- The cast of “Pippin.” (photo: Joan Marcus)
I can count on one hand the number of breath-catching moments I’ve had sitting in a Broadway theater (Cherry Jones’ leap of faith in the final moment of Pride’s Crossing and Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald singing “Wheels of a Dream” in Ragtime just to name two.) Pippin, which recently opened at the Music Box Theatre in a mesmerizing production directed by Diane Paulus with choreography by Chet Walker and circus creation by Gypsy Snider is packed with them. Some are of the good ole’ Broadway hoofer variety, others rely on ingenious theatrical craft.
Pippin opened on Broadway in 1972. It had been a student project of composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz. He had scored big with Godspell in 1971 and after some sage advice from Harold Prince, Schwartz revamped the project with help of book writer Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse got wind of the project and the rest is musical theater history… sort of.
The response from critics was lukewarm but Pippin’s producers pulled their own magic, placing the first ad for a Broadway musical on television. Sales picked up and audiences responded. The show ran for 1,944 performances.
Take the jump for our review…
Cabaret. Image via Warner Bros.
Within the first half hour of the multiple Oscar-winning film Cabaret, there’s a brief moment in which a young British man new to Berlin (played by Michael York, so fresh and tightly wound his skin shines) visits the Kit Kat Club, a grubby Weimar Republic hot spot. He finds himself in the men’s restroom and, as he stands at the urinal, he notes that a statuesque “woman” in a frizzled blonde wig and party dress is standing at the one beside him. Brian keeps his obvious surprise contained and then, furtively, glances over and down to check out this person’s equipment.
My partner, watching the film beside me, couldn’t contain himself and said with eyes wide, “I didn’t realize this movie was so envelope pushing. Even for today.”
And he’s right. The movie feels ahead of our time. In current films, this scene would be played for gay panic laughs or as brushstroke sign of the cabaret’s frightening decadence. But director Bob Fosse lets his scene play without judgment, sexually exciting, humanely funny, a little dangerous and above all else real.
Damn Yankees. Image via Google.
Richard Adler, the co-writer of two undeniably classic Broadway musicals, The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, died last week at the age of 90. The New York Times has a comprehensive obituary detailing his life and career — including the tragic loss of his writing partner Jerry Ross as their two shows were achieving blockbuster status — that is well worth a read.
But for me, the facts of his life don’t do him justice; there’s no greater tribute to a composer/lyricist than just listening to the songs themselves. Adler & Ross wrote music filled with wit, heart and sexiness that still resonates decades later. I’m sure not a day goes by that someone, somewhere in the world isn’t performing “Hernando’s Hideaway” or “You’ve Gotta Have Heart”…and that, my friends, is a pretty nice world to be in.
So sit back and let’s watch two of their signature numbers…
Liza Minnelli Live a the Winter Garden. Image via Google.
Drugs. Bad hips. Worse husbands. You just can’t keep Liza Minnelli down. Even her long lost albums have a way of making comebacks.
After almost 40 years out of circulation, Liza Minnelli Live at the Winter Garden will be available next week on April 3 (and via pre-order now, exclusively through Masterworks Broadway) for the first time on CD and digital download. The remastered recordings capture her January 1974 Broadway concerts and include classic songs like “I Can See Clearly Now” and “A Quiet Thing”. According to the press release, the album “was quickly released by Columbia Records in April , but had to be withdrawn from the market due to contractual conflicts over her performance of songs from the Cabaret film score, which were available on the then-current soundtrack album.”
Whatever else may be said about Liza, she’s a born entertainer, a talent that blazes through in her live recordings. Until you can get the album, want to see Liza in all her triple threat glory? Sit back and enjoy “Bye Bye Blackbird” from Liza with a Z. How many movie stars today could handle the complexity of this Bob Fosse choreography and do it with such joyful flair?