Tag Archives: Jerome Robbins

Gift Guide 2017: Petrucelli Picks Video Artists International’s lost, forgotten shows, true Blu-ray and DVD treasures

Anything you can do I can do better. But no one can do anything better than Video Artists International (VAI), the company who finds and releases long-lost, forgotten or obscure TV shows and musicals on Blu-rays and DVDs. Since its inception, in 1983, VAI has been dedicated to preserving great performances of the past century while maintaining the absolute highest standards of performance available on DVD, Blu-ray and CD. Smart Santas would do no better than head straight to vaimusic.com to discover the array of timeless treasures that make the best stocking stuffers. We made a list, kindly and musically asking Santa Baby to bring us some gems. And the envelope goes to . . .

♥ The Irving Berlin classic Annie Get Your Gun, starring Mary Martin and John Raitt. It aired live on November 27, 1957;  and the Blu-ray contains nifty bonus tracks. They include the show’s closing commercial; although no elements of the commercials for the 1957 Annie Get Your Gun telecast are known to exist, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (Mary Martin, John Raitt) (Blu-ray)VAI is including the unedited audio of the closing commercial, hosted by Martin, which includes a message wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. There’s an excerpt from a live concert of Martin with Louis Magor at the piano. Martin talks about the role of Annie, performs “Anything You Can Do” with Magor (who sings from the keyboard), and also recalls her collaboration with Ethel Merman on the Ford 50th Anniversary Show in 1953.
♥ Another Mary Martin gem: Available for the first time on home video: The historic live 1956 telecast of Mary Martin as Peter Pan, generally considered the definitive performance of this beloved musical. Only nine days after the initial Broadway run had ended, the cast and crew (under the supervision of director Jerome Robbins) assembled in the Brooklyn studios of NBC to perform the show live for television. A year later, in preparation for the second Peter Pan live telecast, essentially the same cast reunited for several performances at the Ambassador Theater in New York City for invited audiences of children.

This gave the 1956 telecast the same fresh theatrical quality as the first.

♥ With a book by Moss Hart, and music and lyrics by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, Lady in Dark is one of the legendary musicals of American musical theatre.LADY IN THE DARK (Kurt Weill, Moss Hart, Ira Gershwin) (DVD) Inspired by Hart’s personal experience with psychotherapy, its innovative concept was termed a “musical play,” presenting the main character’s therapy sessions and waking life as spoken drama and her dream sequences as musical numbers. The excellent cast features Ann Sothern in the title role, with James Daly (Tyne’s Daddy), Carleton Carpenter, and Luella Gear. The show’s brilliant score includes “The Saga of Jenny” and “My Ship.” It’s live telecast was on September 25, 1954.
♥ An original made-for-TV musical, produced and directed by Max Liebman, Holiday tells the story of Nell Valentine (marvelously protrayed by Doretta Morrow), a young schoolteacher who breaks the routine of her everyday life to embark on a European adventure. Nell meets and falls in love with the mysterious Ray Brinton (Keith Andes), another American apparently on vacation, whose past poses an obstacle to their romance. HOLIDAY starring Doretta Morrow & Keith Andes (DVD)The cast includes a rare dramatic and musical performance by Kitty Carlisle as Ray’s estranged wife Adele, as well as cameo appearances by Tammy Grimes and Jacques d’Amboise.  It’s live telecast was on June 9, 1956. The DVD Includes the original commercials as a separate bonus feature.
♥ VAI sails the high Cs with a wonderful array of historic opera performances. Opera legend and film star Risë Stevens leads a magnificent cast in this 1955 television production of The Chocolate Soldier, produced and directed by Max Liebman. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the ManThe Chocolate Soldier is one of the most popular operettas of all time; on Broadway alone, it received seven productions throughout a period of 40 years.THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (Straus) Risë Stevens, Eddie Albert (DVD) Stevens is partnered by the delightful Eddie Albert, and the cast also features the beloved baritone Earl Wrightson and the popular character actor Akim Tamiroff. Interestingly, Stevens made her Hollywood debut in a 1941 film version of The Chocolate Soldier that employed much of Straus’ score, but followed a completely different storyline. Liebman’s television production restores the original plot and characters, and faithfully conveys the romance and good humor of the Viennese operetta tradition.
♥ We were lucky enough to have worked (just once) with Bubbles. That’s Beverly Sills to you. One of Sill’s most acclaimed portrayals was as Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s intensely dramatic opera Roberto Devereux. In this 1975 production from the Wolf Trap Festival, shes is joined by John Alexander, Susanne Marsee, and Richard Fredricks. ROBERTO DEVEREUX Sills, Alexander (Wolf Trap 1975) (DVD)Maestro Julius Rudel is the conductor of this live production, devised and directed by Tito Capobianco. An essential addition to every opera lover’s video library. LA TRAVIATA Sills, Price, Fredricks (Wolf Trap 1976) (DVD)An equally delightful DVD features the role for which Sills was world-famous: Violetta in Tito Capobianco’s stirring production of Verdi’s La Traviata. This performance was captured live on video in 1976 as part of the Wolf Trap Festival. Brava!

Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill Lotte Lenya and Gisela May were the two most prominent interpreters of Brecht and Weill in the last century. Here, from 1958, is Lenya performing five of Kurt Weill’s songs from The Threepenny Opera, Happy End, Mahagonny and the Berlin Requiem.Lotte Lenya & Gisela May: Theater Songs of Brecht & Weill (DVD)Gisela May performs Brecht songs with music by Weill, Heymann and Dessau. As a bonus, Martha Schlamme performs two songs of Weill, joined by Will Holt in one number.

One of the most exciting VAI moves is the release of Bell Telephone Hour, a long-run concert series sponsored by Bell Telephone as the name implies and showcased the best in classical and Broadway music. Its TV run was from 1959 to 1968. Beginning in 2001, DVDs of performances from the television series have been released by Video Artists International. To date, VAI has issued more than two dozen DVD compilations. A visit to their website will drive you greedy as you ask Santa for all of them! Two faves:
♥ Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 For 40 years, Dolores Gray was a star of Broadway, London’s West End and cabaret. Among her Broadway credits, she starred in Two on the AisleDestry Rides Again and 42nd Street. In London, she appeared in Annie Get Your GunGypsy and Follies.Dolores Gray: Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1966 (DVD) Here she sings a slew of classics, including “A Wonderful Guy” (from South Pacific), “My Funny Valentine” (from Babes in Arms), “It Never Entered My Mind” (Higher and Higher), “Friendship” (from “Dubarry Was a Lady”) and “Down in the Depths” (from Red, Hot and Blue) Also on the show: Marc Breaux, Art Lund,Jack Cassidy, Nancy Dussault  and Donald O’Connor.
♥ For the legendary comic actor Groucho Marx, playing the role of Ko-Ko in The Mikado “fulfilled a lifelong ambition.” The Mikado was Groucho’s favorite among the works of his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan, and the 1960 Bell Telephone Hour production was adapted for television and directed by Martyn Green,

a man Groucho revered as an authority on interpreting the role of Ko-Ko. The strong supporting cast features distinguished veterans like Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, and Dennis King, as well as young artists like the lovely soprano Barbara Meister as Yum-Yum and Groucho’s 13-year-old daughter, Melinda, as Peep-Bo. Special features include audio interviews with Dick Cavett, Groucho’s daughter Melinda Marx and Barbara Meister; Martyn Green in excerpts from H.M.S. Pinafore (Bell Telephone Hour, 1963), cast bios and the commercials from the original telecast.

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Non-Fiction Books (Part One)

Everything old is new again. A Very Vintage Christmas (Globe Pequot Press, $24.95) embodies the nostalgia and sentimentality associated with the holiday season. Vintage ornaments, lights, decorations, cards and wrapping all conjure up happy memories of Christmases past and serve as tangible mementos of holidays shared with family and friends. In fact, finding these objects, decorating with them and sharing them with others brings an instant feeling of comfort and joy. Coupled with beautiful photographs, tips on collecting, and secret shopping haunts, A Very Vintage Christmas offers a look at holiday decor in America and gives suggestions on how to make vintage finds work for today’s audience. While each chapter of A Very Vintage Christmas is unique, there is a common thread that runs through them all: the love of beautiful holiday decorations, and the interest in their history, value, and preservation. Quite merry.

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana. Much of New Orleans still sat under water the first time Gary Rivlin glimpsed the city after Hurricane Katrina as a staff reporter for The New York Times. Four out of every five houses had been flooded. The deluge had drowned almost every power substation and rendered unusable most of the city’s water and sewer system. Six weeks after the storm, the city laid off half its workforce—precisely when so many people were turning to its government for help. How could the city possibly come back? A decade later, Rivlin traces the storm’s immediate damage, the city of New Orleans’s efforts to rebuild itself, and the storm’s lasting effects not just on the area’s geography and infrastructure—but on the psychic, racial, and social fabric of one of this nation’s great cities.

In 1535, William Tyndale, the first man to produce an English version of the Bible in print, was captured and imprisoned in Belgium. A year later he was strangled and then burned at the stake. His co-translator was also burned. In that same year the translator of the first Dutch Bible was arrested and beheaded. These were not the first, nor were they the last instances of extreme violence against Bible translators. The Murderous History of Bible Translations: Power, Conflict, and the Quest for Meaning (Bloomsbury, $28) tells the remarkable, and bloody, story of those who dared translate the word of God. Harry Freedman describes brilliantly the passions and strong emotions that arise when deeply held religious convictions are threatened or undermined. Can I hear an amen?

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners (Little, Brown and Company, $25) is a most deliciously scandalously guide to the secrets of Victorian womanhood. Therese O’Neill opens the doors to everything we secretly wanted to know about the Victorian era, but didn’t think to ask. Knickers with no crotches? Check. Arsenic as a facial scrub? Check. The infrequency of bathing and the stench of the Victorian human body?  It’s silly, sinful and superb! And the photos!

