Monday Morning, Mr. Wonderful, as Sammy Davis’s character in his first Broadway play was called.
If Sammy Davis were only a dancer he would be known as one of the greatest tap dancers of the 20th century.
If he were only a singer he would be known as one of the greatest male vocalists of the 20th century.
He was both.
Here he is with a song from his second musical, Golden Boy, from 1964, about an African-American boxer who falls in love with a white woman.
Paula Wayne who played Sammy’s lover, Lorna, in the show, said that when the time came during rehearsals for Sammy to kiss her, Sammy was very reluctant to do so. It was the first time an interracial kiss had happened on the Broadway stage; but Paula insisted that there would be no problem. She was soon to find out otherwise—the day after the show opened there were pickets in front of the theatre from white supremacists groups denouncing the show.
But the show ran for 500+ performances and had a great, under-appreciated score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams—probably the best score they ever created.
With the madness of the last week it’s nice to just relax and give oneself up to an artist who is totally in control of her talent.
Lady Gaga sings a jazz/pop version of the Rodgers and Hart standard that promises a lot and delivers a lot.
She sang this often on her 2015 tour, and if you look on YouTube, you can see that in every performance the vocal arrangement is different, she’s clothed in a different costume and wig, and yet every performance is right on the money. Really a rare talent.
Monday morning, The Jets, The Sharks, Tony, Maria, and Anita get ready for the big night. Lucky them to have the Bernstein/Sondheim music to prepare to. Still the best score from an American musical in my opinion.
Monday morning, we go legit. If you follow my blog regularly, you might know that this is one of my favorite jazz standards (see here and here and here for other versions). But it was originally written for a Broadway play for two duets with a lush orchestra. Here are two wonderful legit singers, Norm Lewis and the extraordinary Audra McDonald, with their heavenly version.
The short-lived original 1998 Broadway production of The Capeman had a beautiful score by Paul Simon and Derek Walcott. And it was sung superbly by two icons, Marc Anthony and Ruben Blades.
The video above was uploaded last month to YouTube by Blades himself. In this song, Ruben Blades plays the older Salvador Agron, the so-called Capeman murderer, looking back and trying to reach his younger, 16-year-old incarcerated self, played by Marc Anthony.
I hope that someday more video surfaces, as that show really needs to be re-evaluated. It was performed for a few times in the summer at Central Park’s outdoor Delacorte Theatre in 2012, but was not picked up for a longer run. If anyone is interested, I’ll tell a funny story concerning my viewing of that production.
Monday, the singing teen-agers on the corner wake you up at 4:00 in the morning.
In 1996, Paul Simon, along with Derek Walcott, wrote the music and book for the Broadway play, Capeman,. The critics killed the show, unfairly in my opinion, but the songs are some of Simon’s best work. The play took place in 1950s New York City, and the music was an amalgamation of doo-wop and salsa. This song was one of the decidedly doo-wop influenced songs.
At one time, Anthony Newley was a huge star. Before he was 35 years old, he acted in, directed, and wrote the words* and music to two smash Broadway musical plays, Stop the World—I Want to Get Off!, and The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd. Many of the songs from those two musicals became standards: “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Who Can I Turn To?” were covered by hundreds of singers. Newley used to enjoy saying that if he had never done anything else in his life, he could make a good living from the residuals of “What Kind of Fool Am I?” alone.
When he left the stage, he became a kind of parody of himself, as he played the Las Vegas venues, a glorified lounge singer. He never matched the heights of his earlier years, and the memory of his success has faded over the years. But as you can see in the clip above from the Ed Sullivan show, Newley in his prime was one of the most distinctive, eccentric, talented, and influential artists of the 1960s. Click on the video to see a quintessential Newley performance.
Last week I went to a delightful community theater production of The Pajama Game. The songs were written by Jerry Ross and Richard Adler, and the show was a big hit when it first opened in 1954. They followed up a year later with Damn Yankees which also was a big hit. Unfortunately, Jerry Ross died shortly afterward at the age of 29, and Adler, who lived to be 90, never had a Broadway hit again.
The action of the play is the love story between a union leader and a supervisor of the Sleep-Tite pajama company. The love plot is set against the background of an impending strike demanding a 7 and 1/2 cents an hour wage increase. While not politically sophisticated, the story actually celebrates the struggle of union members for better wages, a sentiment you would be hard-pressed to find in today’s popular entertainment.
The score delivered some pop songs that are still standards today. Here’s “Hey There,” sung by John Raitt, who created the lead role in the original Broadway production and the movie. Raitt had one of the great Broadway voices, perfectly suited for the strong leading man tenor roles of Rodgers and Hammerstein as well as The Pajama Game.