Following the success of her Tony-winning turn in Annie and her Tony-nominated performance in Ballroom, Dorothy Loudon struck while the iron was hot and signed on for her own sitcom vehicle. The self-titled series was about Dorothy Banks, a former Broadway star, who makes a career transition into teaching drama and music at a school for girls in Connecticut and allowing Loudon ample opportunity to sing. The sitcom pitted Loudon’s brash, vivacious persona against her stuffier colleagues, but instantly won over her students. Loudon’s co-stars were Priscilla Morrill and Kip Gilman. Two time Tony-winner Russell Nype (Call Me Madam, Goldilocks) played the antagonizing and somewhat milquetoast headmaster.
The actors were talented, but the writers showed a lack of originality. Humor was weak, situations mundane and Loudon’s singing opportunities arose from seemingly nowhere (though pleasant they be). The series was met with indifference by critics and audiences alike. It ran from August 8 to August 22, 1979 on CBS for a grand total of four episodes. (NBC had better luck with their 1979 girls school sitcom: The Facts of Life, which would last nine years).
Loudon returned to Broadway where she received more personal raves in Sweeney Todd, The West Side Waltz and Noises Off! over the next few seasons. Her only other primetime TV appearances were on the popular Murder She Wrote/Magnum P.I. crossover episodes in 1986.
This is an excerpt in which Dorothy sings “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” in that riotous, full-out manner that endeared her to audiences for thirty years.
This final clip finds Dorothy substituting for the science teacher – only to realize she’s charged with dissecting an earthworm. Hilarity ensues:
Gwen Verdon appeared in seven Broadway musicals in her illustrious career, winning four Tony Awards in the process (in four consecutive Broadway outings, no less). Her stardom came with a supporting role in Can-Can, choreographed by Michael Kidd. Her specialty dances stopped the show cold, so cold that on opening night she had already changed out of her costume when she was taken onstage for a bow in her robe. However, for the rest of her musical career, Verdon worked explicitly with Bob Fosse, whom she would also marry. The combination of auteur and star worked – Damn Yankees,New Girl in Town (a musical adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie), Redhead, Sweet Charity and Chicago were all hits. Even after they separated, they remained incredibly close and continued to collaborate. For the 20th anniversary revival of Sweet Charity, Verdon was credited as Fosse’s assistant and after his death continued to champion his legacy.
The duo made a TV appearance in 1962 where Fosse was discussing his approach to choreography and acting through song. He and Verdon discuss the set up to her iconic “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankeesand then she performs the number using him as her scene partner. The process is fascinating, and the execution is exquisite.
The Tony-winning revival of The Norman Conquests remains one of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life. Matthew Warchus’ production was so brilliantly realized at the Circle in the Square that I took in two full day marathons of the Ayckbourn classic, including the show’s final performance. (I was such a fan of the experience, I even stage doored a show for the first time in over four years).
All six performers were exceptional and if there was a Tony Award for Best Ensemble, they would have won hands-down. But one particular performer was my personal favorite: Stephen Mangan as the titular Norman, half sad-sack, half lothario who wreaks havoc on his family over the course of an eventful weekend at his wife’s family home. It was a display of sheer bravado and one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever witnessed. (And he should have won that Tony).
Mangan, a staple in British television and theatre, is going to be a familiar sight to American viewers this January when Showtime premieres its new series Episodes. The show is about married British writers (Mangan and hisGreen Wing co-star Tamsin Greig) who find themselves moving to California to adapt their hit series (about a posh boarding school) for American television. The couple is forced by studio pressure to cast washed up Matt LeBlanc (as himself) in the lead role and find themselves dealing with Hollywood eccentrics. I’m looking forward to tuning in.
The series premieres on Showtime January 9, 2011 at 9:30PM.