Herbs are hot! And in Making Love Potions (Storey Publishing, $16.95), Stephanie L. Tourles shows you how to bring that heat into your bedroom. She playfully presents 64 easy recipes for natural body oils, balms, tonics, bath blends and sweet treats to share with your special someone.  With beautiful illustrations and engaging explanations of the power that herbs, flowers, and natural oils have over our physical bodies, this is the perfect gift for lovers everywhere.

Buzz! Listen closely. The international bee crisis is threatening our global food supply, but we have a secret fix. The user-friendly 100 Plants to Feed the Bees: Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive (Storey Publishing, $16.95) shows what you can do to help protect our pollinators. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation offers browsable profiles of 100 common flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees that attract bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. The recommendations are simple: Sow seeds for some plants—such as basil, rhododendron and blueberries—and simply don’t mow down abundant native species, including aster, goldenrod, and milkweed. This guide will empower homeowners, landscapers, apartment dwellers—anyone with a scrap of yard or a window box—to protect our pollinators.

For a new generation of homeowners and renters, the dual Domino books are the decor bible: a constant source of guidance, inspiration, and excitement. The Domino Decorating Books Box Set: The Book of Decorating and Your Guide to a Stylish Home Domino: The Book of Decorating (Simon & Schuster, $70) crack the code to creating a beautiful home, bringing together inspiring rooms, how-to advice and insiders’ secrets from today’s premier tastemakers in an indispensable style manual. The editors take readers room by room, tapping the best ideas from domino magazine and culling insights from their own experiences. With an eye to making design accessible and exciting, this book demystifies the decorating process and provides the tools for making spaces that are personal, functional and fabulous. Expert decorating tips, lush photography, and shrewd shopping strategies converge in straightforward guides. Maybe that sofa should be a bit closer to the window?

The Bible doesn’t call homosexuality a sin, and it doesn’t advocate for the one-man-one-woman model of the family that has been dubbed “biblical.” The Bible’s famous “beat their swords into plowshares” is matched by the militaristic, “beat your plowshares into swords.” The often-cited New Testament quotation “God so loved the world” is a mistranslation, as are the titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” The Ten Commandments don’t prohibit killing or coveting. What does the Bible say about violence? About the Rapture? About keeping kosher? About marriage and divorce? In The Bible Doesn’t Say That (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99), acclaimed translator and biblical scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman walks the reader through dozens of mistranslations, misconceptions and other misunderstandings about the Bible. In 40 short, straightforward chapters, he covers morality, life-style, theology, and biblical imagery explores what the Bible meant before it was misinterpreted over the past 2,000 years.

Is your handwriting simply scribble? In the digital age of instant communication, handwriting is less necessary than ever before, and indeed fewer and fewer schoolchildren are being taught how to write in cursive. Anne Trubek argues that the decline and even elimination of handwriting from daily life does not signal a decline in civilization, but rather the next stage in the evolution of communication. In The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting (Bloombury, $26), Trubek uncovers the long and significant impact handwriting has had on culture and humanity-from the first recorded handwriting on the clay tablets of the Sumerians some four thousand years ago and the invention of the alphabet as we know it, to the rising value of handwritten manuscripts today. Establishing a novel link between our deep past and emerging future, Trubek offers a colorful lens through which to view our shared social experience.

Give us a little Razzle Dazzle. Please. Michael Riedel’s book is a love letter to Broadway, both a splendid history of this American institution and a wonderful account of how art gets made. Filled with Broadway’s history and its myths—heroes and villains, ups and downs, dirt and dish—raise the curtain. Please. Razzle Dazzle:  The Battle for Broadway (Simon & Schuster, $17) builds suspense as Riedel chronicles productions from idea to stage to reviews to Tony Awards. A captivating gift to theater lovers. This narrative account of the people and the money and the power that turned New York’s gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way is perfect for Broadway buffs.

Did you know that Frank Sinatra was nearly considered for the original production of Fiddler on the Roof? Or that Jerome Robbins never choreographed the famous “Dance at the Gym” in West Side Story? Or that Lin-Manuel Miranda called out an audience member on Twitter for texting during a performance of Hamilton (the perpetrator was Madonna)? In Show and Tell: The New Book of Broadway Anecdotes (Oxford University Press, $19.95), Broadway aficionado-in-chief Ken Bloom takes us on a spirited spin through some of the most intriguing factoids in show business, offering up an unconventional history of the theatre in all its idiosyncratic glory. From the cantankerous retorts of George Abbott to the literally show-stopping antics of Katharine Hepburn, you’ll learn about the adventures and star turns of some of the Broadway’s biggest personalities.

Agates: Treasures of the Earth (Firefly Books, $19.95) is a comprehensive, easy-to-use identification guide for rock lovers. The book describes names of agates (mineralogical, geological, local, trade, trivial); properties of agates (color, wall-banded, level-banded, cracked, thunder eggs); sources of agates (eruptions, lava, sediment, limestone beds, fissures);
lapidary (sawing, grinding, sanding, polishing); imitations and forgeries of agates  . . . and much more. Amateur gemologists and agate collectors alike will find this informative and beautifully illustrated book to be an indispensable resource.