ON THE RECORD: The Gershwins' 1930 Version of Strike Up the Band and Barbara Carroll's Latest CD

By Steven Suskin
28 Jun 2011

Barbara Carroll: How Long Has This Been Going On? [Harbinger HCD-2701]
How long has Barbara Carroll been going on? Since 1925, it seems, which puts her at 86. And makes her older than Barbara Cook, Angela Lansbury, and even Elaine Stritch (by seven days). Yet she always seems to be around somewhere, playing jazz in some cabaret or other with her trio. She was at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola — part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex in the Time Warner Center — last March, with recording equipment. Resulting in a new CD, "How Long Has This Been Going On?"

When a new recording of songs from Ye Olde American Popular Songbook crosses my desk, I do what I call the "Fascinating Rhythm" test. I look in the contents list for one of several songs: "Fascinating Rhythm," "This Can't Be Love," "Cheek to Cheek," "Long Ago (and Far Away)," "I've Got the World on a String," "Dancing in the Dark." You get the idea. When I find one of 'em, I put it on and I can tell — unfailingly — just how much I'm going to like the CD.

Here's Carroll's rendition of "Fascinating Rhythm." Yes, folks, she's got it. And "I Got Rhythm," on both of which Carroll is complemented by fine work from Ken Peplowski on clarinet. And "Change Partners." And "Have You Met Miss Jones." The Barbara Carroll Trio — consisting of Miss C. at the keys, Jay Leonhart (one of our favorite bass players, who was just accompanying Barbara Cook last week at Feinstein's) and Alvin Atkinson on drums — joined by Mr. Peplowski. Barbara Carroll's "How Long Has This Been Going On?," one of those Broadway jazz CDs you can just keep playing.



*

One of the several pleasures of being a Tony nominator is the people you get to meet. The nominators come from all walks of the theatre, each adding their own knowledge and background to the mix. I have been watching and enjoying Alice Playten — who died on June 25, at the age of 63 — since I was a child (in the audience) and she was a child (on stage with Carol Channing, in Hello, Dolly!). But I never met her until we were sitting around the big conference table up at the Tony offices. We would find ourselves repeatedly placed in adjacent seats at previews. More recently, whenever I've found myself with an extra ticket to an Off-Broadway show I'm covering, I've found Alice to be the perfect companion; she loved performing and she loved performers, and she was always game to go see anything. When the shows weren't quite worth seeing, she was always — shall we say charitable?

Readers might remember her from Caroline, or Change or Seussical. Those of you have been around longer will recall Alice in Promenade, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, as the self-proclaimed "stinkerette" Kaffritz in Henry, Sweet Henry or maybe the original Broadway cast of Oliver! Or from those dumpling and meatball commercials she made for Alka-Seltzer.

Hers was truly a life in the theatre. She started at 12, taking over the role of Baby Louise shortly after the opening of Gypsy. Unlike other performers who sit in their dressing rooms and while away the hours, Alice used to stand in the wing every night and watch Ethel Merman do "Rose's Turn"; that was her education, and that's where she learned her craft and her dedication. Alice was dedicated, all right; she was a joy to watch and a pleasure to speak with, and I guess we can say an all round credit to her profession.

I last saw Alice just two weeks ago, at a press preview of Spider-Man. (Alice had great empathy for the cast, having herself gone through that similar if less expensive nightmare called Seussical.) Tuesday I'm going to a press preview of the next Broadway opening, Master Class. I'm disheartened, in advance, to know that there's no chance of my turning around and finding Alice sitting behind me.

(Steven Suskin is author of the recently released updated and expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)

Visit PlaybillStore.com to view theatre-related recordings for sale.