Musicals on TV: Paley Centers, NY/LA Salute the 2017 Tony Awards with Screenings of Musical Film Adaptations
By: Ellis Nassour
Sundays this merry month of May, a month that leads up to the hotly competitive Tony Awards, telecast on CBS on June 11, the Paley Centers [New York and Los Angeles] for Media, with Playbill, are saluting Broadway musicals adapted for TV and screen. There are classic tunes galore, along with the work of notable choreographers and lavish costuming. Along with the adaptations, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which was commissioned for TV [with the stage adaptation to come later], will be shown.
Of special note, the rarely-seen 1994 PBS Great Performances Hollywood Bowl star-studded salute to Tony and Grammy winner Jerry Herman, whose Hello, Dolly! is back on Broadway and, once again, a mega smash, will be aired.
Screenings are free, with museum admission. For showtimes, visit www.paleycenter.org.
Wonderful Town (1958) – two hours
This adaptation of the 1953 Tony–winning musical was presented live. Based on Ruth McKenney’s featured in the New Yorker and Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov’s 1940 Broadway comedy My Sister Eileen, set in Greenwich Village. Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green’s score follows the misadventures and romance of Ohio’s Sherwood sisters: intellectual, sarcastic Ruth (Rosalind Russell, reprising her Tony-winning performance) and pretty, but naive Eileen (Jacquelyn McKeever) who’re pursuing writing and acting careers. Sydney Chaplin (original Funny Girl) is among the featured cast. Mel Ferber and Herbert Ross directed, with choreography by Ralph Beaumont. Look closely and you’ll catch future choreographer/ director Joe Layton (Sound of Music, Sail Away, Tony for No Strings, Tony for George M, Dear World, Tony-nominated for Barnum, many more, including West End/West Coast Scarlett; Emmy, TVs My Name is Barbra) in the chorus. Tunes include: “Ohio,” “One Hundred Easy Ways (to Lose a Man),” “A Little Bit in Love,” and “It’s Love.”
Kiss Me, Kate (1958) – 90 minutes
Presented on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison reprised their roles of Fred Graham/Petruchio and Lilli Vanessi/Katharine in Cole Porter’s Tony –winning 1948 musical comedy, with book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, set amid backstage and onstage conflicts of the once-married duo starring in a production of The Taming of the Shrew [on which the book is loosely based]. With beloved Julie Wilson (Lois Lane/Bianca), Bill Hayes (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio; later a major daytime drama star), Jack Klugman, and Harvey Lembeck. George Schaefer directed, with choreography by Ernest Flatt. Tunes include: “Another Op’nin, Another Show,” “Why Can’t You Behave,” “Wunderbar,” So in Love,” We Open in Venice,” “Were Thine that Special Face,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Where is the Life that Late I Led?”, “Always True to You (in My Fashion),” and the title song.
Purlie (1981) – two hours, 20 minutes
Showtime cast Robert Guillaume (first African-American to play lead in Phantom of the Opera; much TV; Tony nominee, Guys and Dolls revival), Melba Moore (recreating the role for which she won a 1973 Tony), and Sherman Hemsley (original production) to star in Gary Geld and Peter Udell’s 1972’s spirited tale of a charismatic preacher and a young woman in a Georgia sharecropper community, which is based on 1961’s Purlie Victorious by Ossie Davis. Linda Hopkins (original production), Don Scardino, and the hilarious Clarice Taylor are featured. Philip Rose, director/producer of the Broadway production, did the musical staging, with direction by Rudi Goldman and choreography by Al Perryman (a dancer in the Broadway production).
Cinderella (1957) – 90 minutes
The only collaboration for TV [the first of three versions] by Rodgers and Hammerstein stars ravishing 21-year-old Julie Andrews, and a Who’s Who of Broadway’s Who’s Who, including Edie Adams, Kaye Ballard, Alice Ghostley, Ilka Chase, and Dorothy Stickney and Howard Lindsay (a beloved stage duo, famous for Life with Father, 1939-1949) . Directed by Ralph Nelson, choreographed by Jonathan Lucas with orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett. There’s Joe Layton again in the chorus. Tunes include: “In My Own Little Corner,” “Ten Minutes Ago,” the showstopping “Stepsisters’ Lament,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”
Once Upon a Mattress (1964) – 90 minutes)
The indefatigable Carol Burnett, Tony-nominated star of the original Off Broadway production , directed by George Abbott, which moved to Broadway, has a feast of a romp in this, the first TV adaptation of Mary Rodgers, Marshall Barer, and Jay Thompson’s 1959 musical, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea. Joseph Boa, Jane White, the great Jack Gilford (Tony-nominated, Funny Thing Happened…, Cabaret; Oscar-nominated, Save the Tiger), Bill Hayes, Shane Wallis, and Elliott Gould are featured. Directed/choreographed by Joe Layton, who choreographed the original, and Dave Geisel.
Jerry Herman’s Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl (1994) – One hour, 54 minutes
Highlights: introduced by Liza Minnelli, Carol Channing introduces Leslie Uggams, who sings Mame’s “It’s Today”; George Hearn (original Broadway) performs his showstopper “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles and Mack & Mabel’s “Movies Were Movies”; Florence Lacey performs “It Only Takes a Moment” and Lee Roy Reams sings a medley of “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” and “Before the Parade Passes By” from Hello, Dolly, Lorna Luft, Lacey, and Karen Morrow do “Wherever He Ain’t” from Mack & Mabel; Davis Gaines performs La Cage’s “Song on the Sand”; Morrow’s “We Need a Little Christmas,” Uggams’ “If He Walked Into My Life,” and Bea Arthur (original Broadway) with “The Man in the Moon” from Mame; and Mack & Mabel‘s “Time Heals Everything” and “I Won’t Send Roses” by Luft and Michael Feinstein. The finale is Herman and company with La Cage’s “The Best of Times Is Now.”
George M! (1970) – 90 minutes
The 1968 George M. Cohan Broadway musical, book by Michael Stewart (Hello, Dolly) stars Tony-nominated (this production) Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters, recreating their Broadway roles as George M. and Josie Cohan, Red Button, the great Jack Cassidy, stage/TV veteran Nanette Fabray, Blythe Danner, Tony nominee Anita Gillette, Lewis J. Stadlen, Jesse White, and Mercedes Ellington. Directed by Martin Charnin and Walter C. Miller, with choreography by Alan Johnson.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1959 ) – two hours
This star-studded Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation, which pales in comparison to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane’s 1944 film musical (produced for Broadway in 1989) from Sally Benson’s novel, set in 1903, focuses on the Smith family ― mother, father, grandfather, and five children. Eldest daughter, Rose hopes for a proposal from longtime boyfriend, who’s graduating from Yale; sister Esther (ageless Jane Powell) attempts to win the boy next door; and the entire family and city anxiously await the opening of the World’s Fair Louisiana Purchase Exhibition. Complications ensue when Mr. Smith (Walter Pidgeon) decides to take a job in New York, which would mean the entire family relocating. Tab Hunter, Jeanne Crain, Reta Shaw, Ed Wynn, Myrna Loy, and Patty Duke as Tootie co-star. George Schaefer directed, with choreography by Herbert Ross, and music direction by Franz Allers.
Bill Rudman, host, SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s Broadway Channel On the Aisle, will introduce the screening.
Paley Center for Media: New York, 25 West 52nd Street, (212) 621-6886; Los Angeles, 465 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 786-1000.