I remember fondly my two adorably chubby, spinster aunts. Aunt Josie sitting on her thickly upholstered chair, her legs tired from so much cooking are stretched out on the worn footrest beside the stately grandfather clock.
Half asleep, she’d either be droopy-eyed watching TV or sleepily listening to her prized 1958 recording of South Pacific, the Academy Award Winning Musical by Rogers and Hammerstein. Meanwhile across the room, plopped on her sprawling couch her ever-busy-bee sister Louise is knitting up a storm.
Every so often old grandfather would chime in occasionally interrupting “Some Enchanted Evening” sung by Giorgio Tozzi (Rossano Brazzi in the film serenading Mitzi Gaynor). It was a tranquil, homey scene, memorable and melodic.
But have musicals today become a jilted genre?
As the son of a concert violinist who grew up in a musical world, I hope not. I remember how excited I was to see and hear Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at Radio City Music Hall and all the other musicals I devoured on Broadway.
I remember when I met that Herculean hoofer Donald O’Connor one day whose musical films with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds would make my heart tap dance.
I can recall like it was yesterday when I was studying acting at Herbert Berghof Studio in Greenwich Village, New York . . . then going to see Zero Mostel on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum . . . watching him again and again in one of my favorite films, Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
Musicals. Where have they gone? Gone with the wind? Maybe with Fred and Ginger Flying Down to Rio? No, “thank heaven” as Maurice Chevalier sings in the film Gigi, a precious few still play merrily along, although tucked away on TCM.
But it was Lerner and Loewe who stoked my creative fires the most and whose songs have lasted the longest from Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, Camelot, Gigi and this one from MY FAIR LADY, a song I can even relate to today’s COVID-19.
In fact, here are new lyrics I wrote that fit our now sheltering in place society. This is from one of my recent blogs at MaddenMischief.com:
I have often walked on the street before.
But the pavement always stayed
Beneath my feet before.
All at once am I, several stories high
Confined to the condo where I live
Remember a time when we were free to come and go as we please? When we could shake hands, snug and hug? I revised these lyrics from My Fair Lady, to match how we’re living today, sheltering in place, ordered not to embrace, must wear a mask on our face.
Now may be a time we need musicals more than ever! Or soon, like Irving Berlin, we may be asking ourselves:
What do I do
When you are far away,
And I am feeling blue?