Broadway Babe: West Side Story, Toast of the Town, Johnny Mathis and more
December 9, 2022: Broadway Babe, Randie Levine-Miller has unearthed some wonderful nostalgic finds including film clips from the original West Side Story; Toast of the Town, the forerunner to the Ed Sullivan Show; Broadway Open House, the forerunner to The Tonight Show; and a very special concert with Johnny Mathis from 25 years ago.
Johnny Mathis: Live By Request
From 1998, recorded live from Sony Music Studios in New York and presented by A&E. A baby boomers delight with Johnny performing his greatest hits, with a captivated audience. He is still the consummate performer, as you’ll see. A true class act!
Sidebar: In the 1960s, a young Marvin Hamlisch was the music counselor at Camp Geneva. He would often imitate Johnny Mathis, who he idolized. He did the most perfect impression of Mathis. Many years later, they became friends and worked together!
West Side Story Composite
A composite of clips from the original 1957 Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents Broadway musical, “West Side Story”, this footage is absolutely fascinating and may even give you gooseflesh! It also includes two scenes that aired on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. You’ll see the original stars of this landmark musical: Carol Lawrence, Larry Kert and Chita Rivera. And you’ll see the incomparable dance numbers choreographed by Jerome Robbins… David Fletcher, who I’ve never heard of,was creative enough to put this together and I’m grateful that he did. “West Side Story” is truly an important part of our cultural history.
Sidebar: Stephen Sondheim was interviewed by Bill Whitaker in 2020 on “60 Minutes” and shared that it started out as a musical about
Catholics and Jews on the Lower East Side. So “West Side Story” was almost “East Side Story”!
Toast of the Town
From 1949, “Toast of the Town” with Ed Sullivan. This was the forerunner to the “Ed Sullivan Show”, presented by Lincoln Mercury, which plays an integral part of the show. There are singers and dancers promoting the cars. A highlight of the show was WC Handy, composer of “Saint Louis Blues”, performing it on this early version of the Ed Sullivan Show, as well as comedian George Kirby, who appeared frequently during Ed’s 23 year run. It didn’t matter to Ed what color you were. If you were talented, Ed booked you. He was way ahead of his time, and I think we’re most grateful for that. Remember, we’re talking 75 years ago (his show debuted on CBS in 1948).
Broadway Open House
From 1951, the forerunner to “The Tonight Show,” “Broadway Open House,” starring Jerry Lester, featuring Dagmar (A sex symbol of that era) and musical director Milton Delugg who were integral parts of the show. This was the very first late night variety program with music, songs, dances, interviews and comedy sketches which ran on NBC from 1950- 52. The program was performed before a live studio audience. It was created by Sylvester L Weaver Jr., father of Sigourney! It may seem hokey today, but it’s part of TV history.
Sidebar: Milton Delugg, was NBC’s musical director for decades and was briefly musical director for “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. When I was in high school, I would often sneak in to the Tonight Show rehearsals. Milton was so kind and gracious to me, even looking at some song lyrics I had written. He worked well into his 90s as musical director of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. To me, he was a memorable musical mensch!