Saturday, February 3, 2007

Beauty can't be hindered from taking its toll

Musical theatre geeks: do you go through phases where you listen to a certain album/composer/show nonstop for a while, and then not at all for months? I do, and this past week I have been immersing myself in Follies, in anticipation of the upcoming Encores! concert production. So today I thought I'd try psyching you up about it too.

If Follies isn't already part of your collection, you might want to do something about that. Especially since the OCR is available from Amazon cheap! It has a bad reputation, yes, but that's mainly because it's not a complete and accurate rendering of all the music in the show. It is still a very enjoyable listening experience, and I listen to it at least as often as the much more complete and splashy Follies in Concert recording from 1985. The latter is often thought of as rendering the former obsolete, but I'm very happy to own both. You can't beat Barbara Cook singing "In Buddy's Eyes" or "Losing My Mind" or "Too Many Mornings," but that doesn't mean Dorothy Collins's renditions aren't beautiful too. And Lee Remick is certainly no better or worse than Alexis Smith. George Hearn is awesome as Ben... but I love John McMartin too. (For those of you in the Venn diagram overlap of Sondheim fans and Law & Order fans: did you ever notice that "Benjamin Stone" is also the name of Michael Moriarty's character on L&O? Now that you know, won't it enhance your experience of both?) And then there's Mandy Patinkin, Mandying all over two of my favorite songs in the score. Seriously, just listen to the Amazon audio clips of "The Right Girl" or "Buddy's Blues," and tell me you wouldn't skip those tracks automatically if you had the chance. When I put in disc 2, I go straight to "Losing My Mind," but sometimes I'm not quick enough and I hear a little tiny bit of his "Buddy's Blues" intro, and it makes my ears bleed. So when it comes to Buddy's songs, it's Gene Nelson all the way.

(Martin Short, in his recent Broadway show Fame Becomes Me, told a very funny joke to explain why his show hadn't ended yet: "As Mandy Patinkin says, 'Always leave them wanting less.'" I laughed and laughed. Suck it, Patinkin.)

Other reasons to check out the concert recording: Elaine Stritch's "Broadway Baby" makes me laugh every time I hear it (which is particularly impressive considering how sick I am of that song, overall), and I'm very pleased to have more complete versions of "Lucy and Jessie" and the "Loveland" stuff. On the other hand, I could live without Comden and Green's "Rain on the Roof" -- it's nice to finally hear how the song goes and all, but as for their singing? Thank you, next please.

Of course, I've never stopped at two cast recordings when I thought I needed three. And I see there's another Follies available, the 1998 Papermill cast. Anybody out there heard that one? Do I need it? The audio clips are making me think no, but I do love Laurence Guittard...

In other news, original Follies star Yvonne DeCarlo died recently, and if you noticed at all it was probably because the headline said "Lily Munster dead at 84." That was the role in which she went from "sloe-eyed vamp" to "someone's mother" to "camp," and then she used all of that history in her sensational rendition of "I'm Still Here." I found a YouTube clip of her talking about, and performing, that song on David Frost's show (looking very Joan Crawford-y). True geeks will note that she flubs the lyrics when she gets to the verse not on the original cast recording (about "Amos 'n' Andy, mah-jongg and platinum hair"), and recovers by singing "I should have gone to an acting school, that seems clear." If the audience found this as funny as I did, you can't tell. Overall, though, it's a great performance, and it makes me wish I'd seen the real thing.

Carol Burnett performed this song in the 1985 concert, and she is also great, of course. Which reminds me, I swear I once saw Carol Burnett sing this on Touched by an Angel. Did I make that up? Please tell me I don't dream episodes of Touched by an Angel.

Finally, a warning: you may be tempted to do your own YouTube search for Follies-related clips. Take my advice. Don't. Because if you do, you will find an extensive library of clips from high school productions of Follies (actually, it looks like it may be just one high school production, available more or less in its entirety), and you may be tempted to watch a few, and they will only serve to reinforce your opinion -- may I presume that you share this opinion with me? -- that there ought never to be a high school production of Follies.

I'll probably be talking lots more about Follies this week, as the Encores! concert approaches. Do you have a favorite song from the show? Are there other musicals you think should never be attempted by high schools? Please share your thoughts.

No comments: