Musicals

‘A Star is Born’ (1954): No Pot of Gold at the End of Judy Garland’s Rainbow

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James Mason & Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954)
James Mason & Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954)

In reading critic and author David Thomson’s The Big Screen, a book about the history of motion pictures, I came upon a section devoted to movie musicals — specifically, the 1954 musical version of A Star is Born with Judy Garland and James Mason, produced by Sid Luft (Judy’s husband at the time), directed by George Cukor for Warner Bros., and written by Moss Hart.

The 1937 version, produced by David O. Selznick, was conceived by Alan Campbell, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and William Wellman after Adela Rogers St. John’s story, “What Price Hollywood?” — the 1934 film which Mr. Cukor also directed. Thomson points out a connection I had never noticed, before now: that the wistful music for both “The Man That Got Away” from A Star is Born and the nostalgic song, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939), were composed by the same person, Harold Arlen — a coincidence perhaps? Hmm … perhaps. And both numbers in turn were performed by the same singer and entertainer, Judy Garland, at opposite ends of her fame and fortune.

If it can be said of any artist, it most assuredly can be exemplified in the work of the former Frances Ethel Gumm: that she wore her pain on her sleeve. In Judy’s world, it would be considered a badge of honor (or dishonor, depending on your point of view), to be shared with anyone and everyone you had come into contact with.

When we’re young and naïve, the mere thought of experiencing pain and hurt are anathema to one’s being. It’s so traumatic a sensation that you would want to flee the room — and the person — where that pain was patently present. As we grow older and, we must admit, hopefully wiser, we long to be near it; to grasp it, to hold it, to stroke it, much as a moth is helplessly drawn to the flame. We know we may be burned by our proximity to the one whose pain and anguish erupts from every fiber of her soul. But that’s exactly how we should experience Judy Garland’s art at this, the pinnacle of her movie career. Her pain was our pain — and it’s inescapable.

Judy Garland in top hat and cane
Judy Garland in top hat and cane

This film, made when she was only 32 (but looking years older), is Judy at her tortured peak, her “swan song” to her fans; an insider’s fisheye glimpse of a complicated life lived in full view of the paying public. By now, most viewers will be familiar with the plot of talented band singer Esther Blodgett (Judy), rechristened Vicki Lester, whose career rises in direct proportion to her alcoholic actor-husband Norman Maine’s faltering one.

To spare his wife from tumbling right along with him, Norman (Mason) decides to end his life by drowning his troubles at sea. That tragic ending may remind audiences of Joan Crawford’s sad demise in Jean Negulesco’s Humoresque (1946).

Both Garland and Mason shine in this fabulous Technicolor widescreen, CinemaScope spectacular, with Judy dancing and singing her way to the top, and providing equal parts vulnerability and humor to overcome her many backstage issues (i.e., her dependency on drugs and alcohol, her weight problems, and her illnesses, both real and perceived).

Judy was an expected shoe-in for an Academy Award that year as Best Actress, but she was denied the honor in favor of Grace Kelly’s performance in The Country Girl. Coincidentally, that film’s story line was also about an alcoholic husband (Bing Crosby) whose long-suffering wife (Ms. Kelly) stands by her man to the end (a happy ending in this case).

Besides the aforementioned “The Man That Got Away,” which summarizes the story textually and contextually, there is the 18-minute “Born in a Trunk” sequence to admire, choreographed by Richard Barstow to the music and words of Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe. Other songs include Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s “Gotta Have Me Go With You,” “Here’s What I’m Here For,” “It’s a New World,” “Someone at Last,” and “Lose That Long Face,” along with a medley of George Gershwin and Rodgers & Hart tunes. The other cast members include Charles Bickford, Jack Carson, Tommy Noonan, and Amanda Blake.

Trimmed of approximately 37 minutes after its successful release, A Star is Born has been painstakingly reconstructed to 176 minutes (but not the test-cut time of 196 minutes or the premiere running time of 182 minutes) for the DVD/Blu-ray Disc editions, with scenes and numbers restored using photographs, pan and scan footage, and snippets of outtakes, making it a not to be missed, home-viewing experience.

Sadly, once you’ve seen the end product, you may never want to view it again. Considering what Judy went through in the final months of her life in London, England (epitomized in Peter Quilter’s hit theatrical play, Judy Garland – The End of the Rainbow) in eerie imitation of the film’s premise, there’s just too much pain attached. Indeed, she paid the ultimate price for Hollywood stardom: Judy passed away on June 22, 1969, at the age of 47.

Judy belts it out in "The Man Who Got Away"
Judy belts it out in “The Man Who Got Away”

The film was remade for a third time by Warner Bros. in 1977, as a vehicle for Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, in more of a pop-rock hippie milieu; and indirectly by Twentieth-Century Fox in 1979 as The Rose, with Bette Midler and Alan Bates, where the star herself goes off the deep end. The latter picture was actually based on the self-destructive life of Janis Joplin, who died of an overdose of heroin laced with alcohol in October 1970. Joplin was all of 27, twenty years younger than Garland.

Copyright © 2015 by Josmar F. Lopes

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‘Through the Dark of Night’ (‘Pela Escuridão’): The Songs of ‘7 – The Musical’

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Fairy Tales Can Come True

The original cast of 7 - The Musical
The original cast of 7 – The Musical

With the box-office success of the Disney Studios’ film adaptation (directed by Rob Marshall) of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, it behooves me at this point to revisit an overlooked masterwork of Brazilian musical theater: Möeller-Botelho-Motta’s 7 – The Musical, an adult version (a VERY adult version, I should strongly add) of the Snow White story.

This elaborate excursion into the fairy-tale realm, a dark-themed noir extravaganza that explores the libidinous motivations of its principal protagonists, made its triumphant debut on September 1, 2007, in Rio de Janeiro. And since 2010, when I first heard about the show, I have spent these past several years viewing, studying, and describing the origin and background of this fabulous musical-theater piece in several blog posts (see the following link: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/be-careful-what-you-wish-for-a-brazilian-fairy-tale-musical-comes-to-the-rio-stage/).

Today, however, I want to focus primarily on the English translation of its remarkably cogent songs, some of the catchiest and melodious numbers — be they Brazilian, American or otherwise — of any stage musical in recent memory.

So, without further interference from yours truly, here are the songs of 7 – The Musical, in the order in which they appeared in the original 2007 production:

 

7 – THE MUSICAL

 

Book by CHARLES MÖELLER              

Music by ED MOTTA          

Lyrics by CLAUDIO BOTELHO

English Adaptation by JOSMAR LOPES

 

Musical Numbers 

ACT ONE:

 

  1. “SONG OF THE REQUESTS” (The Seven Young Men)

A PALE WHITE RODENT

SOME POMEGRANATE SEEDS

A TOOTH THAT’S ROTTED

A LADY’S HIGH-HEELED SHOE

A HOLY BIBLE

A WEDDING BAND

 

Amela (Alessandra Maestrini) & Carmen (Zeze Motta)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini) & Carmen (Zeze Motta)
  1. “NIGHTTIME” (Carmen, Seven Young Men)

NIGHTTIME

ALL AROUND US IS THE NIGHTTIME

ALL AROUND US IS THE BLACKNESS

ALL AROUND US IS DISTURBANCE

BUT BEHIND US IS THE DRABNESS

 

ALL THE CATS ARE DRAB AND DREARY

ALL THE AIR AROUND IS WEARY

ALL THE ALLEYWAYS ARE TWISTED

CURVING OUT OF SIGHT AND

 

Seven Young Men

IN THE DARK OF NIGHT!

 

Carmen and the Cast

AH… NIGHTTIME

SUDDENLY IT WAS THE NIGHTTIME

SUDDENLY THE SOUND OF SCREAMING

SUDDENLY A BODY FALLING

SUDDENLY IT LEFT A BLOODSTAIN

 

ON THE STREET THERE WAS A BLOODSTAIN

ON THE WALL THERE WAS AN OUTLINE

ON THE COBBLESTONES WERE FOOTSTEPS

AND THE FOOTSTEPS ECHOED

 

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

 

Carmen and the Cast

NIGHTTIME

WHEN WE LISTEN TO THE CHATTER

WHEN WE HARKEN TO THE CLATTER

OF THE VOWS THAT SEEM TO MATTER

AFTER THAT, WHAT ELSE BUT DAY BREAKS

 

WHEN THE LIGHT OF DAY ADVANCES

WHEN THE RATS GO INTO TRANCES

AND THE PIGS TURN UP THEIR NOSES

WHILE THE DEVIL SLIPS AWAY

 

