deal of “Do-Re-Mi” (there is a picture of me on the high Bb step from the end of the song). We even traveled to Leopoldskron, one of the three houses used for the von Trapp villa in the movie. One was used for the front facade, another for its rear facade and this one for the exterior shots of its backyard complete with lake and gazebo. One thing we stopped at and for which I am most grateful is the real von Trapp villa. The villa, which became the headquarters for Himmler during WWII was a monastery at the time, so we didn’t go inside. However, I did manage to get a picture in the pouring rain.

It was at this point I decided to really look into the history of the von Trapp family to see how the history differed from the musical play. I won’t deny I was a bit upset to find that the more romantic aspects of their exile were exaggerated for the sake of creative license. First of all, Maria first arrived at the von Trapp home in 1926, not 1938. I was okay with that. However there were other things that were more startling. The von Trapps lived near railroad tracks and boarded them, dressed for a hike, and hopped the line to Italy. There was no hiding from the Nazis in a cemetery. It was even more amazing to see the A&E biography on Maria von Trapp to see that it was the Captain who was the warm and affectionate parent, while Maria was prone to tantrums and had a ferocious temper. In fact, the characterization of the Captain was one of few things thing which the Baroness von Trapp didn’t like about the stage show. The biggest gaffe is this: if the von Trapps had actually climbed that mountain, they would have crossed right into Germany, only miles away from Hitler’s retreat in Berchtesgaden (another stop we took on this trip). So much for finding a dream there… But regardless, it doesn’t curb my enjoyment of The Sound of Music at all. (Hey, I still love The King and I and let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that story was entirely fabricated by the real Anna Leonowens).

Walking among my yesterdays, recalling the unprecedented beauty of this Austrian city, I went through pictures from my trip (which I will not repost here, someone who shall remain nameless looks like the fatted calf) and decided to search around google to see what I could find. Here is an interesting article on the legacy of the film and its impact on tourism in Salzburg, a city where, as the author of the article puts it, love for The Sound of Music dare not speak its name. The musical film has never been a major success in Salzburg, with many preferring that people recall it as the city of Mozart and its famed music festival (which I might add, the von Trapps won regularly). In fact, this article relates that the people preferred the 1956 film Die Familie Trapp, a German film that used authentic Austrian folk songs (which was the original intent when adapting it for the stage, until Rodgers and Hammerstein decided they would have to contribute an entire musical score, not just a few new folk songs for Mary Martin).

If you ever get the chance, whether or not you’re a fan of the film, go to Salzburg. It’s a beautiful European set amidst the breathtaking splendor of the Alps. (The Untersberg, the highest mountain in the vicinity is captivating to look at). There is a great deal of history, especially for music lovers and much to enjoy while staying. The article talks about how the original von Trapp villa was being transformed into a hotel but has had its license revoked as local residents filed complaints – apparently they aren’t thrilled at the prospect of busloads of Sound of Music lovers descending on that house (much as it has happened at the von Trapp ski lodge in Stowe, Vermont). The hotel owners had restored the hotel and fixed it up with Sound of Music related memorabilia and information – oh, and get this: the bathrobes are made out of curtains. The website looks as if they might be up and running and for all intent purposes, I hope they are. Panorama Tours offers an engaging tour, but you could always do it yourself, like my parents and I did (it was sure a lot of fun).

Now I want to go back. Who wants to go with me?

Lisa Kirk – "The Gentleman is a Dope"

The complete studio cast recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1947 musical Allegro came out this week. While I’m waiting for the chance to hear it, I figured I’d tide myself over with Lisa Kirk lending that rich alto to the score’s most famous song, “The Gentleman is a Dope.”

Allegro, the team’s first wholly original musical, was highly experimental in its form and structure as it told an allegorical tale of an everyman who finds success, corruption and ultimately disillusionment in the “Big City.” It was met with mixed reaction by the critics and audiences, running a respectable if disappointing 315 performances. The show’s original cast album runs a mere 33 minutes, presenting highlights of what is a very unique score. Allegro was revived for a radio broadcast on NBC radio in 1951 starring John Lund and Jane Powell. It was also the second production of the very first season at Encores! back in 1994 (when it was still more of a concert than a concert staging).

The new album from Sony Classics features every note of the vocal score on two discs with the voices of Patrick Wilson, Audra McDonald, Liz Callaway (in the Lisa Kirk role), Laura Benanti, Judy Blazer, Ashley Brown, opera star Nathan Gunn, Maureen Brennan, Norbert Leo Butz, Marni Nixon (who I’m excited to be seeing this weekend in the Encores! production of Music in the Air) and the master himself, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Long overdue, we now have an officially complete recording of one of the most intriguing scores of the 1940s. Now all we have to do is wait for a complete cast recording of Weill & Lerner’s Love Life.

