Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Classics special edition: Getting even more "Carried Away"


COMDEN, GREEN, and BERNSTEIN: On the Town: Act I opening: "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet"; Introduction; "New York, New York"

John Reardon, Gabey (and First Workman); Cris Alexander, Chip (and Workman); Adolph Green, Ozzie (and Workman); 1960 studio cast recording, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony

Samuel Ramey, Lindsay Benson, and Stewart Collins, Workmen; Thomas Hampson, Gabey; Kurt Ollmann Chip; David Garrison, Ozzie; London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. DG, recorded in concert at the Barbican Centre (London), June 1992

by Ken

A month or so ago I put together a pair of posts, "New York, New York, it's a heckuva town" and "A cluster of explosive young talents explode in On the Town," inspired by the terrific piece Adam Green wrote for Vanity Fair, "Innocents on Broadway," about the creation of the 1944 Broadway musical On the Town. The show, you'll recall, had book and lyrics by Adam's father, Adolph Green, and his eventual life-long writing partner, Betty Comden, and music by theirt good friend Leonard Bernstein, in collaboration with some other exploding young talents like choreographer Jerome Robbins, who'd had the idea for the ballet he created with Lenny B, Fancy Free, which became the germ for On the Town.

As Adam Green wrote: "On the Town was a landmark, the first show by a bunch of bright upstarts -- Bernstein, Comden and Green, and Jerome Robbins, all still in their 20s -- who would go on, together and apart, to help shape the cultural landscape of the 20th century."

In those posts I turned to the very special 1960 studio recording organzied by Columbia Records' Goddard Lieberson, which was conducted by the composer and featured a number of performers from the original cast, including Comden and Green themselves, re-creating the roles of Claire and Ozzie, which they'd actually written with themselves in mind (but in the end lhad had to auditon for!). Lieberson was a great proponent of "creators' recordings," and was largely responsible for invaluable projoects like Columbia's extensive Stravinsky-conducting-Stravinsky and Copland-conducting-Copland and, yes, Bernstein-conducting-Bernstein, and the 1960 On the Town, whether it was thought of as such or not, certainly qualified.


. . . sung by the anthropologist Claire de Loone and the comic relief among our trio of sailors on 24-hour shore leave, Ozzie,  And one thing I hope everyone noticed is that Betty and Adolph weren't spunky show-biz wannabes who could sort of sing and dance -- they were skilled performers who could sing, like you usually had to be able to on Broadway in those days. And Lenny put some real singing opportunities in those gloriously expansive musical lines.

At the time I did those posts, my CD of the 1992 Barbican Centre concert performance was missing in action, so I didn't even try to go there, though we did hear the opening number of the show via a video clip from the concert telecast. Eventually wayward CD resurfaced, and one thing I was curious to hear was that version of "Carried Away," and sure enough, that fine mezzo Frederica von Stade sings up a storm. It's a number, you realize, that's meant to enable the singer to show off what she's got -- as long as the showing off is illustrative of what Claire is sharing with Ozzie, her tendency to get, you know, carried away.

I enjoyed Frederica and David Garrison's "Carried Away" so much that I knew I had to share it as well. So today we're going to hear both versions. And as long as the CD of the 1992 London performance is at hand, before it vanishes into the clutter again, I thought we'd hear a couple of other selections from it alongside the 1960 Columbia versions as well. We already heard the two versions of the opening of the show at the top of this post. Now let's hear "Carried Away."

On the Town: Act I, "I Get Carried Away"
Our three young sailors "on the town" for 24 hours in New York, New York, have made the acquaintance, via her subway poster ads, of Miss Turnstiles, the idyllic Ivy Smith, and have split up to go in search of her, based on biographical information in the poster. Ozzie, seizing on the information that Ivy "teaches painting at the museum," has cleverly tracked her -- to the wrong museum. The Museum of Natural History, alas, is not a fortress of fine art. However, while there he makes the acquaintance of the flamboyant anthropologist Claire de Loone, who takes an alarmingly professional interest in him as a potential anthropological. As fate would have it, though, they discover they have more in common.

Betty and Adolph at Columbia's 1960 On the Town recording

Betty Comden, Claire; Adolph Green, Ozzie; 1960 studio cast recording, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony

Frederica von Stade singing "A Little Bit in Love" from
Wonderful Town at "Bernstein at 70!" (Tanglewood 1988)

Frederica von Stade, Claire; David Garrison, Ozzie; London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. DG, recorded in concert at the Barbican Centre (London), June 1992


Bearing in mind that On the Town had its origin in the ballet Fancy Free conceived by Jerome Robbins, who became one of the On the Town collaborators, and composed by Lenny B, we shouldn't be surprised that dance plays a prominent role in the show. In his Vanity Fair article Adam Green shares some history concerning the ballet sequence that leads up to the finale of Act II, and the pivotal role played here by the one grizzled theater veteran involved in the original production, director George Abbott.
Most significantly, Abbott took a rapturous, frenetic two-part ballet that ended the second act (filled with some of Lenny’s best, as Abbott put it, “Prokofiev stuff”) and, against Jerry’s strenuous objections, split it in half, calling for a quiet scene and a song to go in the middle. The song that my father, Betty, and Lenny came up with, the exquisitely plaintive “Some Other Time,” turned out to be the heart of the show, capturing with utter simplicity the aching sense that “when you’re in love, time is precious stuff.” With no other piano available, Lenny taught the song’s intricate harmonies to my father, Betty, Cris Alexander, and Nancy Walker late at night in the window of a music store as snow fell on the Boston Commons outside.

Act II, Ballet I, Imaginary Coney Island: Suway Ride; "The Great Lover Displays Himself"; Pas de Deux;
Quartet, "Some Other Time";
Ballet II, The Real Coney Island;

Betty Comden, Claire; Nancy Walker, Hildy; Adolph Green, Ozzie; Cris Alexander, Chip; Randel Striboneen, Coney Island barker; John Reardon, Gabey; 1960 studio cast recording, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony

Frederica von Stade, Claire; Tyne Daly, Hildy; David Garrison, Ozzie; Kurt Ollmann, Chip; Adolph Green, Coney Island barker; Thomas Hampson, Gabey; London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. DG, recorded in concert at the Barbican Centre (London), June 1992


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