Rebecca Luker: Kern by the Queen
Jun20

Rebecca Luker: Kern by the Queen

Update jan. 7, 2014. Rebecca Luker’s performance on the PBS series The American Songbook at NJPAC is now airing in the New York area. Check this page and local listings for air times in your area. Rebecca Luker’s I Got Love: Songs of Jerome Kern Since Jerome Kern and, indirectly, Rebecca Luker are partly responsible for this website’s existence, I’m taking a moment for some extra background before diving into my review of...

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Pretty in Pink, Promising in Jazz
May04

Pretty in Pink, Promising in Jazz

Okay, here’s the big news: Molly Ringwald is not quite a jazz singer—not if she aspires to the command and confidence of her idols, like Ella Fitzgerald, or even to the stylistic distinction of her recent interview buddy Jane Monheit. But listening to Ringwald’s new album, Except … Sometimes, and trying to nail down which classic pop singer Ringwald most resembled, I got the distinct flavor on certain high, sustained notes of a quite...

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Review: McCartney’s Kisses
Feb28

Review: McCartney’s Kisses

Hugs by Krall, Clapton, & Co.   Of all the pop stars who have issued tribute albums to American pop standards, Paul McCartney is in some ways the least likely to wind his way down the nostalgia lane. In other ways, you might wonder why it took him so long. After all, he was the Beatle who sprinkled the group’s later records with his takes on very old-school arrangements, “When I’m 64″ being probably...

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The Importance of Being Oscar
Feb28

The Importance of Being Oscar

In March, PBS will air a new documentary on one of the seminal figures of 20th-century songwriting, Oscar Hammerstein II. The film is hosted by Glee‘s Matthew Morrison, who was part of the revival cast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, the award-winning production that played Lincoln Center from 2008–2010. (Morrison sang “Younger Than Springtime” and “You’ve Got to be Carefully...

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Frank Loesser’s Centennial Roll
Mar26

Frank Loesser’s Centennial Roll

Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opens March 27 with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. See scenes from the new production here and click on this link to buy tickets. Frank Loesser, like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, was one of the few creators of great American musicals who wrote both music and lyrics. He began his career as a lyricist, but it became clear that his melodies—sometimes...

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An Appreciation: Hugh Martin
Mar14

An Appreciation: Hugh Martin

Update: March 15, 2011: A great, great retrospective of Hugh Martin‘s and Ralph Blane‘s interviews and performances through the years with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross of NPR is here. Into his 90’s Martin’s Southern charm was intact. Another legend of the American Songbook has passed from the scene. Hugh Martin, writer of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” died in early March at the age of...

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Originals: Rooney and Garrett
Mar03

Originals: Rooney and Garrett

Buy DVD of Words and Music. Two stars of that great (and notoriously inaccurate) American Songbook institution, the Hollywood biopic, were in the news recently. Mickey Rooney, who testified before Congress in March, and Betty Garrett, who died in February, are symbols of longevity (both lived into their 90’s) and reminders of a sad irony for the less-long-lived peers of these former musical stars. Because of modern media like...

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Broadway Revivals Unlimited

Update, January, 2011: West Side Story completed its Broadway run and began a national tour in 2011, but several revivals are on tap for the rest of the year, including Anything Goes (Cole Porter), Bubbling Brown Sugar (Ellington, et al), and Hello Dolly! (Jerry Herman). New treatments of classic musicals are still coming fast and furious in New York. Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey and a new production of Frank Loesser’s Guys...

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“Christmas” in August

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (and you thought Mel Brooks was the first composer to command that his name be placed above the title) is coming to Broadway for a limited run during the holidays. The stage version of “White Christmas” has been playing in various towns around the country for years, but apparently, as a limited-run show, never made sense economically for New York. One can only hope the show provides a fraction of the...

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One Enchanted Evening (Mostly)

Update, December, 2010 I  hope that those who didn’t see this show in person caught the hi-def telecast on Live from Lincoln Center this past fall—definitely a gem for your permanent collection. July, 2008—It’s been a very good year for anyone in New York who loves or studies the American Songbook and its foundation in the Broadway musicals of the pre-rock era. There’s been a concert production of Kern and Hammerstein’s...

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Happy Music, Sad Lyrics

Quick, what do Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Hollies have in common (besides the carousel metaphor, I mean)? Spin the Amazon, er, carousel, and treat yourself to selections from the team and the band to find out what I’m getting at. <a...

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New Cast Soundtracks

Stephen Holden of the New York Times, one of the most astute music and film critics in the country, has nailed it again. His analysis of the current crop of cast albums does a great job of describing the appeal of the newer sounds of Broadway while avoiding the patronizing or dismissive tone many writers adopt when writing about the Broadway tradition. There has been no doubt for decades that Broadway needed a shot (or many shots) of...

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The Long and Short of “Show Boat”

June 24, 2008—On June 10th I attended the concert staging of “Show Boat” at Carnegie Hall. The New York Times review is here, but my own feelings are echoed most closely by Steven Suskin’s review in Variety. A week later TCM replayed the 1951 MGM film version, which starred Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel. These two versions illustrate the essential fact of the “Show Boat” universe: no two versions are exactly alike. The...

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