Tag Archives: The Tony Awards

Nr 465: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978)

6 Mar

Ain’t Misbevavin’
1978: Broadway, 1 604 perfs.
1979: West End
1982: Tv-version
1988: Broadway Revival, 176 perfs.
1995: West End Revival

Book: Murray Horwitz, Richard Maltby, Jr.,
Music & Lyrics: Various composers and lyricists

The musical is a tribute to the black musicians of the 1920s and 1930s who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, an era of growing creativity, cultural awareness, and ethnic pride, and takes its title from the 1929 Waller song ”Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It was a time when Manhattan nightclubs like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom were the playgrounds of high society and Lenox Avenue dives were filled with piano players banging out the new beat known as swing.
Five performers present an evening of rowdy, raunchy, and humorous songs that encapsulate the various moods of the era and reflect Waller’s view of life as a journey meant for pleasure and play.

This is one swinging show. If you don’t start tapping your toes, snapping your fingers and break out in a goofy happy smile while listening to the cast recording you’re in serious trouble, my friend. Because this is an infectious, melodious, well sung, well arranged and overall brilliantly staged masterpiece of a show. Without a doubt one of the best, if not the best revue ever to be presented on Broadway. At least in my opinion.
Now, I must admit that I saw the original London production in 1979 and not the Broadway one, but both André DeShields and Charlayne Woodard from the Broadway show were in it – and it was a brilliant production. I was totally blown away.
Just the way they delivered the songs… They weren’t just singing the words they were telling a story, really telling it and not just singing beautiful notes (although they sang beautifully, all of them) and they were acting the songs. They made every song come to life and it was heaven to me. I hadn’t realized, till then, that you could deliver a song in this way, with so much passion, engaging storytelling and with total audience contact. I was sucked into the world of Fats Waller, his time and his music.
And another first for me was when André sang The Vipers Drag, lightning up a reefer on stage, slithering around, ”getting high” and at one point started to flirt with some girls on the first row and offering them a toke. When they reached for the joint he pulled it away from them with an evil smile and wagged his finger in a ”no, no” sign which had the entire audience screaming with laughter. I had never seen an actor interact with the audience that way before. I loved it. I wanted more of it and I always think of that moment when I’m on stage myself because that’s the kind of contact I want to have with the public too.
I was in my teens when I saw this show and it was one of my first visits to a musical all by myself and that was an adventure in it self.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s East 73rd Street cabaret on February 8, 1978. It became such a smash hit that they decided to develop it into a full-scale production that opened on Broadway in may that same year.
The cast at the Manhattan Theatre Club included  Nell Carter, André DeShields, Ken Page, Armelia McQueen, and Irene Cara. Yep, that’s the same Irene Cara who went on to play ”Coco Hernandez” in the 1980 film Fame and recorded the film’s Academy Award and Golden Globe winning title song ”Fame”. She also sang and co-wrote the song ”Flashdance… What a Feeling” (from the 1983 film Flashdance), for which she won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1984. 
On Broadway Irene was replaced with Charlayne Woodard.

There is also a sixth very importend cast member in the production and that is the orchestrator Luther Henderson (1919 – 2003), who’s orchestrations and vocal arrangement are one of the resons why this is such a brilliant and joyful show. They are absolutely brilliant! And he appeared as the on stage pianist in the original production.
Luther served as orchestrator, arranger, and musical director on more than fifty Broadway musicals from Beggar’s Holiday (1946) to Jelly’s Last Jam (1992).

In 1995 there was a national tour of the show starring The Pointer Sisters. Although it never reached Broadway, as originally planned, a recording of highlights from the show was released.

The Broadway show won:
3 Tony Awards: Best musical, Featured Actress in a musical (Nell Carter) and Best Direction of a musical (Richard Maltby, Jr.).
3 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Actor and Actress in a musical (Ken Page and Nell Carter)
2 Theatre World Awards for Nell Carter and Armelia McQueen.
The Tv-version from 1982 won 2 Primetime Emmy Awards for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for Nell Cater and André DeShields.

Reviews:
A joyous celebration. … This really is Fats Waller on Broadway. It is a memorial that breathes. It is a testament to a curious genius – one of the few people you seem to know from the memories of their recorded voice. … simply a Broadway show that you will never forget. And it is really Waller. It really is.
– Clive Barnes, New York Post

What whistles, hoots, throws off sparks and moves at about 180 miles an hour, even though it is continually stopped? Ain’t Misbehavin’.
– Richard Eder, New York Times

To put it as judiciously as possible, Ain’t Misbehavin’ has a first act that will knock your ears off and a second that will come back for the rest of you.
– Walter Kerr, Times

Since this is Broadway, the land of bristling microphones and loudspeakers by the carload, there is a tape deck and a pair of sound consoles at the rear of the theatre that look elaborate and complicated enough to send the show into space. But that’s just what the cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’ does all by itself. Wow!
– Douglas Watt, Daily News

Videos:
At the Tony Awards
Nell Carter singing I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling
Lounging at the Waldorf
2018 Highlights reel
The Complete Tv-version of the show
Fats Waller sings Ain’t Misbehavin’

Nr 388: Cry-Baby

9 Feb

crybaby-cover3

Cry-Baby (2008)
Broadway, 68 föreställningar

Music: Adam Schlesinger
Lyrics: David Javerbaum
Book: David Meehan, Mark O’Donnell

Baeserad på John Waters film med samma namn från 1990

I can’t believe you’re here tonight
it thrills me through and through
In fact I’m gonna improvise
A love song just for you:
Well, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby 
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh la la

It’s 1954.
Everyone likes Ike, nobody likes communism, and Wade ”Cry-Baby” Walker is the coolest boy in Baltimore. He’s a white trash bad boy with a good cause; truth, justice, and the pursuit of rock and roll.
One day Cry-Baby and his gang of juvenile delinquents crashes an Anti-Polio picnic in the better parts of Baltimore and there he meets (and falls in love with) the rich girl Allison, just a good girl who yearns to be bad in Cry-Baby’s arms.
Fueled by hormones and the new rhythms of rock and roll, she turns her back on her squeaky clean boyfriend Baldwin to become a ”drape” (a Baltimore juvenile delinquent) and Cry-Baby’s moll.
At the other end of the topsy-turvy moral meritocracy of 1954 America, Baldwin as the king of the squares leads his close-harmony pals against the juvenile delinquents, who are ultimately arrested for arson, sending the drapes all off to prison.
It’s Romeo and Juliet meets High School Hellcats.

Showen börjar bra med en ouvertyr där man lagt in små uppmaningar från ensemblen till publiken att 1. Inta sina platser, 2. Stänga av mobiltelefoner och 3. Ta bort det prasslande papper från godiset.  Från det går man direkt till en käck Anti-Polio picknick som hålls av WASParna  i Baltimore – härligt självgoda, egotrippade och  fördomsfulla vita överklassare. Så långt är det riktigt, riktigt kul men sen så tappar den fart och blir betydligt mindre överraskande, satirisk och smaklös och mer… ja, jag vet inte, färglös kanske, den tappade mig i alla fall.
Tyvärr så tycker jag att historien inte håller hela vägen, delvis för att den är extremt förutsägbar med den rika flickan som faller för den dåliga pojken med det stora hjärtat från slummen men också för att det händer inte så mycket. Det är många kul shownummer och en del väldigt roliga scener men i stort så står föreställningen stilla och stampar mest hela tiden.

Musiken svänger, det är rockabilly, Rock’n’Roll, Doo-wop och tajta smöriga nummer med schyssta vokala harmonier. Allt är väldigt 50-tal, tidig Elvis-känsla och kontrasterna mellan den rumsrena  ”vita” musiken och den mer sexiga, syndiga ”svarta” musiken är stor, precis som det nog var då.
Problemet med att allt låter så äkta är att det nånstans känns som om man hört alla låtar tidigare. Det här är show som verkar bestå av b-sidorna från den tidens hitsinglar, inga dåliga låtar direkt men inte heller nått man minns. Har lyssnat på skivan ett flertal gånger och det är inte mycket som fastnar.
Bäst är den när den har komiska nummer, som den minst sagt störda och intrigerande Lenoras kärleksförklaring till Cry-Baby – Screw Loose, eller sången där Cry frågar Allison den viktiga frågan: Girl, Can I Kiss You With Tongue?