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

 

 

  1. “MAGIC MIRROR’S FIRST RESPONSE” (Seven Young Men)

NOT IN THIS KINGDOM

NO, NOT IN ALL THE WORLD

IS THERE A FAIRER MAID THAN YOU

NOT IN THIS KINGDOM

 

 

  1. “MAGIC MIRROR’S SECOND RESPONSE” (Clara)

SO FAIR AND FRAGILE

THAT LOVELY GIRL, SNOW WHITE

SNOW WHITE IS FAR FAIRER THAN YOU

 

 

  1. “THE SEVENTH REQUEST” (Carmen)

BRING ME A HEART THAT’S STRONG

STILL YOUNG AND VIBRANT

HAPPY AND FREE

 

Seven Young Men

HAPPY AND FREE!

 

Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini)
  1. “HE’LL BE BACK” (Amelia)

LIKE A RUNAWAY SERVANT

WHO RETURNS TO HIS MASTER

LIKE A DEAR OLD COMPANION

LIKE A WAVE ON THE WATER

FLOWING ONE AFTER ANOTHER

 

HE’LL BE BACK, I VOW

HE’LL COME RUNNING BACK

AS THE SUN AND STARS,

THE MOONLIGHT

WILL COME OUT AS WELL

ALWAYS

 

NO EXCEPTIONS, NONE

NO THOUGHTS OR WORDS, NONE

 

HE’LL BE MINE, I SWEAR

MY LOVER

AS I’VE ALWAYS DREAMED

ALWAYS

I SWEAR

 

YOUR EYES ARE ON MINE, MY LOVE

YOUR ARMS SURROUND MY HEART

THE DOORS ARE NOW CLOSING

CLOSING FAST, MY LOVE, MY HEART

THE ONE I ADORE

 

Odette (Rogeria), Madeleine (Marya Bravo) & Elvira (Gottscha)
Odette (Rogeria), Madeleine (Marya Bravo) & Elvira (Gottscha)
  1. “DANCE AROUND THE DEAD MAN” (Odette, Elvira, Madeleine, Dead Man)

Odette

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

AND THE FLIES BUZZING HERE

 

HOW KIND

HOW MEAN

HOW HARD WAS HE IN LIFE

A FRIEND

A FOE

A HUSBAND TO HIS WIFE

 

BUT NOW

HE’S OFF

HE’S THROUGH

HE’S FLAT

HE’S BROKE

HE’S STEW

 

AND THE FLIES BUZZING HERE

ALL THOSE THINGS ‘ROUND HIS EARS

WHAT A MEAL FOR THE FLEAS

SUCH A JUICY SIGHT

THOSE BLUE FINGERTIPS

THOSE RED EYES, THOSE LIPS

ARE THEY SAYING: WHAT NOW?

 

Elvira

HE’S DEAD

HE’S DOWN

NO SOCCER GAMES, FOR SURE

HIS TRAIN

LEFT TOWN

BUT NOW HE’S GONE FOR GOOD

 

HE LEFT

HIS DOG TO MOAN

HIS LEGS

ARE STIFF AS BONES

 

HIS POOR KIDS, STRANDED THERE

 

NO MOM

NO POP

TO SAVE HIM IN THE END

NO JOY

NO HOPE

NO SERVICE FOR A FRIEND

 

IT HURTS

TO DIE

ALONE

TO LIE

HERE ON

HIS OWN

 

JUST TO WATCH ALL THOSE WORMS

DO THEIR SAMBAS AND TURNS

THEY DON’T CARE HOW HE CHURNS

WE’RE THE SAME INSIDE

FRUIT IS FRUIT INSIDE

WE ALL ROT INSIDE,

KEEP IT OUT OF SIGHT

IT’S TRUE!

 

Odette

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

 

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

Madeleine

ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT

I THREW IT UP,

ALL RIGHT?

I REALLY CAN’T GO ON

 

I CAN’T GO ON

WITH THIS

I HAVE TO GO

FOR PITY’S SAKE

SAINT JUDE

AND SAINT JEROME

BY ALL THAT’S RIGHTEOUS IN

THIS WORLD I’M LIVING IN

I REALLY HAVE

TO GO

 

OH MY SAINT GENOVIEVE

AS LONG AS I CAN BREATHE

I KNOW I CAN’T GO ON

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

Elvira

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

 

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

 

The Dead Man

I’M DEAD

I’M SCREWED

NO ONE LEAVES ME ALONE!

 

NO REST

NO JOY

ANNOYING BITCHES TOO!

 

WHY DON’T

YOU GO

AND SCREW

 

YOUR MOMS

AND POPS

PLUS TWO?

 

CAN YOU SHOW ME THE WAY

TO THE NEAREST CAFÉ

HELL’S A GREAT PLACE TO STAY

 

Dance Around the Dead Man
“Dance Around the Dead Man”
The Dead Man

THAN TO BE HERE

WITH THESE FOOLS

I BET

 

 

 

PURGATORY’S BETTER

THAN THIS

PLACE

 

 

I SWEAR THAT

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS PLACE,

I SWEAR

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

Madeleine

OH, I CAN’T, I CAN’T

I WON’T GO ON

EVEN HELL IS BETTER

THAN THIS PLACE

 

 

WHAT A CURSE!

OH WHAT A MESS!

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS

 

I JUST

CAN’T GO ON,

NO MORE, NO MORE

MY GOD

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

Odette & Elvira

THAN TO BE HERE

WITH THESE FOOLS

I BET

 

 

PURGATORY’S BETTER

THAN THIS

PLACE

 

 

I SWEAR THAT

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS PLACE,

 

I SWEAR

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

 

  1. “THE HUNTER’S PLEA” (Hunter)

FLEE FOR YOUR VERY LIFE

MY POOR YOUNG PRINCESS

FLEE TO THE WOODS

NEVER COME BACK

 

  1. “WHEN A WOMAN WANTS” (Carmen, Rosa, Amelia)

Carmen

WHEN A WOMAN WANTS

A MAN OF HER VERY OWN

SHE BECOMES THE IMAGE OF A SIREN

SHE HOLDS IN HER HAND

AN APPLE FOR HIM TO EAT

A SIMPLE ACT WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES

 

AND WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN LOW

HE’LL TAKE A BITE AND THEN SHOW

HE IS IN HER ARMS WHEN HE HOLDS ON TO YOUR ROBE

 

AND WHEN YOU EXCHANGE A KISS IN HER PLACE

YOU WILL REMIND HIM WHEN HE LAYS BESIDE YOU

IT’S HER HAND THAT HE IS HOLDING

IT’S HER BACK THAT HE’S BEEN SCRATCHING

EVEN THOUGH YOUR BLOOD IS FLOWING

 

Rosa

TAKE THIS WOMAN FAR

AWAY FROM MY LITTLE GIRL

MAKE HER FIND HER FATE SO FAR FROM HERE

TAKE THIS WOMAN NOW

WITH ALL OF HER CARES AND FEARS

TO A PLACE THAT’S NOT SO VERY NEAR

 

AND MAY SHE FIND HER RELIEF

IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND

ON THE SIDEWALK, IN A SHELTER,

WHERE SHE LAYS DOWN

 

AND WHEN SHE AWAKES, AWAY FROM THIS PLACE,

MAKE HER AWARE OF HER SURROUNDINGS

SO PRINCE CHARMING SEES WHERE SHE’S BEEN SLEEPING

SHE WHO TRIED TO GET INSIDE HIM

MAY HER HAND BE ALL HE’S SEEKING

 

Amelia

FOR ME

 

Carmen

YOU’RE THE ONE WHO PUCKERS

BUT HER LIPS ARE THOSE HE’S KISSING FREELY

 

Amelia

FOR ME

 

Rosa

LET HER FORCE HERSELF ON OTHERS

ON THE STREET OR WHERE SHE’S KNEELING

 

Carmen and Rosa

YOU’RE THE ONE THAT HE IS HOLDING

BUT IT’S HER THAT HE’S BEEN FEELING

 

Amelia

FOR ME!

 

  1. “HERCULANO’S LULLABY” (Herculano)

SLEEP MY LITTLE BABE

YOUR DADDY CAME

 

SLEEP MY LITTLE DOVE

YOUR MOMMY’S GONE

 

Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa)
Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa)
  1. “HEIGH-HO” (Clara, Seven Young Men)

ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN DWARFS!

