"Leonard Bernstein was the rare composer who knew how to combine the satisfying intellectual rigors of the concert hall with the lively, tuneful sounds of the Broadway stage. He had a gift for joining heart and mind in gorgeous musical discourse, creating a legacy of theatre music that moves and delights us to this very day."
Jamie Bernstein sure has a way with words when it comes to describing the lasting appeal of her father's compositions. Following in the footsteps of George Gershwin, who most prominently connected jazz with classical music in the 1920's and 30's, Leonard Bernstein, usually supplying his own orchestrations, brought a symphonic complexity to a new kind of Broadway musical where the inclusion of interpretive and plot advancing dances was the new craze. His Broadway credits include four outstanding achievements -- a bittersweet comedy of three sailors cramming as much fun as they can into their last day before being shipped out to war (On the Town), a giddy celebration of New York's bohemian spirit (Wonderful Town), a darkly sardonic operetta (Candide), and a tense drama of the racial rivalry that polarizes this city of immigrants (West Side Story) -- each with music that supplied a strong emotional thrust, both comically and dramatically.
Hosting the Caramoor International Music Festival's evening celebrating Leonard Bernstein on Broadway, the clever and charismatic Ms. Bernstein provided special insights to her father's creative process." The Broadway people said he was too operatic and the classical people said he was too melodic," she explains in trying to determine why her father may have been under-appreciated during his lifetime.
Also smacking of charisma was Michael Barrett, conducting The Orchestra of St. Luke's like Jerome Robbins' choreography was surging through his body. (Only during ballet music – he kept it low key while vocal soloists were performing). Hearing ballet sequences from On The Town ("The Great Lover", the pas de deux for "Lonely Town" and "Times Square: 1944") and the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story without the great dance master's visuals emphasized the numerous jazz colors on Bernstein's palate. And the overture to Candide, his bow to European operetta, was delivered with effervescent briskness.
Although the program was an ensemble effort, the big name star was Broadway favorite Judy Kaye, whose feature number was Wonderful Town's "The Story of My Life," a song which was eventually replaced with "100 Easy Ways To Lose a Man". Betty Comden and Adolph Green's lyric had their lead character, Ruth Sherwood, taking a sober look back at her disappointments despite best efforts. And though it had its share of funny moments ("I have some advice for you younger girls… stay younger."), it was considered too downbeat for the moment. Kaye's performance was a mature and determined self-effacing self-reflection. The recent Tony nominee then showed her dorkier side when joined by the rest of the company for "Swing", followed shortly by a showy comic turn as On The Town's man-hungry cabbie in the wacky and frenetic "Taxi Number" (a/k/a "Come Up To My Place")
After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens. |