As for Kirk, she went onto originate Lois Lane in Kiss Me Kate and would later replace Janis Paige in Here’s Love and offered great support in the original Broadway production of that cult favorite Mack and Mabel. Her final appearance on Broadway was in the 1984 revival of Noel Coward’s Design for Living as Grace Torrence. Her most noted work in film was as the vocal double for Rosalind Russell in the 1962 film version of Gypsy. Russell stated in her autobiography that she sang every note heard in the film, which is quite far from the truth. The recent soundtrack album release included the original tracks that Russell laid down in the studio before they decided to bring in Kirk, who sang the score in the lowest keys I’ve ever heard it sung. Rumor has it that after Ethel Merman died, recordings of Russell’s performances of the Gypsy numbers were found in her apartment. One can only imagine…

"Where I went one day…"

I’m not sure what it was about the revival of South Pacific that got my father interested in the notion of going to see it. I think part of it stemmed from my overwhelming and enthusiastic response to the show after I saw it on opening night last April. That was the first time that I noticed he was genuinely listening to what I had to say about the show I’d seen. My parents just know I go and see shows and that it’s my thing. My mother enjoys a good show, but is rather wary of venturing down to NYC. The incongruity here lies in her completely unfazed attitude at flying around the country on exotic vacations at the drop of a hat. (There was less drama about her flying out to the Philippines for the birth of her grandson than driving down to Manhattan last Tuesday evening). Neither had ever seen a Broadway show. Until now.

My father’s favorite movie is The Sound of Music. One of his other favorites is the 1958 adaptation of South Pacific. So much so that he and I on our various travels have visited both Salzburg and Kauai, HI, taking in the filming locations. So whenever a place with which he is familiar is mentioned, he always interjects subtly under his breath “Where I went one day.” (Case in point: he once listened to the Ricky Nelson classic “Travelin’ Man” realizing he’d been to every single place listed in the song). My brothers will attest, if we had a $1 for every time he said “Where I went one day, ” we’d be considerably well off… Anyway I digress…

Back in August, the subject was brought up again after my father came home from a golf trip and mentioned that his friend had talked about wanting to see it, but not being able to get tickets until March. Then it became something he wanted to do, so I set to work getting tickets. Anyone who has tried to purchase tickets for this revival knows that it is one of the hottest tickets in town (huzzah for LCT!) and you have to really scope out the tickets. For my parents, where we sat wasn’t an issue, as long as we got there.

For years as a child, I had always asked for tickets to see shows in NY and everytime I was given a gentle dismissal, as if to say “I know, but that’s not going to happen.” So I gave up on my family as theatre-going companions. They understood that this was something I enjoyed doing, but aside from obligatory viewings of myself in educational theatre expositions in high school and college, they were mostly homebodies. So my excitement levels were already amped up for this, since they would be on my turf, following my lead and this was really also a testing area to see if this is something they will do on a continual basis.

This was all planned out in August. Then October came around and my family was knocked for a considerable loop. My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had an idea of this back before South Pacific was even a discussion, but wasn’t 100% certain until his actual diagnosis. Barring my father’s need for privacy, he didn’t tell anyone that he was having a biopsy. But when it became clear that surgery was the option, he had to let us know. My first suspicions came when I heard two red flag alerts: “I don’t want radiation or seed implantation” and “I have tickets for South Pacific on the 4th, this won’t interfere with that, will it?”

Thankfully everything is fine. His diagnosis was made in stage I, meaning he was cancer free as of his surgery; however, I was a little concerned as his surgery was twelve days before the show! If anyone reading has ever met my father, they know he’s a hard-working, quiet, engaging person. He was in the Marines and worked as a paid firefighter for 36 years in Scarsdale, NY. He is also incredibly stubborn. He had surgery on a Thursday and was home from the hospital on Sunday. Monday was a comic sight as my mother was yelling at him to take it easy as he insisted on working around the house. However, given the minimally invasive nature of the procedure these days, recovery time is much less than it was even five years ago. (Everything is done with robotics; with pinpoint accuracy not even afforded the naked eye and hands).

Anyway, Tuesday rolled around and there were no worries. As I said in my post from that day, we did our civic duty and voted. Around 3:30 in the afternoon we got in the car and drove down to the city. My parents had never been to the Lincoln Center area, but we got there easy enough. In an amusing case of “small world,” a gentleman approached the ticket booth in the garage and nodded a hello to us. After a moment, he turned to my mother (who at 4’9″ and a rather jovial high decibel Scottish brogue is a rather memorable character) and told her “I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before.” Lost she shrugged and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. As soon as she spoke, it clicked in for him. “If I’m not mistaken, you live around Peekskill, correct?” Well, we were clearly making a connection here. Turns out he was Jehovah’s Witness that had come to prostelyze his at our door several months prior. My mother, a devout Catholic, adamantly tells them immediately that she has no interest in converting but will never be rude enough to not answer the door and will usually engage the ladies and gentlemen in a brief conversation. Turns out my mother kept him around for the Cliff Notes version of the family history as he turned to me and asked “Is this the archaeologist?” (My brother). The amount of information he recalled from the conversation was either incredibly remarkable or incredibly creepy, possibly a little bit of both. My mother, with a cosi fan tutti shrug, just turned to us and said “I just can’t get away wherever I go.”