HEIGH-HO

HEIGH-HO AND NOW WE’RE GOING HOME

AND NOW WE’RE GOING HOME

 

12.   “CARD DECK” (Amelia, Carmen)

Amelia

THE TOOTH OF A CAT

AND THE TAIL OF A RAT

AND THE WING OF AN OWL

STIR THEM ALL TOGETHER

 

Carmen

TOGETHER!

 

Amelia

THE TOOTH AND THE TAIL

AND THE SHELL OF A SNAIL

WITH A BUCKET AND PAIL

YOU MIX THEM ALL AT ONCE

 

Carmen

ALL AT ONCE!

 

Amelia

BOIL THEM ALL IN A POT

LIKE A SOUP IN A SHOP

IN A KETTLE SO BLACK

THEY’LL BE COMPLETELY MELTED

 

Carmen

MELTED!

 

Amelia

FILL THE TOP OF THE POT

THE MOST POWERFUL POT

YOU CAN FIND IN YOUR SHOP

BRING THEM ALL TO A BOIL

 

Carmen

ALL TO A BOIL!

 

CARD DECK

DEAREST OF CARD DECKS

TAROTS, SHOW ME THE WAY

SEEK, AND YOU SHALL FIND

COME, MAKE ME ALL POWERFUL

 

Amelia

THE TIME OF NO TIME

THE HOUR’S SO FINE

WHEN THE MOON’S GETTING READY TO SHINE

GATHER ‘ROUND THEM CLOSER

 

Carmen

CLOSER!

 

Amelia

THE DAY IS A SAD ONE

A DAY WITHOUT SUN

WE TAKE UP OUR SONG

THEN IT’S OVER AND DONE

 

Carmen

OVER AND DONE!

 

Amelia

THEN YOU WISH FOR A WISH

AND YOUR WISH WILL COME TRUE

IF IT’S ALL THAT YOU DO

A HUNDRED TIMES OVER

 

Carmen

A HUNDRED TIMES OVER!

 

Amelia

YOU VOW AND YOU SWEAR

AND IT ALL COMES YOUR WAY

‘TILL YOU SAY WHAT YOU SAY

A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE

 

Carmen

A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE!

 

CARD DECK

OPEN MY EYELIDS

HELP ME, SHOW ME THE WAY

SPEAK, GRANT ME A SIGN

SPEAK, DON’T MAKE ME WAIT ANYMORE

 

Carmen

ASK, AND YOU’LL RECEIVE

 

COMMAND, IT SHALL BE DONE

 

PLEASE, SHOW ME THE WAY

MY ONLY TASK IS TO OBEY!

Amelia

ASK ME, AND I’LL RECEIVE

 

I SWEAR IT SHALL BE DONE

 

SAY IT’S NOT TOO LATE

MY ONLY TASK IS TO OBEY!

 

 

  1. “SCRUB THAT DIRTY STAIR” (Elvira, Madeleine, Amelia)

Elvira, Madeleine

SCRUB THAT DIRTY STAIR

TRA LA LA LA LA

CLEAN IT UP WITH SPIT AND POLISH

PRESS DOWN HARD, NOW TOSS THE RUBBISH

 

WAX THAT FILTHY FLOOR

TRA LA LA LA LA

MAKE IT SHINE AND DO IT SNAPPY

OR ODETTE WON’T BE SO HAPPY

 

WRETCHED WOMAN

USELESS VERMIN

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK

 

Amelia

YOUR FACE IS WITH ME HERE, MY DARLING

MY HEART IS IN YOUR HANDS

EACH PASSING HOUR

IT’S YOU THAT I SEEK

AND STILL I AWAIT,

MY TRUE LOVE

 

Elvira, Madeleine

GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES

HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE

IT’S JUST SHAMEFUL, SO DISGUSTING

SUCH A LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING

 

LOOK AT ALL THAT WASH

TRA LA LA LA LA

PICK THAT UP, IT’S NEVER-ENDING

HERE’S SOME MORE THAT NEED A MENDING

 

WRETCHED WOMAN

USELESS VERMIN

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK

 

Madeleine

HEAVY WOMAN

 

Elvira

BEAST OF BURDEN

 

Both

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK!!!

 

7 Curses, 7 Wishes
“7 Curses, 7 Wishes”
  1. “SEVEN CURSES” (Madeleine, Elvira, Carmen, Bianca, Seven Young Men)

BITE A PLUM PIT

CHEW A FISHBONE

FILL THOSE VEINS UP NOW

SPITTEL CHOKING

SPIRITS POKING

DRINK THAT POTION NOW

 

MALEDICTION

MALEFACTION

SUPERSTITION NOW

SPELL ALL-BINDING

STUPEFYING

BLINDLY CURSING SOW

 

TOXIC FOAM

ROUNDABOUT

OVERLOAD

CRY AND SHOUT

 

WRINKLES SPREADING

DISRESPECTING

EARTH IS QUAKING

SKIN IS SHEDDING

 

MILK TURNS SOUR

NOW’S THE HOUR

SPILL THAT BUTTER

DYING MOTHER

 

STIR THE CAULDRON

HEAT THE OVEN

HANDS IN FIRE NOW

IN THE GARDEN

BEASTS OF BURDEN

IN THE CUPBOARD NOW

 

MOLDY STORAGE

TRY THAT PORRIDGE

PLUCK A PULLET NOW

IN YOUR BEDROOM

ALL IS BEDLAM

WASH THOSE EYEBALLS,

WHERE AND HOW?

 

TRIM YOUR BODY

CUT TO RIBBONS

FEED YOUR PONY

APES AND GIBBONS

 

BORE A HOLE IN

ROOF AND CEILING

MAKE A HOME FOR

LICE AND WOMEN

 

SWEAR A CURSE AND

KILL YOUR FATHER

SHOW THE WEAPON

THEN AIM HIGHER

 

SEVEN CURSES

SEVEN WISHES

TAKE THEM BACK

THEN DO THE DISHES

 

 

  1. “THE LIGHT OF DAY” (Carmen)

THE LIGHT OF DAY

IS THERE, WAITING FOR YOU

THE MORNING GLOW,

THE SIDEWALK’S JUST FOR YOU

 

AND THERE’S

A SEA OUT THERE

WITH SEASHELLS

AND SAND OUT THERE

 

ALL OF RIO AWARE

A RED CARPET TO SHARE

CITY LIFE AT YOUR FEET

WAITING, HOPING THERE

AT YOUR BECK AND CALL

AT YOUR FEET!

 

Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello) & Bianca (Alessandra Verney)
Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello) & Bianca (Alessandra Verney)

 

  1. “IF THIS PATHWAY” (Bianca, Herculano)

Bianca

IF THIS PATHWAY

COULD UNLOCK MY HEART

I WOULD PAVE IT

WITH THE GEMS FROM MY PART

STONES, MOST PRECIOUS STONES THAT I HAVE LAID

FOR MY ESCAPE

 

Bianca

FROM THE SILENCE

WHERE HE LOCKED ME IN

FROM THE FENCES

WHERE HE KEPT ME BOUND

FROM THE DOORWAY

WHERE HE FORCED ME DOWN

EVERY DAY AND NIGHT

 

THIS IS MY HELLHOLE

 

THIS IS MY PENANCE

 

I WANT MORE

I NEED SO MUCH MORE…

 

IT’S SO COLD INSIDE ME

 

SO EMPTY INSIDE ME

 

A TIGER INSIDE ME

 

AND NOW I MUST LEAVE YOU

FOR US

FOR US

 

IF THIS PATHWAY

COULD UNLOCK MY HEART

I WOULD PAVE IT

WITH THE GEMS FROM MY PART

STONES, MOST PRECIOUS STONES

THAT I HAVE LAID

FOR MY ESCAPE

 

THERE ANCHORS MY VESSEL

 

THERE LIES A NEW FUTURE

 

I WANT MORE

I NEED MORE

OH, SO MUCH MORE

 

OUTSIDE A SWEET WINTER

 

OUTSIDE ENDLESS SUMMERS

 

A SUNSHINE INSIDE ME

 

AND NOW, I MUST LEAVE YOU

FOR US

FOR US

 

PATHWAY

PLEASE UNLOCK MY HEART

 

IF THIS PATHWAY…

Herculano

ALL I HAVE IS YOURS

MY LOVE

MY LOVE

 

 

 

 

 

THIS IS OUR LOVENEST

 

THIS IS OUR DREAM HOUSE

 

STAY WITH ME HERE

WHERE IT’S OH, SO WARM

 

IT’S SO COLD OUTSIDE ME

 

SO UGLY OUTSIDE ME

 

A WOLF AT THE WINDOW

 

DO IT FOR ME

FOR US

FOR US

 

