Another Sondheim . . . In Jazz

Another Sondheim . . . In Jazz PASSING STAGES -- May 1996

PASSING STAGES -- May 1996

JAZZY FORUM: Now that A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is back on Broadway at the St. James Theatre, it is appropriate to report that Varese Sarabande Records has just released A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. . .In Jazz, featuring the Trotter Trio, who have done critically acclaimed jazz interpretations of Sondheim's Passion, Sweeney Todd and Company. What you hear on this latest CD is jazz pianist Terry Trotter and his combo interpret Sondheim's first Broadway score in jazz without Sondheim's lyrics. This latest album in the jazz series is available only on CD (suggested price, $16.98).

RODGERS AND HART IN EGYPT: The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis recently presented a new version of that memorable 1937 Rodgers and Hart hit, Babes in Arms. One of that show's hit songs is "Johnny One-Note," and the critic who reviewed the musical in Variety stated that the song was staged in an Egyptian setting, "...which, hilariously, has absolutely nothing to do with the song itself." That would be news to Rodgers and Hart. The lyric clearly states that "Poor Johnny One-Note/Got in Aida /Indeed a great chance to be brave." Well, Verdi's Aida takes place in Egypt, and back in 1937 when Babes in Arms was on Broadway. "Johnny One-Note" was appropriately staged in an Egyptian setting with the chorus garbed in Egyptian costumes, so there's nothing anachronistic about staging it in Egypt in 1996.

THIRD TEACHERS' NIGHT ON BROADWAY: A popular cultural event Teachers' Night On Broadway is being reprised for the third time this year on May 9. The purpose of this event is to address the issue of arts education in schools and to encourage educators to use theatre as a viable teaching tool in and outside the classroom, as well as to help develop in their students an appreciation for the live theatre experience, thus creating the audience of the future.
Over 1,200 public and private school teachers from N.Y.C. and as far north as Albany will participate in Teachers' Night On Broadway, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. throughout the vast Gershwin Theatre lobby on 50th Street near Broadway. A highlight will be a theatre education fair, where more 50 Broadway shows, institutional theatre companies, licensing organizations, theatre book publishers and others will display and distribute education materials, information resources and study guides for teachers to use for classroom study. At 5 PM in the theatre, the teachers will be treated to a special program encouraging them to transmit their love of live performance to their students. The program, sponsored by Theatre Development Fund, The League of American Theatres and Producers and The United Federation of Teachers, will end at 6 PM, after which the teachers will attend one of 15 participating shows on Broadway.

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Nicol Williamson is starring at the Belasco Theatre in a one-man show, Jack A Night on the Town With John Barrymore. As you probably know by now, it was at this same theatre that Barrymore made his last Broadway appearance in the 1940 comedy My Dear Children. What you may have forgotten is that Williamson also appeared at this theatre in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence in 1965. Theatregoer Don Gibbs has written to us from Omaha to relate what happened at a matinee performance of this play that he attended back then. In one scene, the phone rang and when Williamson picked it up, it dropped and smashed to pieces onstage. Without batting an eyelash, the actor said, "I guess I'll have to take that call in the other room." He then walked to the wings and spoke loud enough into an imaginary phone offstage for the audience to hear his conversation without damaging the progress of the play. He was deservedly applauded for his resourcefulness. PORTER IN ASPIC: In the book No Intermissions/The Life of Agnes de Mille by Carol Easton, there is an amusing thumbnail portrait of composer/lyricist Cole Porter by choreographer de Mille. In 1933, when she was hired to do the dances for Porter's London musical, Nymph Errant, de Mille wrote this description of Porter to her mother: "a small, finely boned and fastidious little man with a round doll head like a marionette's (Charlie McCarthy), large staring eyes and a fixed and pleased expression that I rather think has nothing to do with his emotions. . . He walks mincingly and very gingerly with tiny steps, and he leans on a cane. . . His voice is soft and husky and rather light. He purrs." (Little, Brown and Company, $27.95.)

-- By Louis Botto