We emerged at Lincoln Center through the Met. They are undergoing some intense renovations at the moment, so it’s a little easy to get lost. We exited into the main plaza where they took in the beauty of that area (and were impressed with the set-up regardless of the all the paneling and detours). Dinner was at O’Neals, where I looked on with a smile as they couldn’t get over the grand treatment that was given them at the restaurant (they really treat the customers spectacularly there). We ate early as to avoid the rush and to give us ample time to relax and digest leading to the performance. Originally we were going to walk around a few of the blocks as they wanted to scope out the surrounding area, but poor weather prevailed. We instead headed over to the Vivian Beaumont and waited for the house to open.

A lot of this time I entertained questions from them about this particular house and about Broadway etiquette in general. They were fascinated by the presence of a bar and the concession stand, with both charming the hell out of the girl behind the counter. (My mother could make friends with the enemy during battle, she’s got that gift; my father can be one hell of an innocent charmer when he wants to be).

The show was resplendent; even more nuanced and affecting than the first time I saw it. Kelli O’Hara is giving one of the most dynamic, three dimensional performances in NY; she’s just continued to grow since opening night. It is easily one of the most naturalistic performances I have ever seen in a musical. William Michals was on for Paulo Szot, which led me to quip “Paulo who?” Michals, a little older and perhaps not as physically imposing as Szot, acts the role with sincerity and can sing the hell out of the score. Not only sing it, but act it as well. His was one of the most impressive understudy performances I’ve ever witnessed. Matt Morrison is back after a month hiatus and is sounding more legit than ever. Danny Burstein is still giving Luther Billis the Bert Lahr treatment. And Loretta Ables-Sayre is still as impressive as ever.

I have to admit I was a little on edge during the performance, not so much because of my enjoyment of it, which was incredible, but moreso because I was curious/nervous as to how my parents were reacting. I realized that I hadn’t been in an audience with my parents since my dad took us to a George Jones concert in the now-defunct Opryland for his birthday back in 1994, so I had basically nothing to go on in gauging their reactions. It’s very interesting though, that their body language could help pinpoint it for me. My father has the best poker face you’d ever see. When I saw him crack a smile during the first Billis-Bloody Mary exchange, I knew he was enjoying it. My mother, on the other hand, is very exuberant in her reactions; she practically fell out of her chair cheering on Loretta Ables-Sayre at the curtain call and couldn’t stop talking about how much she enjoyed her performance on the ride home.

It was amusing to be the one conducting their evening. They purchased the souvenir program and a magnet to bring home. He briefly considered a t-shirt until he heard the prices. (Frankly, I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t plop down the money for a glorified Hanes myself). While my mother talked on about what she enjoyed (which was basically the entire show; I heard nary a complaint the entire time), my father drove on with a very calm, peaceful and satisfied look on his face. Another tell-tale sign he was enjoying himself, he was cracking quiet jokes to me before, during and after the show. (It was not nearly as bad as it may sound, in fact both were ideal audience members – my mother even unwrapped all her lozenges beforehand after reading the notice in the playbill – but for what it’s worth, be wary if you sit next to him at Mass, it’ll be a struggle to maintain your composure).

Given their immense enjoyment of South Pacific, can I get them to see anything else? I’m not sure. My father is generally content to be a homebody – and venturing into NYC for an evening at the theatre isn’t something I can expect him to do on a regular basis. Perhaps if Julie Andrews might appear in something (ohhh, does he love her…) or if The Sound of Music were to come back in another revival, maybe he’d consider it. My mother would probably be up to more trips to the city to see things, as she has seen many of the classic musicals in their film adaptations. (I’m going to work on a friend of hers to go see Gypsy. She’s enjoyed the movie, but hasn’t experienced the real thing).

It’s interesting to open up your world to people for the first time. To see people enter a Broadway house for the first time, take in their surroundings and audience neighbors (The twosome hit it up nicely: Mom with the woman from Ohio on her left; Dad with the woman to his right), I have to say (and this seems a little weird, but oh well) I was incredibly proud to have witnessed this milestone. To have them see how transportative the Broadway experience can be, especially with one of the first-class productions in NYC, well who could ask for anything more?

And now when someone mentions Broadway to my father, he can now say “Where I went one day…”

Anyone got a cool $250 million lying around?

From Liz Smith in the NY Post:

‘I’M AS corny as Kansas in August!” sings Nellie Forbush.

THE FAMED Rodgers & Hammerstein Music Publishing business, run by Ted Chapin, has put itself on the market for a mere $250 million. This seems like as good a time as any, what with R&H a hit again at Lincoln Center in the brilliant revival of just one of their famous musicals, “South Pacific.”

But Chapin isn’t selling his other gold mine – the music of Irving Berlin.