SAVE OUR LOVE TONIGHT

MY LOVE

MY LOVE

 

 

 

 

 

FAR FROM ANY STORM CLOUD

 

SAVE OUR LOVE TONIGHT

 

OUR LOVE

IS ALL

WE NEED

 

OUTSIDE THERE ARE OGRES

 

OUTSIDE STRIFE ETERNAL

 

OUTSIDE AN INFERNO

 

DO IT FOR ME

FOR US

FOR US

 

PATHWAY

DON’T TEAR OUR LOVE APART

 

IF THIS PATHWAY…

 

 

  1. “BEFORE I FORGET” (Amelia, Alvaro)

Amelia

BEFORE I FORGET MYSELF IN YOU, STAY

BEFORE I REMEMBER WHAT I DO, STAY

COME, STAY WITH ME HERE

DON’T LEAVE ME, I FEAR

 

BEFORE MY TEMPTATION TO SAY YES, STAY

BEFORE CONTEMPLATION TELLS ME LESS, STAY

STAY, I’VE BEEN AWAY

DON’T LEAD ME ASTRAY

 

STAY, TIME GOES BY FASTEST WHEN WE SAY:

STAY!

 

Alvaro

CLOCKS WITH ALL THEIR HANDS WILL STOP AND SAY: STAY

SHINGLES ON THE CEILING FALL AND SAY: STAY

SAY I FOUND YOU HERE

PRAY, NO ONE COMES NEAR

ALL THAT IS FORGOTTEN’S IN THE PAST

STAY

 

Both

FOREVER,

AND ALWAYS

TOGETHER,

STAY WITH ME

 

Amelia

STAY, MY NIGHTS ARE FADING OH SO FAST, STAY

 

Both

STAY, THE DOORS ARE CLOSING TO THE PAST, STAY

 

STAY, BEFORE THE SPRING

STAY, BEFORE THE THAW

BEFORE WE FORGET HOW MUCH WE SAY:

STAY

 

FOREVER

AND ALWAYS

 

Alvaro

LONGING

 

Amelia

SWEAR IT

 

Both

STAY!

 

Full Cast in Finale to Act 1
Full Cast in the Finale to Act One
  1. FINALE: “TIME AND AGAIN” (Entire Cast)

Madeleine, Elvira, Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

NIGHTTIME HAS COME

 

Seven Young Men

THE PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME!

 

Elvira

HEY THERE!

WHAT’S IT TODAY?

 

Madeleine

WHO WILL CARESS ME?

 

Madeleine, Elvira, Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

WE’RE ALL THE SAME

 

Seven Young Men

THE STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME, OH STAY

 

Elvira

MAKE OF ME

YOUR HEART’S DESIRE OR SOMETHING MORE

 

Madeleine

WITH ME THE LIGHTS ARE BURNING BRIGHTER

 

Elvira

WITH ME THE FLAMES STAY LOW

 

Both

NEAR TO YOUR CHAMBER

A CUP ON THE FLOOR

AND STILL I AWAIT

 

All

MY TRUE LOVE

 

Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

NIGHTTIME HAS COME

 

Bianca

THE PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY…

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME!

 

Elvira

ANYONE

OR NO ONE

 

Madeleine

WHO WILL CARESS ME?

 

Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

WE’RE ALL THE SAME

THE STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY…

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME, OH STAY

 

Elvira

MAKE OF ME

YOUR CRUEL HEAVEN OR YOUR HELL!

 

Elvira, Madeleine, Seven Young Men

AT NIGHT MY PRINCE IS WAITING FOR ME

HIS FATE IS IN MY HANDS

 

Carmen, Odette, Rosa

INSIDE OUR SOULS WHERE

IT’S WARM AND IT’S COLD

 

All

AND STILL I AWAIT

MY TRUE LOVE

 

BLACKOUT

Curtain

End of Act One

 

(To be continued…) 

Copyright © 2015 by Josmar F. Lopes

 

Opera Goes to Hollywood, the Sequel — Short Takes, Outtakes, and Out-and-Out Mistakes

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Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy in New Moon
Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy in New Moon

A year or two back, I published a series of articles devoted to the incongruities of opera stars appearing or being featured in Hollywood movies (yes, you heard that right — even the silent variety), and of Hollywood movies employing said opera stars.

