Broadway Babe: Miss “M”, Chorus Line, and More
Our Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller has some wonderful, nostalgic entertainment that she’s found and sharing with us… The original cast of “A Chorus Line” on the Phil Donahue show; an incredibly informative documentary about the life and times of Bette Midler; Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell in concert; and a true dinosaur of a kinescope from 1948, “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club”.
The Divine Miss M
Must not miss! I was totally mesmerized by this documentary “The Divine Miss M” about the legendary Bette Midler. Produced by the BBC in 2014, it features Bette in conversation with BBC-TV producer Alan Yentob, as she traces her beginnings in New York in “Fiddler On The Roof” and the bathhouses to becoming the super-star and social activist she is. There are lots of memorable clips with her singing “Matchmaker” as well as her concert performances, and movies. We see how she evolved into this bigger than life personality on stage, and how she developed her style. We also see her first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as well as her appearance on Johnny’s final show, singing “One For My Baby” to a teary-eyed Johnny.
Sidebar: In 2007, I produced a star-studded musical tribute to Tony Roberts at the Friars Club, and Bette decided to show up to see her close friend, Lucy Arnaz, perform. Freddie Roman, who was hosting, heard Bette was there. I begged him not to announce her presence, as she was not dressed for the public – she was wearing a babushka! At the end of the show, he decided to “out” her, and, of course, the room went wild. Beth was surrounded by Friars Club members and understandably uncomfortable. My BFF, Faye Menken Schneier, was my guest, and was an old friend of Bette, having shared a dressing room with he when they were both in Fiddler. Five foot tall Faye came to Bette’s rescue and helped her through the gauntlet of people, managing to avoid the press and escape the crowd… Bette never returned to the Friars Club!
Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club
This was a long running morning variety show on NBC Blue Network/ ABC Radio originating in Chicago. The radio program ran from 1933 to 1968. His 35 year run as host remains the longest tenure for an MC of a network entertainment program. On May 12, 1948, the program was shown on the Dumont television station WABD in New York, and was simulcast with the ABC radio show. Beginning in September 1950, the show aired as “TV Club” on ABC in the 1950-51 primetime season, in a 60 minute version, Wednesdays at 9 PM. This kinescope is from 1948 and was broadcast from the Philadelphia Academy of Music and was their first TV airing… I have no idea who the rest of his cast was or who produced it….This is part of television history.. it is a true dinosaur!!
The original cast of “A Chorus Line”
A true treat, indeed… The original cast of “A Chorus Line” appearing on the Phil Donahue show in 1990, telling behind the scenes tales, as well as performing some of the numbers for a mesmerized live studio audience. At the time of the broadcast, the producers of the show had recently announced that the show was soon to close. The program includes performances of several songs from the musical, as well as a candid discussion with the cast who speak of their experiences in “A Chorus Line”, and their feelings as young dancers who contributed their life stories to the production. They also discuss their experiences, working with the show’s creator and director, Michael Bennett. There are several clips, including Michael Bennett’s Tony award winning acceptance speech from 1976. This piece of theatrical MTV nostalgia is beyond wonderful and I highly recommend it.
““Let Freedem Ring!”
Let Freedem Ring!” was produced in 2019 by the Kennedy Center and Georgetown University, as a benefit concert starring theatrical luminaries, Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell, honoring the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. These two multiple Tony award winning actors costarred on Broadway in “Ragtime” and “Shuffle Along.” They each sing songs that they’re noted for, as well as perform two meaningful songs, appropriate for the occasion, from “Ragtime” —“Make Them Hear You,” and “Wheels of a Dream.” Once again, Stokes and Audra prove to be the best of the best!