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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE BROADWAY MUSICALS OF 1964
at Town Hall

A REALLY BIG YEAR
By Mervyn Rothstein

  Scott Siegel

For Scott Siegel, the creator and proprietor of the The Broadway of the Year series at Town Hall, 1964 was "perhaps the greatest single year in Broadway history." So much so that The Broadway Musicals of 1964, the last concert in the 2006-7 season, was the second in his series' seven years to carry that title.

Five years ago, after his first tribute to 1964, he promised another, with completely different songs. Now he has kept that vow.

Because many of that favorite year's top Broadway hits were part of the first concert, some of the songs you might expect to hear weren't present this time. But in a 12-month period that included Carol Channing in Hello Dolly, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick in Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, Bea Lillie and Tammy Grimes in High Spirits, Robert Preston in Ben Franklin in Paris, Carol Burnett in Fade Out-Fade In, Bert Lahr in Foxy, Sammy Davis Jr. in Golden Boy, Joan Littlewood's Oh! What a Lovely War, Steve Lawrence in What Makes Sammy Run? and even Buddy Hackett in I Had a Ball, there was certainly a lot to choose from.

And Siegel (who provided his usual informed, surprising and often humorous commentary on the year, the shows and the music) and his director, Dan Foster, chose well indeed. Backed by music director Ross Patterson and his band, a delightfully talented cast - premier among them Stephanie J. Block (who had closed the previous night in The Pirate Queen, Liz Callaway, Gregg Edelman, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Beth Leavel (a Tony winner in The Drowsy Chaperone), David Pittu (a Tony nominee in LoveMusik) and Devin Richards (from 110 in the Shade) - gave the highly appreciative audience a joyous evening of generally fine singing and superb nostalgia.

As good as many of the solos were, probably best of all were the duets. Edelman and Block - with Block doing a Streisand imitation worthy of Streisand herself - channeled the sex of Nicky Arnstein seducing a willing Fanny Brice in Bob Merrill and Jule Styne's "You Are Woman" from Funny Girl. Pittu and Leavel provided a winning variation on Mostel and Maria Karnilova from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's Fiddler score, asking, after 25 years of marriage, "Do You Love Me?" - the song Fiddler's director, Jerome Robbins, considered his favorite in the show. Edelman and Callaway gave "With So Little to Be Sure of" from Anyone Can Whistle, an almost metaphysically haunting interpretation.

That musical, of course, was Sondheim and Arthur Laurents's legendary nine-performance flop. But to Siegel, the problem was in Laurents's book, not Sondheim's "extraordinary" score.

Broadway of the Year doesn't offer only the songs we remember. There are also some Siegel feels deserve a fresh look, like Ervin Drake's "My Hometown," from What Makes Sammy Run? It was sung with warm nostalgia by Scott Coulter, who made you think that perhaps it indeed deserves another look.

Another song Siegel considers undervalued is Sondheim's "There's Always a Woman," from Anyone Can Whistle, which at Town Hall became a comic catfight between Leavel and Block that was one of the evening's biggest successes. Both women are powerful, radiant and appealing performers; Leavel had her big hit last season with Chaperone; Block has the talent to be a true Broadway star, and deserves to have a hit of her own.

Siegel is a dev

 


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