Louis Botto's Passing Stages -- Sept. 1998

Louis Botto's Passing Stages -- Sept. 1998 HAMMERSTEINBECK: The new National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California (John Steinbeck's hometown), has a special section dedicated to Pipe Dream, the 1955 Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein based on Steinbeck's novels Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row. The exhibition features a re-creation of the boiler-pipe home that Suzy (Judy Tyler) inhabits in the second act, watercolor scenic designs for the show by Jo Mielziner, production photos and audio excerpts from the RCA Victor original cast album.

HAMMERSTEINBECK: The new National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California (John Steinbeck's hometown), has a special section dedicated to Pipe Dream, the 1955 Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein based on Steinbeck's novels Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row. The exhibition features a re-creation of the boiler-pipe home that Suzy (Judy Tyler) inhabits in the second act, watercolor scenic designs for the show by Jo Mielziner, production photos and audio excerpts from the RCA Victor original cast album.

BRITISH TAKE ON CHICAGO: The London cast recording of Chicago is now in record shops. A triumph in London (as it is in New York), the John Kander/Fred Ebb/Bob Fosse musical is the winner of two Olivier Awards for Outstanding Musical Production and Outstanding Actress in a Musical -- Ute Lemper, who plays Velma Kelly and is currently re-creating that award-winning performance on Broadway. Ruthie Henshall has also been acclaimed for her performance as Roxie Hart. Produced for RCA Victor by Thomas Z. Shepard, the British CD made the pop charts in its first week of release, just as RCA Victor's new Broadway cast recording did in the U.S.

JOLIE'S COMEBACK:
Admirers of the late Al Jolson will want to own a distinctive new CD called The Greatest Hits of Al Jolson, featuring his best-known hits performed by the masterly pianist John Arpin. Among the many gems are such Jolson standards as "Swanee," "April Showers," "Sonny Boy," "You Made Me Love You," "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" and many, many more. The excellent liner notes are by Jolson archivist Al F. Koenig Jr. (Platinum Entertainment by arrangement with Mastersound Productions).

FROM STAGE TO SCREEN: Rykodisc and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc., have just released on CD for the first time the original motion-picture soundtracks to film adaptations of such Broadway hits as Irma La Douce, Man of La Mancha, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying and the Tony Award-winning play, Equus. These are pristine remastered recordings, which include -- where available -- extensive liner notes, exclusive photos, a reproduction of the original movie poster, and a CD-ROM featuring a film clip or a theatrical trailer previewing the home video release.

THEY HAD FACES THEN: Celebrity mavens will be mesmerized by a dazzling new book, Celebrity Caricature in America by Wendy Wick Reaves. The cover alone -- The Marx Brothers by Al Hirschfeld, a 1935 collage of Chico, Groucho and Harpo -- is a knockout.

Ms. Reaves skillfully charts the growth of celebrity caricature during the 1920's and 1930's in such periodicals as Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the New York World. In addition to the masterly art of Hirschfeld, there are memorable impressions of world- famous people by such masters as Miguel Covarrubias, Al Frueh, Ralph Barton and Marius de Zayas. There are caricatures of legendary Broadway shows (Anything Goes, Our Town, Private Lives); vivid color sketches of the Lunts, Josephine Baker, Jed Harris; Alex Gard's celebrity caricatures in Sardi's Restaurant; and Ralph Barton's famed curtain for the Chauve-Souris revue that featured 139 recognizable first-nighters in their seats at a Broadway opening. You'll find anybody who was anybody in this striking volume (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Yale University Press).

-- By Louis Botto