THE BROADWAY MUSICALS OF 1975 Send This Review to a Friend
While 1975 brought the high-profile flashy shows “A Chorus Line” and “Chicago,” one achievement of the dip into the past at The Town Hall (May 14, 2012) was to remind us of the virtues of the much underrated “Shenandoah,” by Gary Geld and Peter Udell. Patrick Page did the honors with “I’ve Heard It All Before,” as powerful an anti-war song as ever was written. The depth of his voice and the registering of sadness and disgust in his observation of the same old killing by sides always ready to find a cause had a chilling effect.
There was other evidence of the stature of “Shenandoah”—Lari White infusing a deep feeling into “We Make a Beautiful Pair,” Bob Stillman summoning affection for his roots in “The Only Home I Know,” and White singing “Freedom,” with the Broadway By the Year Chorus. Here is musical that begs for a revival.
Speaking of that chorus, the concept has become a dynamic new element of The Town Hall’s Broadway by the Year series, created, written and hosted by Scott Siegel. Appealing young performers, in the past presented as “Rising Stars,” have been blended into a chorus that is becoming a regular oomph-adding feature. It was exciting to see 19 singers on stage at the outset regaling us with “I Hope I Get It/One” from “A Chorus Line.” Counting the featured performers, there was a total of 40 in the overall staging devoted to 1975 musicals.
As with every production in the series, there were favorites. Ashley Brown was a knockout singing “Dance: 10; Looks: 3” from “A Chorus Line,” and when the attractive, talented Brown sang about T and A, the visual was as vital as the voice. Brown is a powerhouse, which she also demonstrated singing “My Own Best Friend” from “Chicago” and “Be a Lion” from “The Wiz,” another from the 1975 trove.
Carole J. Bufford (see review of her night club act under Cabaret) has an exciting range. She can give a highly individualistic, haunting interpretation of “Blue Moon” from
“Rodgers & Hart—A Celebration” or rock the hall in red hot mama style with “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon” and “After You’ve Gone,” both from “Me and Bessie.” In yet another change of pace, she teamed with White and Brown in a delicate interpretation of “At the Ballet” from “A Chorus Line.” White expresses her own individuality, as with her rendering of “Home” from “The Wiz.” She is expert at using her fine voice to inject sincerity, tenderness and intelligence into her numbers.
One treat, again summoning the lingering power of “A Chorus Line” starred Nadine Isenegger fabulously dancing “The Music and the Mirror,” with the original choreography and costuming. Another special attraction was recalling the cult hit “The Rocky Horror Show” via two numbers, “Sweet Transvestite” and ‘Time Warp,” both enhanced by the use of the chorus. There was also the inimitable Patrick Page in drag, with his voice reaching for the depths.
Earlier in the show Page teamed with Bob Stillman to sing “Class” from “Chicago.” The number is a a nostalgic lament bemoaning the disappearance of class, and the pair delivered the clever lyrics in high style—one might say with class—entertainingly anchored with Page’s deep sound.
At the opposite end of the voice spectrum, Scott Coulter, who also directed the show, impressively reached for vocal heights with “If You Believe” from “The Wiz.”
“Chicago” stands out as my preference to remember, and it conjures up memories of Bob Fosse, whose work I so admired. It was thrilling when beautiful Kristin Beth Williams embodied the seductive sexiness of “All That Jazz,” emphasizing every little vocal inflection and body movement. She was abetted by Kyle Scatliffe, Mary Lane Haskell, Paul Pontrelli, Amanda Savan and Housso Semon. “All I Care About Is Love,” also from “Chicago,” gave Bob Stillman the opportunity to sing with appropriate manipulative suaveness in a staging with Dara Hartman, Tricia Burns, Bridget Ori, Oakley Boycott, Jenna Dallaco and Kristin Dausch.
This show had an abundance of sharp choreography. Apart from “The Music and the Mirror,” the choreography was by Vibecke Dahl. The musical direction, as it has been from the start, was by Ross Patterson, expertly performing at the piano with his Little Big Band. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-840-2824. Coming June 11, 2012: “The Broadway Musicals of 1987.”