Twentieth Century Pop Revue Packs for the Road

Special Features   Twentieth Century Pop Revue Packs for the Road


One of the hottest tickets last season was for a musical revue, Twentieth Century Pop, starring Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Marianne Faithfull. The show packed them in at Rainbow & Stars, one of Manhattan's most glamorous boîtes, leaving many with their noses pressed against the window pane, to paraphrase a standard which, like the ones in the show, helped to define the desires, dreams and yearnings of the baby boomer generation.

Fortunately, pop enthusiasts will get another chance to see the widely acclaimed show, conceived and produced by Steve Paul and directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, as it begins to tour nationally, having been presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last month and scheduled for a five-week engagement at the David Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, CA, beginning March 3. Rita Coolidge takes over for Faithfull in this version, which will again feature Clayton and Love, while Dusty Springfield may star in another production slated to open this spring in London.

At the time of the Rainbow & Stars engagement, what struck critics and audiences alike was how a revue of familiar pop standards‹including the trio's bouncy version of "It's in His Kiss"‹could engender such strong emotion and even theatrical catharsis. More than one reviewer noted that it had little to do with nostalgia and a lot to do with the heightened theatrical vocabulary of a long-neglected art form‹the musical revue.

"We are a new show, not an oldies show," says Paul, who has demonstrated his expertise in the area before, having been nominated for a Tony‹along with Corbett‹some seasons back for It's a Grand Night for Singing, a revue that originated at R&S before it moved to Broadway. "It's a question of using wonderful music with the sophistication and craft of Broadway artistry to realize the highest potential of the revue format."

Paul is an avid student of that format, having been weaned on it as early as the age ten when the Bronx-born director saw New Faces of 1952, Leonard Sillman's classic revue. At age 15 as a publicist for the Peppermint Lounge‹the legendary sixties' night club "where Jackie Kennedy and Greta Garbo danced with sailors," recalls Paul‹the fledgling impresario rubbed shoulders with much of the talent that he would later employ for the musical evenings he has produced over the past 20 years. He recently followed up the success of Twentieth Century Pop with Twentieth Century R&B, starring Maxine Brown, Vivian Reed and Bunny Sigler, which may also tour across the country.

Aware of such legendary forces in the development of the musical revue such as Andre Charlotte and C.B. Corcoran, Paul says that it is his ambition to be one of the leading creators and producers of contemporary revues on the global scene. "I research each show for six months to a year before I do it," says Paul of his meticulous methodology. "If I'm doing Cole Porter or George Gershwin, I listen to every show to find songs that appeal to me and then haunt the archives of the estate or vintage record shops, looking for obscure gems. Then I try to match the song with the right performer.

"There's one cardinal rule that I have: If you don't like it, you don't sing it," he says. "Another is that if it was a great song then, it's a great song now. I'm not interested in nostalgia. I'm interested in connection. Spiritual, emotional, sensual. It's gotta come from the heart or you've nothing at all."
-- By Patrick Pacheco

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