Cast members from the revival of Ragtime will be hitting the TV airwaves this weekend with various appearances:
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18: Quentin Earl Darrington, Christiane Noll, Robert Petkoff and Stephanie Umoh will appear on Good Morning America during the “One Warm Coat Drive” segment tomorrow morning Friday, December 18. The nationally syndicated live appearance will air at approximately 8:05a on ABC, Channel 7 in the Tri State area.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19: Quentin Earl Darrington, Christiane Noll and Robert Petkoff visit NY-1’s Onstage Audio studio for a round table interview with host Donna Karger. On Stage airs on NY-1 News on Saturday, December 19 at 9:30a and 7:30p; Sunday, December 20 at at 9:30a and 7:30p; Monday, December 21 at 9:30p and late night/Tuesday morning, December 22 at 12:30a.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20: Quentin Earl Darrington and Stephanie Umoh sit down with WCBS-TV anchor Dana Tyler for an in studio chat about making their Broadway debuts in the hit musical. The segment will air on the WCBS Morning News on Sunday, December 20 at 7:55a on Channel 2 in the tri-state area.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 21: Christiane Noll will perform “Back to Before” on ABC’s The View live on Monday, December 21. The appearance will air in the 11:30a half hour on the nationally syndicated program on Channel 7 in the tri-state area.
So I finally checked out the first three episodes of Glee last evening. It’s been the talk of many of my fellow bloggers and message board users since it features lots of Broadwayites in leading and recurring roles, as well as ample musical numbers. I’ll get to writing about that soon enough; however, there’s another new comedy series that just premiered on ABC that has become my favorite new show of the season.
Modern Family is a single camera mockumentary that follows three branches of a wonderfully “normal” (read: dysfunctional) family. The family patriarch, played by Ed O’Neill, is newly remarried to a much younger Hispanic woman (Sofia Vergara) and living with her eleven year old son (already an old soul and romantic). His daughter and her husband (Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell) are struggling in every-day suburbia with their three children (including Grey Gardens’ alum Sarah Hyland as their eldest!). Meanwhile his uptight son, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) has just adopted a Vietnamese baby with his life-partner (Eric Stonestreet).
What most impressed me about the pilot wasn’t only it’s unique hilarity (which was practically non-stop), but the strength of the writing. Sitcoms about families have been done since Lucy told Desi that she was having a baby and in all honesty, the genre has been pretty much dead over the last few years. Lately, most of the successful network comedies focus mainly on the workplace (The Office, 30 Rock and Ugly Betty, for example). Much to my surprise and amusement, this series has resuscitated the family comedy.
Most shows usually establish an archetype in the series’ pilot and as the writers and actors feel their way through the series, they begin to add emotional layers and depth. However, in this case, they’ve successfully established realized characters and have cast them with actors with impeccable timing. (Even the youngsters playing the kids!) The writers have taken enough care in building the characters that the humor comes out of every day interaction and their personality flaws. (Especially Ty Burrell’s unpredictable and hilarious attempt at being a hipster fatherand who successfully embarrasses everyone around him). They’ve also managed to show how this dysfunctional unit successfully functions as family. This is especially evident in the touching, albeit hilarious, dinner scene where the two men introduce the baby to everyone.
I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a series pilot this much since Arrested Development came on the air in 2003. And this from the network that dragged out the mindnumbingly unfunny According to Jim for eight seasons, no less! While musing about the pilot with the irrepressible KariG and realized that it was the first series I’ve liked on ABC since the woefully shortlived The Job, and that was canceled in 2002. Plus, there’s something comforting about having Ed O’Neill back on TV as a curmudgeonly father. I have high hopes for the future of the show, and actually am interested in seeing what happens next week.
The series airs Wednesday nights at 9PM on ABC. You can check out the pilot here.
Here’s Ethel Merman and Susan Watson performing “Mutual Admiration Society” from the former’s musical Happy Hunting on the 1963 sitcom pilot episode of Maggie Brown. The series, about a widow trying to raise her daughter while running a nightclub next to a Marine Corps base was never sold. Here’s a taste of what the show was like: