Broadway By the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1965-1989 ****1/2
By Paulanne Simmons
The years between 1965 and 1989 were some of the most turbulent in American history. Those were the years of the Vietnam War, hippies, Watergate and the Iran hostage crisis. It was also a time of great experimentation and diversity on Broadway. Sondheim reigned. Jesus Christ made a special appearance. And long-haired youths bared all. The Broadway Musicals of 1965-1989, created, written and hosted by Scott Siegel, celebrated a quarter century of Broadway’s bounty in the next to last production of this season’s Broadway by the Year series at Town Hall.
The show featured some of Broadway’s greatest talents, backed by the Ross Patterson Little Big Band, singing some of that era’s best known songs. Sally Wilfert gave a passionate rendition of "What I Did for Love," from A Chorus Line. Scott Coulter, who also directed the show, was a very believable and sonorous Annie singing "Tomorrow." William Michals thrilled the house without a mic, singing "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha.
The evening provided other delights as well. The effervescent Christina Bianco sang "Who Can I Turn To? from The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, as some of our favorite divas might. Her spot-on capturing of voice and gesture had the audience roaring with laughter. The Broadway by the Year Chorus, comprising young performers from the yearly Broadway Rising Stars concert, did justice to Sondheim’s difficult "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park with George. Randy Skinner choreographed a spirited tap dance that Mara Davi, Drew Humphrey, Lea Kohl, Kristyn Pope and Kelly Sheehan performed with great gusto.
There were also some wonderful songs fr
om musicals that didn’t quite make it, like "Time Heals Everything" from Mack & Mabel, sung by Karen Ziemba; and unforgettable moments, as when Christiane Noll set the stage smoldering with "Hit Me with a Hot Note" from Sophisticated Ladies.
There will be one more opportunity to review a quarter century of Broadway musicals (and get up to date) with The Broadway Musicals of 1990-2014 on June 23. Wise theatergoers won’t miss it.
The Broadway by the Year series is at Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street
Photography: Maryann Lopinto