It was a very good year for show tunes in 1964, and The Town Hall concert series called Broadway by the Year has a wealth of musicals to draw from for The Broadway Musicals of 1964.
Scott Siegel, host and founder of the subscription series, said 13 different musicals — from Hello, Dolly! to the arcane Rubantino — will be represented at the 8 PM June 10 presentation, which will include four more singers than past concerts.
"1964 is such an extraordinary year with so much variety of music it seem appropriate to have an even greater variety of cast to meet the challenge of the music," Siegel told Playbill On-Line. "It's also a longer show than usual with music from more shows than ever before."
The cast for The Broadway Musicals of 1964, musical directed by Ross Patterson and directed by Robert Armin, includes Tom Andersen, Steven Brinberg, Liz Callaway, Barbara Fasano, Alix Korey, Norm Lewis, Sharon McNight, Craig Rubano and Richard Skipper. At least two of the men in the evening will impersonate Barbra Streisand and Carol Channing, respectively.
"One of the reasons I have a cast of nine rather than the usual cast of five this year is that we don't want to become a formula," Siegel explained. "There are things we find that work and we're gonna do those things, but we want to be open, always, to making each evening fit the requirements of the years we're doing." In the evenings, which have earned solid reviews from the major New York dailies, Siegel offers commentary and perspective about the years in which the shows emerged — everything from trivia about the musicals to the price of bread 38 years ago.
Represented in the June 10 evening are Anyone Can Whistle, Bajour, Fiddler on the Roof, Fade Out...Fade In, Funny Girl, High Spirits, Foxy, Golden Boy, Hello, Dolly!, Oh What a Lovely War, Rugantino, Something More! and What Makes Sammy Run?
Even with all those titles, there were still more musicals that premiered on Broadway in 1964: Ben Franklin in Paris, I Had a Ball!, Cafe Crown. There is room for a separate evening devoted to 1964, Siegel said, and it may be offered in future Broadway by the Year seasons.
Tickets range $30-$35. Call (212) 317-4100 for ticket information.
Two live concert albums of past Broadway by the Year shows (1933 and 1943) are in stores from Bayview Records.
The series was tested in 2001 with Siegel's The Broadway Musicals of 1957 and The Broadway Musicals of 1943 under the umbrella of "Musicals on Broadway." Siegel, an arts journalist and critic, writes and hosts the presentations—offering tart, illuminating commentary and historical perspective. Broadway and cabaret artists perform in a format that includes a little bit of history and a lot of music.
The concerts play 8 PM Monday evenings—traditionally, a day off for Broadway actors.
He points out that the goal of the Broadway by the Year cabaret concerts is not offer original orchestrations or precise re enactments of musical theatre moments, but the essence. Piano and bass will be the core instrumentation at each show, with more pieces added as dictated by the material.
Siegel reminds the theatregoers that not every song heard will be a hit song, but his aim is to make sure they land. "What I'm looking for from these performances are showstopping moments, not only from the musicals but from the way we present them," Siegel said.
Fans of theatre music viewed the new series in 2001 as a chance to get in on the ground floor of a potentially hot new addition to the popular show-tune concerts that have proliferated in Manhattan. Encores!, Musicals Tonight, Lyrics and Lyricists represent competition and have different goals and structures.
The Town Hall is at 123 W. 43rd Street. Visit www.the townhall nyc.org.
The Town Hall offers eclectic programming — lectures, film, dance, rock, comedy, theatre and more — year round. About 90 percent of the work seen there is by rental arrangement. The new "Broadway by the Year" series is produced by The Town Hall. Siegel is host of The Town Hall's film series. Wealthy suffragists built The Town Hall — designed by McKim, Mead and White — in 1921 as a place to meet, share ideas and hear speakers. It was a setting for "town meetings" that were broadcast by NBC. The hall's acoustics proved prime for concerts and the building evolved into a concert and performance house over the years. New York University helped revive the space in the 1970s as its current multi-disciplinary house. It achieved landmark status in 1978.
— By Kenneth Jones