Broadway Babe: Peter Allen & the Rockettes, Oscar Levant, Kiss Me Kate, Feinstein
Our Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller has unearthed four fabulous nostalgic finds including a 1950s talk show with Oscar Levant who was recently portrayed on Broadway in “Good Night, Oscar”; a TV version of the Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate”, Michael Feinstein performing the songs of Harry Warren; and most entertaining of all, “Peter Allen and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
Peter Allen and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall
From 1981, starring the one and only Peter Allen, who is often imitated, and sometimes duplicated by the extraordinary Hugh Jackman! Allen was the consummate entertainer – singer, dancer, musician, songwriter. This show is a true testament to the incredible talents of Peter Allen who was one of the greatest entertainers, ever. He had so much energy, talent and charisma. He even dances, while he’s playing the piano and singing, and, he was the first male to perform with the Rockettes. When you view this incredible show, you’ll see that there definitely are similarities between Peter Allen and Hugh Jackman. This is a rousing, upbeat and exciting show. It’s a true musical anti-depressant… don’t miss it!
Oscar Levant Show
Yes, there really was an Oscar Levant who was best friends with George Gershwin, and was the foremost interpreter of Gershwin‘s music. He had a TV show on KCOP-TV in Los Angeles in the 1950s, which was later syndicated. He brilliantly played piano, along with his observations on life, and did interviews with major name guests. He was known for his irreverence, spontaneity, and wit, as well as his hypochondria. This is a rare gem though not the best video in terms of quality. It’s an old kinescope and features Oscar playing the piano, accompanying and schmoozing with Fred Astaire, who sings “I Won’t Dance”… but of course we know he will! Oscar’s wife, June, is also on the program and it is a true trip down memory lane. For those of you who saw the Broadway play “Good Night, Oscar”, you will find this especially fascinating.
Sidebar: Oscar Levant was known for his quick wit and his pontificating. Some of his one-liners include: “Every time I look at you, I get a fierce desire to be lonesome,”….What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, but there are so few of us left!”… And my favorite, “She’s so sweet, you can get diabetes from her!”
Hallmark Hall of Fame presents Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate
This is a real find! For Musical theater buffs, from the Golden Age of Television, (1958) Hallmark Hall of Fame presents Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate” starring some of the original Broadway cast: Alfred Drake, and Patricia Morrison and Julie Wilson, who was a replacement. It was the first program to be broadcast on videotape. This is actually a black and white kinescope of a live color broadcast. Drake was a major Broadway leading man, and you will experience his exemplary talent in this video. Patricia Morison, a great beauty, truly owned the part of Kate having done it in several venues, Julie Wilson is a knockout as Bianca, but the fabulous Porter song, “Too Darn Hot” was cut out of this TV broadcast due to time constraints. A young Jack Klugman sings and dances “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, just a year before going into “Gypsy” on Broadway. Enjoy this piece of Broadway history.
Sidebar: a story I’ve heard for years, is that what eventually became “Kiss Me Kate” started as a show at Camp Onibar in the Poconos where a camper named Arnold Suber performed in an original camp show, called “She’ll Marry You Monday” which was written by the music counselor, Irvin Graham. Several years later, it was commissioned by a New York producer, for a New York production. The Broadway producer was Arnold Suber, now named Saint Suber. When they couldn’t raise the money for the show, they hired Bella and Sam Spewack to write the book, and Cole Porter to write the songs , Cole Porter… And the rest is history. It became a landmark law case.
Sing A Song of Hollywood – Michael Feinstein
From 1995, AMC presents “Sing A Song of Hollywood” featuring a young Michael Feinstein, performing at the piano, and his special guest, Gogi Grant. They pay tribute to Oscar winning songwriter, Harry Warren, who wrote 77 movie musicals and also wrote the score to “42nd St.” which became even more popular as a Broadway musical. He was nominated for the Academy Award for best original song 11 times and won three Oscars for composing “Lullaby of Broadway”, You’ll Never Know” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe. He wrote between 300 and 400 songs from 1922 to 1960. Many of them are now standards and part of the great American songbook. He’s worth googling.