How that magician, Scott Siegel, continues to pull rabbits out of his hat is amazing. After all these years he still comes up with a program chock full of wonderful songs and talented performers who keep them alive, whatever the year they were born in. This time around his Broadway by the Year featured The Broadway Musicals of 1965 &1978, two years that do not immediately conjure excitement.
One of the points Siegel—the genial host and narrator of the show—made was that beautiful songs have emerged from unsuccessful shows. Another point was that Barbra Streisand, by recording some of these songs, helped shows stay up longer.
Several songs were from flop shows and given new life by Streisand: “He Touched Me” from Drat! The Cat! sung with infectious flirtatiousness by Lianne Marie Dobbs; “Why Did I Choose You?” from The Yearling, given a luscious rendition by Nicole Henry; and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” benefiting from Ethan Slater’s enthusiasm and charm.
Slater opened the show with an upbeat “A Wonderful Day Like Today” from The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd which was followed by another song from that show, the poignant “Who Can I Turn To?” sung by Rick Faugno who knew not to copy the exaggerations of the original singer, Anthony Newley (who co-wrote the song).
Betsy Wolfe sang that ubiquitous audition standard, “A Quiet Thing” from Flora, The Red Menace, finding every nuance which she also managed to do with “Someone Woke Up” from Do I Hear a Waltz? which emerged from the one-time-only pairing of Stephen Sondheim with Richard Rodgers.
From 1978, the two most represented shows were Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. From the former, Nicole Henry sexily oozed through “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Mean to Me” and Ms. Dobbs practically purred “Keepin’ Out of Mischief.”
From the latter, Douglas Ladnier tempered his super baritone for a tender “Hard Candy Christmas” and Betsy Wolfe brought a world-weariness to “Doatsy Mae.”
Ladnier had several chances to fill the Town Hall with his voice: “Stranger In Paradise” from Timbuktu, a Kismet reprise, and “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha, which is probably the most performed song in Siegel’s shows.
This edition of BBTY featured several stimulating dance numbers. Danny Gardner led the Broadway by the Year Dance Troupe in a rousing “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” from The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd and a smooth, but complex “I Wanna Be a Dancing Man” from Dancin’ (the Bob Fosse musical).
For me, however, Corbin Bleu and Rick Faugno’s breathtaking tap rendition of “Sing, Sing, Sing” (also from Dancin’) was the highlight of the program. It was a fearless bit of choreography, taking on an old favorite song with passion.
The backbone of Scott Siegel’s events has always been his music director Ross Patterson whose arrangements and original ideas about the repertoire have kept these programs fizzing joyfully. His companions in music were Don Falzone on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums.
This Broadway by the Year was yet another feather in Siegel’s magician’s hat.
Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1965 & 1978 (May 20, 2019)
The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit http://www.TheTownHall.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission