By Bill Rudman, Producer
For those of us who love classic musicals, there's a thrill about what I like to call archaeology: finding things that hardly anyone knows about -- even our friends who know a lot!
Here at Harbinger Records/The Musical Theater Project, we just released the 1975 Original Cast Recording of Philemon, written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the guys who gave us The Fantasticks and I Do! I Do!
I worked on this project on and off for a year. How come it took so long?
Well, although it's an amazing piece about courage, spirituality and true freedom -- and although it won the major Off Broadway awards that year -- the cast album on LP was only sold at specialty stores in New York. And I doubt that more than 500 copies were pressed. I wore mine out 44 years ago!
So we had to track down a mint copy of the LP to work from, and along the way I'm happy to report that the negatives from the original photo shoot were unearthed. See what I mean about archaeology?
Now it's finished -- complete with a 24-page booklet and notes by Tom Jones himself, who says he thinks it's the most interesting musical he and Harvey ever wrote.
I think he's right about that. Here's to the gifts that come from archaeological digs!
It's not unusual to see TMTP artists on local stages. Frequent Song Is You! performers like Eric Fancher and Treva Offutt are staples of the Cleveland theater community. But when FOUR of our Kids Love Musicals! teaching artists are in one production together -- directed by TMTP Associate Director Joanna May Cullinan no less -- that's something to sing about!
During the school year, Mariah Burks, Bridie Carroll, Will Sanborn and Darian Wilson can be found in classrooms teaching students to fly to Neverland and reminding them "there's no place like home" through classic American musicals. But this month they are teaming up at Cain Park to share another story from the great white way, Ragtime.
Here's what they each had to say about the show and how their teaching experience from Kids Love Musicals! impacts their work on stage.
Why should someone go see Ragtime?
It is a musical for right now! The show takes place in the early 1900s, but everything on stage is still in 2019.
How does your work with Kids Love Musicals! carry over to Ragtime?
KLM fosters a lot of conversation and encourages students to discover elements of songs or dialogue that apply to their personal lives. The rehearsal process for this show has had that same atmosphere of open dialogue among the actors to discuss the themes and parallels to their own experience.
What makes Ragtime personal to you?
Ragtime was actually the first show I ever saw on Broadway! My dad took me when I was 17 years old so I couldn't comprehend at that age how truly powerful the story was, but all the same I was mesmerized. It has been a dream of mine to play the role of Mother since then and I'm so honored to have the opportunity 20 years later.
What's it like working with your fellow Teaching Artists in a different setting?
What's interesting about Ragtime is we are all in different groups within the cast, some telling the story as immigrants, some telling the story from an African American perspective...at TMTP we are all about diversity and inclusion so telling a story where that isn't the reality has been a challenge.
What do you love about Ragtime?
First of all, it has a phenomenal score. And the story feels like it was ripped from today's headlines so it's very powerful.
How has your experience with Kids Love Musicals! helped your work on this production?
In KLM! we often have students sing and dance in a circle while the teaching artist stands in the center. It allows us to move around and share moments with each member of the class while also playing to the entire group. This production of Ragtime is staged in the round so it gives each audience member a unique vantage point and encourages us as actors to give each person a story that is all their own.
Why should someone go see Ragtime?
The story, the music, the dancing...it's all so rich and beautiful! Ragtime is timeless because it reveals a lot of the darkness and hatred that we still face in America, but it gives us so much hope and light at the same time. It has the power to change lives.
How does your work with Kids Love Musicals! carry over to Ragtime?
They both demonstrate the power of play and the importance of imagination.
By Ken Bloom
I love Eric and I think that although he has a legion of fans, he's really underrated. He has a warm, witty relationship with his audiences. His playing creates a dialogue between him, the piano and the people watching and listening. He understands the Great American Songbook better than most singer/performers. I think he's the best of the jazz/cabaret performers. Eric gives out humorous tidbits on songs and songwriters which only adds another layer to he excellent playing. And even if he's not singing but just playing, he's on the top of the hierarchy of great jazz pianists. Others show off. Not Eric. His pianist skills are subtle but deep and he's not just playing to please himself. He includes the audience with every note he plays. His unerring sense of of rhythm and bountiful invention creates a unique environment — be it in the intimacy of New York's fabled Birdland or in a grander space. Either way, audiences feel like participants in the revelry. And that's why we feel blessed to have him on the Harbinger label. Oh, one other thing: His wife and cohort, Barbara Fasano, is a bonus when they play together. She's terrific, too.
"Shana Farr is musically infallible...a consummate actress." -- Theater Pizzazz
The New York cabaret sensation joins The Musical Theater Project in Cleveland on Friday, May 17th at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club to wow audiences with her most recent solo show "It's Not Where You Start: The Songbook of Barbara Cook." Shana studied acting from an early age in the Midwest, graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Boston University and made her professional New York musical theater debut at New York City Center with the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players in the lead role of Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen Of The Guard earning her rave reviews in the New York Post, Backstage, New Jersey Star Ledger and more.
Her solo concert "Whistling Away The Dark: The Songs of Julie Andrews" premiered at Feinstein's at The Regency followed by a performance in London's Crazy Coqs garnering a 5-star review. Her one-woman musical "In The Still Of The Night" received the 2015 Bistro Award for Outstanding Solo Show, and her most recent solo concert "It's Not Where You Start..." has been produced at Feinstein's/54 Below in New York City and in London at The Pheasantry where she picked up another 5-star review.
Here's what critics had to say:
"The bravura performance by Shana Farr singing songs from the repertoire of Barbara Cook...musically infallible...a consummate actress. While Barbara Cook added to her songbook in a career that spanned decades, Shana Farr sang the plums all in one evening, an astonishing accomplishment." -- Theater Pizzazz
"Farr performs a mesmerizing five-song Sondheim segment and if there’s a more moving version of ‘Send in the Clowns’ I have not heard it." -- Musical Theatre Review
". . .Proves Farr to be a first-rate actor, unafraid to take big risks, both vocally and physically. She does not hold back, and she is exciting to watch." -- Bistro Awards
"Farr is a tour de force of singing ability and interpretation." -- Cabaret Scenes, London
Here's a live clip from "It's Not Where You Start: The Songbook of Barbara Cook" featuring Shana performing the showstopping favorite, "Vanilla Ice Cream" from Bock & Harnick's She Loves Me. See more at our Rendezvous Cabaret, Friday, May 17th at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club. $150 ticket includes hors d'oeuvres, three-course dinner, a glass of wine and the show.
By Joanna May Cullinan
In honor of National Administrative Professionals Day, TMTP would like you to meet one of the "unsung" heroes of our organization, administrative consultant Debbie Schinker! Joining us in May of 2018, Debbie has made a huge impact on the office in less than a year. She has a hand in all of our programs from updating Footlight Parade listings to mailing Harbinger recordings to your door. And if you ever call TMTP's office for any reason, you very well may speak to her!
Here's a little "getting to know you" info about her...
Do you have a favorite musical?
Who can pick a favorite, really? I love so many musicals for lots of different reasons. I finally watched Easter Parade for the first time over Easter weekend and I loved it. You can't go wrong with Judy Garland singing and Fred Astaire dancing!
How has TMTP impacted you?
I have always loved musical theater and thought I knew lots about it - until I came to TMTP! Our tagline is "LEARN. LAUGH. CRY. LOVE." and I LOVE how much I LEARN about the history and people who have created this uniquely American artform.
What was your favorite Song Is You! concert this season?
I didn't know what to expect from the Shuffle Along concert. But the more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became. I learned SO MUCH at that concert that I wish everyone could have attended.
What do you love about working with TMTP?
The arts are vital to life and every child should have a chance to explore themselves and their world through the arts. I am proud that I help Kids Love Musicals! bring that experience to many kids in Northeast Ohio.
What's one thing you are passionate about outside of musical theater?
I enjoy sharing my love of outdoor sports with others. I am a nationally certified archery instructor and a nationally certified ski instructor!
By Ken Bloom
Harbinger Records’ Songwriters Showcase Series continues with a live backers audition of the Broadway musical All American. Written by Broadway greats Charles Strouse and Lee Adams as their next show after the smash hit, Bye Bye Birdie, All American’s score featured the future hit song, “Once Upon a Time.” This is a live recording of an actual backers audition with Strouse and Adams recounting the story and singing all the songs. An added bonus for collectors and musical theater fans are several songs that were subsequently cut from the show.
Ray Bolger was the star of the show and Eileen Herlie was his co-star. And the author of the book was none other than the great Mel Brooks! Yes, the author/director of The Producers and Blazing Saddles wrote this incredibly zany script. And the score is equally hilarious and touching as well. A perfect match of score, libretto and performers.
And here you have the songwriters themselves, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams having a ball singing the songs and telling the story. And you'll have a ball also imagining you're in a swank living room or a theater studio listening to the creators selling the show!
This historic recording is the first in a series of live backers auditions to be released by Harbinger Records.
By Bill Rudman
In my 68 years, I've seen the man in the red and blue suit fly all over the place -- not only in comic books, but in a 1950s TV series, many films and, astonishingly, in a big 1966 Broadway musical directed by Hal Prince.
The show was a critics' darling. Get hold of The Best Plays of 1965-66 and you'll find it alongside just one other musical: Kander & Ebb's Cabaret.
And now you can discover it in concert in TMTP's fifth annual co-production with Kent State University's school of theatre and dance with a 2 PM performance on Sunday, April 14th at KSU and a 7:30 PM performance on Monday, April 15th at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts.
I'll kick off the performances with a brief multi-media presentation along with director Terri Kent, but like most Song Is You! concerts, our time together will fly by "faster than a speeding bullet." So here's some additional content to take a deeper dive into the musical before or after you join us.
Kent State University
General: $18 | TMTP Members: $14
Tickets available through Kent State University (Available starting September 10, 2018).
330-672-2787 or click here
General: $38/$35 | TMTP Members: $33/$30
Tickets available through Brown Paper Tickets.
800-838-3006 or click here
By Bill Rudman
With the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof such a big success Off-Broadway, let’s remind ourselves that the musical’s lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, is still writing at 94 — 55 years after Fiddler was originally produced on Broadway!
Sheldon is a friend of ours at The Musical Theater Project and Harbinger Records. At about the time he turned 90, he was a guest on our national radio programs and co-hosted a concert of his work with me.
What a good time it is to treat yourself to a 2-CD set that Ken Bloom and I created with Sheldon’s help. It’s called “Sheldon Harnick: Hidden Treasures,” and it covers his career from 1949-2013, with plenty of rare recordings from Fiddler, She Loves Me and his Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello! Best of all, we get to hear Sheldon himself interpret much of his own material, and he’s a marvelous singer.
Here’s what he has to say about our Harbinger collection: “These recordings remind me of why
I write the way I do, and why I write about the things I write about. Hidden Treasures indeed!”
Sheldon is one of the greats, and he liked the idea so much that he wrote the liner notes for the 64-page booklet that accompanies the set.
Not to be missed — and a good time, as well, to check out the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof.
By Bill Rudman
This month TMTP gives a standing ovation to Heather Meeker. While she has been involved with our organization since 2007, February marks her ten-year anniversary as Executive Director.
Let’s put it in musical theater terms. Heather Meeker is the Ethel Merman of nonprofit management. What they share is not, of course, a glorious set of pipes — Heather is the first to admit she’s no singer — but something equally impressive: Merman was, and Heather is, an indomitable Force of Nature. And she can do what Merman couldn’t, which is to say she can do anything BUT sing. I’ve been in this field for 45 years and I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated, more determined to build something that’s strong and enduring and deeply responsive to our community. And to call her a “manager” is, of course, misleading: In theatrical terms, she is a Producer who, in collaboration with Jodi Maile Kirk, has made TMTP’s Kids Love Musicals! program a magnificent testament to the power of arts education. Ten years is a long time, but for Heather, only the beginning. As Merman would put it, “On with the show!"
Throughout the year, TMTP strives to educate and entertain through the art form of musical theater. So why should Valentine's Day be any different? Love songs from stage and screen run the gamut of emotions. It would be impossible to pick just one (heck, for us it's difficult to pick just a few). So each person in our office selected two favorites: one that warms your heart and one that tickles your funny bone. What's your favorite love song from musical theater?
BILL RUDMAN (Founding Director)
Who can beat the opening of "Poor You" from the movie musical Ship Ahoy? It starts "Poor you, I'm sorry you're not me. For you will never know what loving can be."
My favorite comedic Broadway love song is easy: "What Makes Me Love Him?" from Bock & Harnick's The Apple Tree. We laugh while being terribly moved.
HEATHER MEEKER (Executive Director)
Mine is romantic and comedic! It's "That's Him" from One Touch of Venus. This song always makes me think of my husband and the feeling I have when I'm with him...since I was 16 years old! And 30 years later, that's STILL him. I particularly like the recording of Kurt Weill singing it.
HEIDI LANG (Director of Development and Community Engagement)
"All I Ask of You" from Phantom of the Opera wins for most romantic.
My favorite comedy song has to be "Sue Me" from Guys and Dolls. It's so honest and represents most relationships. It's a classic for a reason.
JOANNA MAY CULLINAN (Associate Director of Community Engagement)
I love "With So Little to be Sure Of" from Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle. The show's a flop, but this song is a rare gem and always moves me.
My favorite comedic song from a musical is also a fairly touching one. It's "Times Like This" from Lucky Stiff, a must-listen for any musical theater fan.
NANCY MAIER (Associate Artistic Director)
"If Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot is incredibly romantic -- there is an elegance and nobility both in the music and lyrics.
A funnier song that is a bit poignant as well is "Changing My Major" from Fun Home. The writing is so clever, human and very witty.
JODI MAILE KIRK ( Associate Director of Active Learning)
My first thought, based on the title alone, is "Love Song" from Pippin. It's romantic, but light and sweet.
I've rediscovered "If I Loved You" with the new Brodway recording of Carousel featuring Joshua Henry and Jessie Mueller. It's hauntingly beautiful.
BRIDIE SRSEN (Kids Love Musicals! Program Coordinator)
You've got to have some Jason Robert Brown, and "The Next Ten Minutes" from The Last Five Years is the epitome of romance.
"Not Getting Married Today" from Company is a romantic comedy all by itself.
DEBBIE SCHINKER (Administrative Consultant)
I've always loved the irony in "If I Loved You" from Carousel. It perfectly captures the mixture of excitement, yearning, shyness and confusion of new love.
"Funny Face" from My One and Only is funny because it shows the love of a partner who isn't perfect, but is perfect for you!
Movie theaters nationwide are celebrating the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz this week. Audiences young and old won't want to miss this special showing. This beloved classic includes special insight from Turner Classic Movies. For more details about these screenings, click here.
Believe it or not, The Wizard of Oz was a bit of a flop when it was released in 1939, barely recouping its initial investment of $2.8 million. It did, however, win two Oscars -- for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. It wasn't until the film was shown on television in 1956 that it became a massive hit. Now woven into the fabric of our culture, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was in fact named the #1 Song of the 20th Century.
TMTP's education outreach program Kids Love Musicals! uses the film and its story as a resource in classrooms all across northeast Ohio. Students engage in discussions on major themes including courage, love and a sense of belonging through song, dance and active play.
Here is one of our Teaching Artists, Mariah Burks, sharing the film's iconic song with a group of 4th graders at East Woods in Hudson earlier this month.
By Ken Bloom
Steven Cole was a friend of the great Ethel Merman, and La Merm gave him copies of her home-made private recordings. Among these are many rarities including “Leather Lungs" recording songs from her upcoming Broadway show, Gypsy. She even covers songs from the musical that she didn’t sing, including a genuinely touching “Little Lamb.” Mermania! has all that — and even more with many songs sung by Merman for the first-and-only time, such as two songs for Hello, Dolly! that were especially written for her by composer-lyricist Jerry Herman..
Harbinger first released this CD 20 years ago to great acclaim by fans of Broadway, American Popular Song and great singing.
We’re proud to call the album to your attention this month and offer it for digital download.
