The Adventure Continues

TT in the Blue Mountains and Sheldy in New York.

Culture Shock.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One For My Baby

I enjoyed a most unusual experience this morning: a full scale musical in a small rehearsal room. With a cast of 40 and a full orchestra, a large set with two levels and a revolve, and more glamorous costumes than Ziegfeld could pack into a decade of Follies. Plus I left with a copy of the cast album!!
The occasion was the first of several backer's auditions for ONE FOR MY BABY, the brainchild of author-director-choreographer Scott Thompson and author-musical director Fred Barton who spent five years bringing the show to this point. They raised close to $70,000 through the crowd funding website Kickstarter and with some additional Broadway investors on board they are close to realising their dream which is to put on a show that they themselves would want to see, with great Harold Arlen music, "dazzling choreography and a book that unashamedly mingles laughter and tragedy".
My first thrill was to see Vivian Reed opening the show with "Get Happy" as Panama Jones, singer at the Dreamland nightclub. The first Broadway musical I ever saw back in 1976 was BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR for which the electrifying Ms. Reed was nominated for a Tony Award.
 A smashing ensemble of 17 girl and boy dancers then flooded the stage (including my mates Steve Schepis from PRISCILLA and Brandon Rubendall from SPIDER MAN) as club patrons, showgirls, policemen, reporters in fabulous multi colored costumes (not to mention great wigs) and seemed to dance non-stop for almost three hours as the ten principal performers enacted several storylines that incorporated everything from police corruption to casting couches to drug dealing to lesbianism. There were echoes of PAL JOEY and FOLLIES and countless MGM movie musicals. And there were always those magnificent Harold Arlen songs orchestrated for a cookin' nine piece band by Fred Barton.
Luba Mason as Tess, the rich society dame with a taste for younger men, got "Paper Moon", "I've Got the World On a String", "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Fun To Be Fooled".
Brilliant pint-sized comedienne Jen Cody had the 'Nancy Walker' role as tough talking cigarette girl Ethel, the ex-USO performer longing to grab the spotlight at 'Dreamland'.
Stephen Bogardus had the non-singing role of Duke, the tough handsome nightclub owner whose sexual impotence made for a surprising character trait!
Fresh faced hoofer Matt Loehr played fresh faced hoofer Eddie Parsons, hopelessly in love with dancing partner Kitty McVey who sleeps with Duke to get a job at 'Dreamland'. His eleven o'clock number was the title song "One For My Baby" leading to a furious drunken tap dance after closing time at the nightclub which sees him trashing the bar.
Julie Tolivar was Kitty whose overt sexuality disguises her lack of self-esteem. She sang "Gotta Have Me Go With You" and "Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home".
Anastasia Barzee was wonderful in an interesting role as Tess's best friend, the cold, ruthless, scheming rich girl Meredith who first declares "Down With Love" then double crosses Tess by stealing her young boyfriend with "That Old Black Magic".
Although the show is overstuffed with story, song and dance and is almost too much of a good thing, I was surprised to find myself very touched by the story and had tears in my eyes no less than four times during the second act. It is also in Act Two that the creators stop the show cold by providing the four leading ladies with a tour de force arrangement of "Stormy Weather" and "The Man That Got Away". To see and hear four divas simply standing and wailing those classic songs in four part harmony and over several key changes is quite an experience.
So, now I have my demo album of the score featuring a studio cast including Carolee Carmello, Gavin Creel, Anika Noni Rose, Mary Bond Davis and Lauren Kennedy, and today's presentation was so polished the show could open on Broadway as is tomorrow. I mean, Vivian Reed had, like, six costume changes!! I hope they find the big money to bring the show to New York after all their hard work. Like BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR for me, it could well be someone's happy first memory.

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