Alison Fraser and Chip Zien, famously a patient and her shrink in William Finn's March of the Falsettos in 1981, will reunite in Town Hall's May 13 Broadway by the Year concert, The Broadway Musicals of 1951.
Thommie Walsh directs the latest cabaret concert in the popular new series created and hosted by Scott Siegel. Songs from musicals of a given year are punctuated by notes and comment (by critic and journalist Siegel) about the time period and the shows. The series uses a cast culled from the cabaret and musical theatre worlds.
Also starring in the 1951 tribute are Davis Gaines (a longtime Phantom of the Opera in New York and on tour), Rebecca Eichenberger (Mother on tour in Ragtime, Christine in Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera) and Leslie Kritzer (Paper Mill's Funny Girl).
Ross Patterson musical directs numbers from the King and I, Paint Your Wagon, Bagels & Yox, Seventeen, Flahooley, Top Banana, Make a Wish and Courtin' Time.
The series has been a hot seller in subscriptions and will return in spring 2003. The June 10 Broadway by the Year focuses on The Broadway Musicals of 1964, with a larger cast than usual: Liz Callaway, Tom Andersen, Norm Lewis, Sharon McNight, Steven Brinberg (Simply Barbra), and Richard Skipper (the Carol Channing impersonator).
Tickets range $30-$35. Call (212) 317-4100 for ticket information.
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.
For the 1964 concert, expect songs from Hello, Dolly!, What Makes Sammy Run?, Funny Girl, Fade Out-Fade In, Anyone Can Whistle, High Spirits, Fiddler on the Roof, Golden Boy and more.
Siegel said he learned a lot from the 2001 concerts.
"We still face the same dilemma, which is, finding that balance between the little lost nuggets of wonderful music that nobody knows and the familiar songs that everyone knows that they would love to hear again," Siegel said.
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.
"There are certain songs you just shouldn't mess with," Siegel said. "But one of the great things about Broadway songs are their elasticity. Why not come up with a new way? We took a lot of liberties with Jason Graae singing [Carmen Jones'] 'Stand Up and Fight' as a gay number, a comedy number. It was very funny. I think you have to be more careful with the songs that are favorites."
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 Tonite, Lyrics and Lyricists represent competition and have different goals and structures.
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