TMTP mourns the loss of Broadway legend, Carol Channing. The star of Hello, Dolly!, who also had memorable roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie, was 97 years old. Upon hearing the news, TMTP Founding Director Bill Rudman shared some personal words about the leading lady.
"Seeing her on stage was amazing, but when you could be in her presence, you really understood what she was about. I interviewed her 20 years ago, and everything about her was larger than life — which was of course why Gower Champion hesitated to cast her as Dolly. She could pull back when she had to, but her total eccentricity was what we craved — and what inspired the young Tommy Tune. In a world bogged down in conventional behavior, Channing celebrated being totally Out There -- (where, we didn’t always know!). She is irreplaceable."
By Bill Rudman
Jonathan Larson’s Rent was the Our Town of the 1990s. That’s right: Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Our Town, the ultimate family-values play, set in a fictional, white-bread New Hampshire village in the early years of the 20th century. Larson’s microcosm of choice, at the end of the same century, could not be more different: New York City’s gritty East Village, populated by women and men of every race and sexual orientation. Yet the core themes in these two staunchly American tales are the same. Rent, like Our Town, confronts death at its most wrenching and inconceivable— when it claims the young—and measures and exalts the meaning and preciousness of our lives through our interconnectedness as members of a community.
It was playwright Billy Aronson’s idea that the two of them collaborate on a contemporary retelling of Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohème —about a colony of artists in Paris—and set it on the gentrified Upper West Side of Manhattan. The two parted company, however, soon after Larson proposed another setting entirely: the East Village, where young artists created their work surrounded by poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and the AIDS epidemic. By the late 1980s, Larson had lost three friends to the disease and he saw the chance, in Rent, to respond to AIDS and other forces threatening what he labeled a “desensitized society” at the end of the millennium.
Writing the script, music and lyrics himself, Larson focused on eight characters that parallel Bohème’s . He later recalled: ”I analyzed the libretto [of the opera]….What would these characters be in my world?” In addition to its obvious meaning, he chose the title of the show for its resonance: The word “rent” connotes ”torn,” and our country, Larson believed, was “ripping apart at the seams.” His musical would attempt to heal.
Larson’s perspective as a musical theater artist was singular. Though committed to the stellar craftsmanship advanced in the 1940s by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and further inspired by such adventuresome Stephen Sondheim musicals as Sunday in the Park With George and Assassins, this self-described rock ‘n’ roller at heart also counted Pearl Jam, Liz Phair, Peter Townshend and Kurt Cobain among his influences.
Jonathan Larson is challenging us with the most inclusive notion of family and community he can assemble in one theater, daring us to embrace all the “others” outside society’s mainstream: those we often ignore, avoid, deny or even condemn. Rent is Our Town written for a less kind and gentle nation, but a nation whose increasing diversity offers shimmering new possibilities. It is a place where there is still time, as one of his lyrics puts it, for us to “come into our own” by rejecting our self-imposed isolation and complacency, and by reaching out to each other in the spirit of creation.
Long-Forgotten Sissle & Blake
by Ken Bloom
A few years ago, we at Harbinger launched our first album devoted to the work of the great composer and ragtime pianist Eubie Blake. In 1921 it was Eubie who, with his lyricist–partner Noble Sissle, wrote the trailblazing, smash hit musical Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals created and performed entirely by African Americans.
That first disc won Harbinger a Grammy Award for the liner notes I wrote with Richard Carlin—and the CD was filled with juicy archival recordings from Shuffle Along, including the hit songs “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way.”
Now we’re back with more! We proudly present the original demonstration records—most of them performed by Sissle & Blake—for the much-anticipated Shuffle Along of 1950, a revised treatment of their earlier hit. Blake even provides a running narration.
The bad news is that the show didn’t make it on Broadway when it was finally produced in 1952. But the very good news is that these ultra-rare recordings capture the two songwriters in peak form. Their songs are downright effervescent; you can’t help smiling throughout.
And there’s a bonus: a re-mastering of the only surviving acetate of a 1950 radio program hosted by Ruth King, the famed Cleveland DJ who celebrated back musicians. On this program, her guests, in addition to Sissle & Blake, include the legendary W.C. Handy, composer of “St. Louis Blues.” All of them perform for Ms. King, and it’s quite a party!
