|2006 Showcase On Song|
We open this year’s show with a selection of numbers from the most honoured show in Broadway history — Mel Brooks’ The Producers, the winner of a record 14 Tony awards. Based on his own 1968 movie and starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the show is still playing to full houses in London and on Broadway. More recently, the show, based on the movie, was made back into a movie again. The music and lyrics were all written by Mel Brooks himself, with the book being co-written with Thomas Meehan, who’s biggest hit previously had been Annie!
Our next section features a group of songs, old and new, taken form a variety of musicals. First up is The Trolley Song, written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin for the 1944 MGM movie, Meet Me In St Louis and famously performed by Judy Garland. Following this, we present a medley of numbers from the 1964 musical, Fiddler On The Roof. The Jerry Brock and Sheldon Harnick musical originally starred Zero Mostel as Tevye, although the part became forever associated with Topol, who starred in the 1971 film version. We then feature You Gotta Get A Gimmick, co-written by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, from Gypsy, the 1959 musical, which starred Ethel Merman as the domineering mother of Gypsy Rose Lee. This song is performed by three strippers, each telling the youngster how to succeed in her chosen profession. We close this section with I Know Where I’ve Been, from Hairspray. The 2002 Broadway version, of John Waters’ 1988 movie of the same name, was the winner of eight Tonys and has yet to play in this country.
Our next section features a medley of songs created by one of the great geniuses of world music, Brian Wilson. Wilson was born June 1942 (strangely, only a few days after future rival Paul McCartney) and started recording with The Beach Boys in 1962. By 1966, the band was voted the best band in the world — ahead of the Beatles — by readers of the NME. Over the years the Beach Boys music matured from their early cars and girls songs. Tonight’s programme maps some of that progression. We open with Surfer Girl, one of the first songs Brian Wilson ever wrote. This is followed by I Get Around, the band’s first UK and US number one single. Wilson’s great idol was Phil Spector and Don’t Worry Baby is written very much in the Spector style, while the infectious Fun Fun Fun was co-written with fellow Beach Boy, Mike Love. We close the section with God Only Knows — the subject matter and arrangement of which were considered revolutionary at the time of its release and remains one of the highlights of the band’s career.
Jim Steinman was born in New York City in 1947 and has
forged a career as both a composer of musicals and of rock songs. Usually
written in his Wagnerian, bombastic signature style, Steinman’s songs have
most famously been recorded by Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. However, our
section opens with two songs taken
Steinman’s most famous collaborator is, of course, Meat Loaf. Tonight we feature two of their biggest hits — Dead Ringer For Love, originally released as a duet by Meat Loaf and Cher in 1982, and the title track from their 1977 colossus, Bat Out Of Hell. Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman have subsequently parted company, but this hasn’t stopped Meat Loaf from re-recording a batch of old Steinman material, which is released as Bat Out Of Hell 3 next month. Sandwiched between these two is Total Eclipse Of The Heart, a transatlantic number one hit for Bonnie Tyler in 1983, a record that won Tyler a Grammy nomination for best female rock vocal performance.
Our second half opens with a tribute to two of the greatest and most successful musical writers of the twentieth (or any!) century — Alan J Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
Lerner and Loewe first met in 1942 and their first collaboration — The Life Of The Party — closed out of town, but their first hit was the romantic 1947 fantasy, Brigadoon. Tonight we perform Brigadoon's Overture, along with its opening number — MacConnachy Square. Following this we move forward to 1960 and their collaboration on the musical Camelot, from which we have taken the romantic ballad, If Ever I Should Leave You. We also feature a number from their 1951 hit, Paint Your Wagon — They Call The Wind Maria. Perhaps their greatest achievement was their 1956 musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion — My Fair Lady. The show made a star of Julie Andrews, who was then snubbed from the 1964 movie. We have chosen the wistful Wouldn’t It Be Loverly and the joyous Get Me To The Church On Time. It is a little known fact that when Alan J Lerner died in 1986, he was working on the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera, having already turned down the option of writing the English lyrics to Les Misèrables!
Our next section features a varied selection of songs with a (very!) loose ‘country’ feel. The section opens with Ring Of Fire, one of the signature tunes of the great Johnny Cash. Written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore, Cash recorded the song in 1963 and always maintained that the song’s horn arrangement came to him in a dream! The next number is These Boots Are Made For Walking, recorded by Nancy Sinatra in 1966. Recorded with Lee Hazelwood, the song was adopted by US troops serving in Vietnam and was recently covered by Jessica Simpson. Following this is 9 to 5, Dolly Parton’s song from the 1980 movie of the same name. The song was the biggest hit of Parton’s career, winning her two Grammy awards and an Oscar nomination. We close the section with Bobby Darin’s Things, recorded by Darin in 1963 and more recently covered by Robbie Williams and Jane Horrocks on his 2001 album, Sing When You’re Winning.
What can we say about Abba, that hasn’t already been written a thousand times? The biggest band in the world in the late 70s and early 80s, their unique style of catchy pop won the Eurovision in 1973 and then made them one of the most successful bands in history. Their catalogue of hits was taken in 1999 by playwright Catherine Johnson and turned into the musical, Mamma Mia, which has itself now gone on to become a sensational success around the world. On Broadway, the show has surpassed the runs of The Sound Of Music, Guys And Dolls and The King And I and is currently the 26th most successful show in Broadway history. A production is due to open in Moscow next month and a movie (directed by Tom Hanks!) is rumoured for 2007. Our medley features a number of the hits from the show, including four Number 1s.
Our final section features two very different ballads, starting with What a Wonderful World, written by songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and performed by Louis Armstrong in 1968. Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate in the US, the song details the singer’s delight in the simple enjoyment of everyday life. We follow this with You Raise Me Up, written by Secret Garden’s Rolf Lovland with lyrics by Brendan Graham. The song was originally written as an instrumental piece and entitled “Silent Story” - Lovland approached Irish novelist and songwriter Graham to write the lyrics to his melody after reading Graham’s epic first novel. It was originally released in 2001. Subsequently, it has been covered by over 125 different artists (not bad in five years). The recording by Josh Groban topped the American charts for 6 weeks and was nominated for a Grammy in 2005. II was re-released by Brian Kennedy after performing it at George Best’s funeral. The song again climbed the charts to No. 4 in January 2006.
We close our show with another snippet of Mel Brooks, Goodbye! Again taken from The Producers, definitely written in a style closer to his style of comedy!!