Jag minns att när jag såg filmen, med Johnny Depp i titelrollen, i början på 1990-talet så kändes den som ett slags försök att casha in och rida på den stora succén som filmen Hairspray var. Båda filmerna var av John Waters, Baltimores kända undergroundfilmare, och Hairspray var hans stora genombrott hos den bredare massan och Cry-Baby var tänkt att etablera honom där. Men den gjorde inte det och han slutade att försöka göra hyfsat rumsrena filmer och återgick istället till den mer skruvade och definitivt icke-PK värld hans filmer normalt utspelade sig i.
Denna musikal känns lite på samma sätt. Det är samma författare bakom både musikalen Hairspray och denna show och man känner hur de liksom försöker att upprepa framgångsreceptet  de använde till den förra. Men precis som med filmen så känns det här inte lika genuint emotionellt eller intressant utan bara som en trist upprepning trots att det är en helt ny story.
Och så har den inte heller lika bra och catch-ig musik som Hairspray hade.

Trivia:

Musikalen fick 4 Tony Award nomineringar men vann inte någon.
Den vann 1 Drama Desk Award för bästa koreografi

Meehan och O’Donnell som skrev manuset till denna musikal skrev även manuset till musikalen Hairspray (2002) – även den baserad på en John Waters film.

Trots att musikalen hade sin premiär på Broadway 2008 så skulle det dröja ända till 2015 innan man gjorde en castskiva. Det hör till ovanligheterna att man spelar in shower som floppat och speciellt 8 år senare men det är bara att tacka och ta emot. Alla som var med i showen kunde inte samlas till inspelningen men de flesta var med –  88,4 % av original casten medverkar.

Schlessinger och Javerbaum som skrev musiken och sångtexterna till denna show vann kanske inga Tonys men herrarna har vunnit ett flertal Grammys bl a för de hysteriskt roliga öppningsnummer de skrivit till Neil Patrick Harris när han var värd för Tony Galan. Ett exempel finns bland videorna längre ner.

Press:

The new John Waters musical, is campy, cynical, totally insincere and fabulously well crafted. And funny. Madly, outrageously funny.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal,
… pleasantly demented and – deep in the sweet darkness of its loopy heart – more true to the cheerful subversion of a John Waters movie than its sentimental big sister Hairspray.
 Linda Winer, Newsday
The show is without flavor: sweet, sour, salty, putrid or otherwise. This show in search of an identity has all the saliva-stirring properties of week-old pre-chewed gum.

Mr. Ashford brings his customary gymnastic vigor to the choreography: lots of revved-up jumping jacks, push-ups and leg lifts, usually led by a trio of athletic muscle boys.
Ben Brantley, The New York Times

 

… watered-down Waters has yielded a flavorless Broadway musical that revels in its down-and-dirtiness yet remains stubbornly synthetic. There’s a lot of talent, sass and sweat onstage, particularly in the dance department, plus a sprinkling of wit in the show’s good-natured vulgarity. But somehow, it never quite ignites.
David Rooney, Variety
… O’Donnell and Meehan had far more success with another retro-themed Waters adaptation, Hairspray…. Cry-Baby is content to stay in the shallow end and focus on a standard wrong-side-of-the-tracks tale…. But rather than supply a jolt of not-too-outsider-energy, [the songwriters] have instead coasted on their magpie skills, tossing out an undistinguished stream of pastiche numbers. The lyrics occasionally have a welcome crispness…. The songs themselves, however, are as generic as the lyrics are pointed: It’s the first time I can recall forgetting a show’s melodies before they were even finished.
Eric Grode, The New York Sun

The rockabilly-inspired numbers that David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger have crafted for Cry-Baby aren’t as ambitious or infectious [as Hairspray], but the show is similarly good-hearted, and has more of a Waters edge. Javerbaum and Schlesinger’s lyrics and Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book are both more inventively crass and less snarky than those of other contemporary musical winkfests; you get the sense that these writers share Waters’ affection for his goofy subjects.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today

Video:
High lights
At The Tony Awards
Loose Screws
A Whole Lot Worse
Trailer Cry-Baby (movie)
It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore

Trailer för Female Trouble  – en typisk John Waters film

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