In our liner notes, Richard and I tell the fascinating story of Shuffle Along of 1950 and its ill-fated revival two years later. This is a tale of great highs and the lowest of lows—in short, indispensable listening and reading for connoisseurs of both Broadway and jazz.
And keep on the lookout for our book on Eubie Blake, to be published next year by Oxford University Press.
To purchase Shuffle Along of 1950 from Amazon now, click here.
In 1983, musical theater historian Ken Bloom co-founded Harbinger Records, now a division of The Musical Theater Project, with Bill Rudman.
By Ken Bloom
We drive to a movie theater, plunk down $10 and hope for the best. Nothing special in a world in which we’re assaulted with downloads, streaming, cable TV, DVDs, apps and myriad other ways to watch movies on screens ranging from 40 feet to four inches across.
But back in the day when the movies were a brand new art form, it was exciting to watch it all grow from nickelodeons to makeshift theaters—wherever a sheet could be hung and folding chairs could provide the seating. Purpose-built theaters followed, and soon motion pictures became an industry.
You’ll feel as if you were there thanks to Harbinger Records’ fascinating new release, Let’s Go In to a Picture Show--an album that captures that glorious era when silent motion pictures swept the country.
The words in the title, one of the CD’s 26 tracks, tell us a lot. Today we just say we’re going to the movies, but to “Go In to a…” movie…that’s different. It suggests an occasion to be relished, and listening to the songs on our album, all of them written and recorded between 1907 and 1922, conjures up a vital part of the American Experience.
What kind of songs? As silent movies grew in popularity, it was a sure thing that Tin Pan Alley would jump on the bandwagon and come up with topical songs about going to the movies, as well as songs written for the movie scores played on everything from a single piano to a theater organ or a full orchestra.
Now, thankfully, these early recordings have been saved from obscurity. The titles are priceless, including “Chimmie and Maggie in Nickel Land,” “That’s a Real Moving Picture From Life,” “Those Charlie Chaplin Feet” and “Take Your Girlie to the Movies.”
That last one is perhaps the most significant, at least sociologically. Social mores were crumbling: For a nickel, a guy could take his girl to the movies, sit in the dark and “spoon”—that sounds innocent now, but what a thrill it must have been in 1919!
This collection has been a pet project for several years, ever since it was brought to me by Ron Magliozzi, curator of the department of film at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). We finally got it finished, and Ron’s presence and commitment make it a prestigious addition to our catalog.
He’s written a liner note for every song (and all lyrics are included in the 28-page booklet), offering delightful glances at then-current attitudes toward the cinema.
Prepare to enter another world…
In 1983, Grammy Award-winning musical theater historian Ken Bloom co-founded Harbinger Records, now a division of TMTP, with Bill Rudman.
HOW TO PURCHASE “LET’S GO IN TO A PICTURE SHOW, 1907-22”
Visit HarbingerRecords.com; available for order and download at Arkhiv.com and iTunes.
By Ken Bloom
There are Broadway composers who write great songs but whose piano playing isn’t always of the highest quality. In fact, there are a few like Bob Merrill and Lionel Bart who couldn’t play piano at all. Then there are the piano virtuosos like Harold Arlen and Jule Styne. Others could play the piano the first time they sat down at the keyboard like George Gershwin and Jerry Herman.
But there’s only one who was not only a wonderful composer but also a terrific jazz pianist. You may surmise that the man I’m referring to is Cy Coleman. I’m sure that’s not a surprise since, after all, that’s who this week’s blog is all about.
And the reason I’m bringing his name up is that The Musical Theater Project and Harbinger Records are so very proud to be issuing another amazing Cy Coleman performance in our unofficial but delightful series of recordings by Cy (if you don’t mind us being familiar). And we are using his first name because he himself was one of the most gregarious performers in musical theater. He loved nothing more than to sit at the piano and entertain an audience. And entertain himself, too! And that joy was contagious, as you’ll discover when you listen to this wonderful CD.
Now, if you knew him, Cy took great pride in his own compositions. But he wasn’t so egocentric as to not appreciate his fellow toilers who ran their fingers up and down the keys and came up with timeless scores. And so, here’s Cy paying tribute to two of the best composers of all time.
