The program of 27 numbers representing this time frame was inherently subjective and the selection of particular shows, songs from them, and artists’ performances can be debatable and questionable based on personal taste. However, there were so many highpoints that made this production an overwhelming success.
Mr. Siegel was at a lectern throughout the evening providing wry informative commentary, introducing the performers and their numbers and calling them back to take another bow.
“Who Can I Turn To?” from The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd, is known from its idiosyncratic original rendition by its star and lyricist Anthony Newley and other mainly male vocalists explained performer Christina Bianco, “Until now.” She then proceeded to sing it as famous women would and with lightning speed hilariously did spot impressions vocally and physically of many celebrity entertainers. These included Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Celine Dion, Cher, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone. Following a rousing ovation, she then in her own voice did a wonderful “Unexpected Song” from Song and Dance.
Produced in 1980, the stage musical adapted from the 1933 musical 42nd Street was a huge success running eight years. From the delightful number “Go into Your Dance” performed here it was easy to see why. Marvelously choreographed by Randy Skinner, five show business hopeful young women sang and danced their hearts out.
Siegel explained that original 42nd Street cast member Lee Roy Reams stayed with the show for much of its entire until “he got a better offer.” That offer was as the replacement Zaza in La Cage Au Folles which was then about to move from The Palace to a smaller theater. Shortly before, the producers changed their mind and closed the show. Mr. Reams then performed it regionally and this evening was able to sing “I Am What I Am” in New York City for the first time. Jerry Herman’s emotionally charged anthem was a triumph for Reams who brought old time Broadway razzle dazzle to the concert.
Three standouts were surprisingly from revues with songs all from before 1965. Flying in from performing in Chicago, Quentin Earl Darrington did a vocally and physically impressive version of the darkly comic “Nobody” originally written in 1906 for the show Abyssinia and used in 1976’s Bubbling Brown Sugar. In a slinky lime sequined pantsuit, sleek Adriane Lenox was energetic and sly doing “Keeping out of Mischief” from Ain’t Misbehavin’. Christine Noll in a strapless black dress was charmingly wry and seductive in her number “Hit Me with A Hot Note” from Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies.
Explaining the history of and the changing lyrics during rehearsals and previews of the modern standard, “Memory” from Cats, Siegel was very enlightening. Then Elizabeth Stanley performed it with power and great emotion.
“This show will never need a revival because it will never close!” joked Siegel of The Phantom of The Opera that has been running on Broadway since 1988. Youthful Kevin Earley brought much depth and beauty to “Music of The Night“ and without a mask or costume thrillingly conjured up The Phantom.
With a cockney accent rubbery and nimble Stephen DeRosa enthrallingly did a big number, “Leaning on a Lamppost,” from Me and My Girl and hauntingly blew a kiss to the audience at the end.
It was especially exciting seeing two performers connected to these past shows perform. Annie Golden was in the 1977 revival of Hair and in the 1979 film of it and she did a lovely “Frank Mills” conveying the free-spiritedness of that classic counterculture musical. City of Angels original cast member Randy Graff was sharp and humorous doing “You Can Always Count on Me.”
Cabaret icon Steve Ross was commandingly understated at the piano as he performed the wistful Gallic tuned “Kiss Her Now” from Dear World.
Kerry O’Malley’s inspired dramatic rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables well demonstrated the effectiveness and enduring popularity of that show.
The diverse young Broadway by the Year Chorus gathered to perform a stirring “Sunday” from Sunday in The Park with George.
“The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha was the fitting finale and made even more moving by William Michals unamplified soaring deep voice.
Musical director Ross Patterson on piano with Tom Hubbard on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums ably and seamlessly played the many styles of music often with lively jazz flourishes. Director Scott Coulter not only skillfully managed the tremendous logistics of the show he also sang a boldly unique take on Annie’s “Tomorrow.”
Notable Broadway musical composers of this era were well represented by this concert. Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, and Andrew Lloyd Webber with four shows each; Jule Styne, Leslie Bricusse, Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz, and Cy Coleman each with one. Mr. Siegel lamented that Coleman was only represented by one show here but being such an immense catalogue of shows and songs to choose from during the years 1965 – 1989 many were missed but plenty were wonderfully represented.
Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1965 – 1989 (May 12, 2014)
The Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-997-1003 or visit http://www.thetownhall.org
Running time: two hours and 45 minutes including one intermission