The popular CBC radio show, "Say It With Music," an hourlong musical theatre program hosted by Richard Ouzounian, begins its 10th season Jan. 24 at 4:05 PM (ET).
The program, which has 10 percent commentary from host Ouzounian and 90 percent music culled from soundtracks, cast albums and pop standard discs, attracts about 100,000 weekly listeners throughout Canada, according to the CBC.
There is also an unreported number of fans in American border-state cities with access to the CBC signal. The show can also be heard on the internet every week at http://www.radio.cbc.ca/radiotwo.ram. He said he gets mail from as far away as Iceland.
Ouzounian, 48, told Playbill On-Line that one of the most gratifying things about hosting his program since Jan. 20, 1990, is that he's introduced listeners to well-crafted, classic musicals. "I picture my listener being some teenager in Canada or North America who can't hear some of this otherwise," he said.
Longtime listeners know he gives more airtime to golden-age shows rather than pop-rock shows. And, occasionally, he's gotten some broadcast world premiere scoops: Fan Garth Drabinsky, the now-deposed Livent Inc. producer, allowed Ouzounian to air "The Old Red Hills of Home" from the in-process Parade and a workshop tape of "Wheels of a Dream" from the then-unseen Ragtime. "(The listeners) are very young or the very old," said Ouzounian. "It's cheerful to get letters from those who have never heard Brigadoon before. There is a whole generation who think musical theatre is only Cats, Les Miz, Phantom and Saigon and that's it."
Ouzounian, a New York native and musical theatre junkie who grew up listening to Jule Styne recordings, is a well-known Canadian regional theatre director and librettist of a number of musicals, including the Stratford Festival's upcoming Dracula in summer 1999.
He relocated to Canada to study theatre in the 1970s and worked on productions with a young Brent Craver (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Parade). As Ouzounian's directing credits mounted, he eventually became Harold Prince's assistant on the Toronto production of the Phantom of the Opera.
Ouzounian has been artistic director of five Canadian theatres and was an associate director at the Stratford Festival for four seasons.
After producing a six-part radio program called "Forgotten Musicals" in the 1980s, he was asked by CBC management to host and write a weekly musical theatre program to replace a ratings-poor show called "17 Blocks on Broadway."
He drew on Irving Berlin's signature song from The Music Box Revue of 1924 for his program title, "Say It With Music." He said he's been so hard-Pressed to find good recordings of the song that he doesn't use it on the air.
In addition to being the "Say It With Music" writer and host, he is a theatre critic on CBC Radio 1, a TV broadcaster and head of arts programming for TVOntario. Among his upcoming musical theatre writing projects is a musical version of the Lucy Maud Montgomery "Emily of New Moon" trilogy.
The Jan. 24 "Say It With Music" will be a special "Favorites" hour including Ouzounian's favorite overture (Merrily We Roll Along), favorite finale ("Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide), favorite male vocalist (the late Frank Sinatra, singing "Here's That Rainy Day"), favorite female vocalist (the late Nancy LaMott, singing "Good Thing Going/Not a Day Goes By") and favorite composer (Stephen Sondheim).
The first Sunday of every month in 1999 will features musicals that were set in different decades of the 20th century (The Boy Friend and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, for the 1920s, for example).
-- By Kenneth Jones