The whole CD is so infectious that though I produced the album and have listened to its contents dozens of times, I keep returning for more. And I bet so will you!
Learn more about "Cy Coleman: A Jazzman's Broadway" and purchase at Amazon.com and iTunes.
By Ken Bloom
Way back when (and you know how long ago that was!) the film The Cotton Club was in production. Bill Rudman and I knew for sure it was going to be a big hit. Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler were the most prominent composers for the Cotton Club shows and I knew Harold Arlen’s biographer, Ed Jablonski. I had produced and directed a Harold Arlen revue in Washington, D.C. that was a big success and which featured a lot of extremely rare songs from the Cotton Club.
We then went upon the task of finding someone to interpret the songs, someone who could give the songs their jazz due without overdoing it but staying vaguely in the spirit in which they were written. Bill suggests that it was he who came up with the solution. I recall being the brains behind the idea. Whomever did think of Maxine Sullivan came up with the perfect person. Not only was Maxine a child of the period just after the Cotton Club’s heyday she had actually sung at the Cotton Club back when it had moved from Harlem to Broadway and 48th Street. In fact, Maxine’s costar during her appearance was none other than Louis Armstrong. Now, wouldn’t you like to rev up your time machine and see that!
But how to get in touch with Maxine? Bill recalled that he knew Maxine’s pianist, Phil Fortenberry and set up a meeting in a Greenwich Village coffee shop. The meeting went terrifically. Phil was as enthusiastic as we were. Back and forth the conversation went: “Maxine will do great by ‘Ill Wind.’” “Yeah, and the song ‘Primitive Prima Donna’ will show Maxine’s comic chops.” We were in heaven. Everything was falling into place. At the end of the love fest Bill stated, “And the album will be titled, ‘Maxine Sullivan Sings the Great Songs of the Cotton Club by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler!’” Phil dropped his fork and looked up at us with a puzzled look on his face, “Maxine Sullivan!?” “Yes!,” we replied. Phil averred, “But I’m the accompanist of Maxine Andrews!” Yes, Maxine Andrews of the famous Andrews Sisters.
After Phil left, Bill and I regrouped. How to get in touch with Maxine. Bill made a wild suggestion, “Why don’t we look in the phone book?” Yes, kids, years and years before you were born there was a book and everybody’s phone number and address was listed. And there was Maxine’s number. With trembling hands Bill dialed the number. Yes, phones had dials then not push buttons. And Maxine herself picked up.
Bill gave her the spiel and Maxine replied, “Why not?” Whew! That was so easy. We then called Maxine’s real accompanist/arranger Keith Ingham and off we went. Maxine was a dream to work with and we were thrilled with the recording.
In fact, it was so good we got the “Best Female Vocal Album” award from NAIRD, the National Association of Independent Record Distributors. And then we found ourselves nominated for a GRAMMY Award!! Yes, our first studio recording was nominated for a GRAMMY!
Well, we didn’t win but the album was a big seller. And now it’s been reissued for your listening pleasure.
There’s a lot of other stories that go along with that album. Like when I took the CD to Moscow before they had CDs in that country. And you won’t believe the reaction from my Russian friend Vitali. But that’s one for another time.
Bill and I went on to record two more albums with Maxine and Keith, each devoted to a giant of American Popular Song. First was a wonderful album of the songs of Burton Lane. And Burton was intimately involved in that recording—the first jazz album ever to feature his songs. And we followed that with a collaboration with the songwriting genius Jule Styne who was especially thrilled with Maxine and Keith’s work on his songs.
All three of these albums are now available on Harbinger CDs. We’ve never been happier with any of our subsequent albums—some of which are also damned good!
Album sales for Jazz and Broadway legend Cy Coleman begin April 6th! Make sure to pre order your copy of his Album "A Jazzmans Broadway" on Amazon today!
Before Cy Coleman was a noted composer of such shows as Little Me, Sweet Charity, Barnum and On the Twentieth Century, he was the favorite of the New York cabaret scene. Now, for the first time, Cy and his fellow musicians play the scores of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburgs hit show Jamaica in addition to songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein hits Flower Drum Song and South Pacific. The works from the latter production have been taken from rare transcription recordings, and are making their first debuts since being recorded in the early 1950s. It's 50s jazz at its finest! Pre-Order your copy here!
Yul Brynner (repeating his Broadway role and winning an Oscar for it) plays 19th-century King Mongkut of Siam, and Deborah Kerr is the widowed British schoolteacher who becomes governess and teacher of the King’s many children, in this lavish, award-winning film version of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Today’s screening, which is co-presented by The Musical Theater Project, will be introduced at 3:00 by TMTP founding director Bill Rudman (and Cinematheque director John Ewing). There will also be a post-film discussion.
TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW!
General admission $15; Cinematheque & TMTP members, CIA & CSU I.D. holders, and those age 25 & under $10; no passes, twofers, or college radio winners.
Here’s Harbinger’s Grammy Award-winning recording of Shuffle Along featuring the show’s composers, Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, as well as members of the original cast exactly as heard on Broadway in 1921 though many of the cuts were recorded by the composers in 1950, making the sound exemplary.
Shuffle Along, was the most successful Broadway show of its time. The score contained the future standards “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Love Will Find a Way.” It marked the emergence of a new black musical theatre. It desegregated theatres in New York and across the country, the first time blacks and whites could sit together in a theatre.
The show transformed Broadway. Business was so good that three weeks into the run the company cancelled the Wednesday matinees and added Wednesday midnight performances that were heavily attended by theatrical folk. A few weeks later, all the matinees were cancelled. Shuffle Along soon grew into the most successful show playing on Broadway with a weekly gross averaging $13,000 a week against $7,500 in weekly expenses (once the show was a verified smash the top ticket price was raised to $3.00). Shuffle Along finally closed after playing 504 performances, an astounding run at the time. It was so successful that the 63rd Street, where the show played, was made into a one-way street to alleviate the traffic jams along Broadway and Central Park West.
This is the only available recording of Shuffle Along’s jazzy score. And the Grammy Award-winning liner notes by Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin give the full history of the show and the recordings.
It’s a must for all fans of musical theatre, jazz aficionados who will thrill at authentic 1920s jazz, and anyone interested in the amazing history of black musicals at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Click HERE to purchase now!
We at The Musical Theater Project/Harbinger Records mourn the
passing of a dear friend: composer and arranger JOHN MORRIS.
Though best known as Mel Brooks’s composer of choice, John had a significant Broadway career as a dance music arranger (Bells Are Ringing, Bye Bye Birdie and lots more) and wrote the music for A Time for Singing.
We are proud to include many of his performances as pianist/arranger on the classic Walden Records albums from the 1950s, now available on the Harbinger label. Listen to John play Gershwin or Rodgers: Scintillating!
Click HERE to read his full obituary printed in the New York Times.
Want a taste of what to expect from our January concert, The Gershwins in Hollywood? TMTP artistic director talks with Gershwin historian Deena Rosenberg on our radio program Footlight Parade. In this excerpt, Rosenberg deconstructs the beloved tune, "They Can't Take That Away From Me", made famous by Fred Astaire in the film Shall We Dance.
A SPECIAL TMTP MEMBERS EVENT
"Good evening, and welcome to Musicarnival!" If you remember producer Johnny Price greeting you with those words at his summer tent theater in Warrensville Heights in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, you'll want to stroll down memory lane during this lively evening. If Musicarnival is new to you, don't miss this chance to learn more!
Bill Rudman will host the program with Johnny's daughter Diana Price, who will share her Musicarnival recollections. Bill and his team recently completed restoration of the Musicarnival Audio Archives -- full-length, live recordings of more than 100 classic musicals such as Oklahoma!, Show Boat, Gypsy and Guys & Dolls. See you there -- at a beautiful library that's just down the road from the site of Johnny's tent.
RSVP by February 5th
Call (216) 860-1518 or email info@MusicalTheaterProject.org
The Musical Theater Project's authors include Bill Rudman, Heather Meeker and Joanna May Cullinan - and guest writers from time to time!