I later realized, to my dismay, that a cluster of mini-pieces I had prepared on the subject of opera and moviedom never quite made it to the “final cut.” Whether for reasons of space, or most likely the failure of these pieces to fit into any specific group or category that I had been thinking about, I never got around to a definitive solution for their use. In all probability, they wound up on the proverbial cutting-room floor.

Nevertheless, I’d like to make amends and take this opportunity to rectify my oversight by offering these “short takes, outtakes, and out-and-out mistakes” as a consolation to movie buffs and opera lovers starved for the offbeat and out-of-the-way in musical film fare.

So, as they say in showbiz: “Here goes nothing!”

Yes, But Were They Opera Singers?

A subsection of the class of performers who sang and acted their way to stardom in a multiplicity of motion pictures involves all those Deanna Durbin, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy vehicles so beloved of fans of the Depression years. Coming as they did before and during the conflagration known as World War II, we can look back on these ventures with more than a clear-eyed appreciation for their relative merits and deficiencies.

Let’s get the show on the road, then, with the young and gifted Deanna Durbin. Born Edna Mae Durbin on December 4, 1921, to British émigré parents in Winnipeg, Manitoba (bet you didn’t know she was Canadian, ay?), Deanna’s family relocated to Southern California, i.e., the Los Angeles area, when she was two years old due to her father’s health.

Originally scheduled to appear in a planned 1935 production opposite the Austrian contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink — it was going to be another of those Hollywood “biopics,” this one of the grande dame herself, in which Durbin was supposed to play Schumann-Heink as a child — the project was scrapped due to the singer’s untimely passing. That alone would turn most aspirants off. Instead, the rechristened Deanna co-starred a year later in an MGM short, Every Sunday, alongside another potential discovery, the plucky thirteen-year-old Judy Garland.

As ill luck would have it, Garland was in and Durbin was out. It sounds suspiciously like one of those producer clichés (of the “The kid stays in the picture” variety). But the scuttlebutt around Tinsel Town was that Louis B. Mayer, the titular lord of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s realm, took one look at Every Sunday and that very day made his fateful decision: “Get rid of the fat one,” he declared. His subordinates misunderstood Mayer’s pronouncement and promptly canned Ms. Durbin, when in fact he meant to fire the pudgy Ms. Judy. Details, details!

Deanna Durbin
Deanna Durbin

That being the case, the production team at Universal, headed by Joe Pasternak (who later migrated to MGM) and Henry Koster, snapped up the budding starlet and signed Durbin to make her feature debut in Three Smart Girls (1936), a smart move on their part. Deanna’s role was that of a smart cookie, sharing screen time with Nan Grey and Barbra Read, the other brains of the outfit.

This was soon followed by the hugely successful One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), wherein the guileless Deanna played second fiddle, in a manner of speaking, to the real star of the show: the world renowned, long-haired music-maker, maestro Leopold Stokowski. This was several years before “Stokie” had bowed to (in animated-silhouette form, I might add) and shook the celluloid hands of the cartoonish Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney’s cult classic, Fantasia.

The basic plot of One Hundred Men and a Girl involved an aspiring vocalist (Deanna) trying to convince the skeptical conductor to hire her unemployed father and his ragtag group of equally jobless musicians (all of them victims of a depressed economy) to play in an ad hoc symphony — presided over by Leopold himself. It’s a charming period piece, a harmless bit of Depression-era diversion, with the thoroughly enchanting Durbin at her uncomplicated best.

Her singing voice, while sounding slight and reedy on top (in this author’s opinion, not very distinctive even at this early stage in her career), manages to hit all the right notes in a pleasant if passable reading of the “Alleluia” section from Mozart’s concert aria, Exsultate Jubilate, along with other characteristic pieces from the period. Durbin is ably seconded by a typical 1930s cast of characters, including the dapper Adolphe Menjou as her ne’er-do-well dad, bullfrog-throated radio-station owner Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady as his wife, blustering Billy Gilbert as a garage owner, Frank Jenks as a cab driver (a role he repeated in many a picture), and the resourceful Mischa Auer as a flute player.

Durbin with Leopold Stokowski in One Hundred Men and a Girl
Durbin with Leopold Stokowski in One Hundred Men and a Girl

Mad About Music (1938) was the next entry in the Durbin canon, followed by such items as That Certain Age, Nice Girl?, It Started with Eve, and numerous others. Durbin’s films were notable primarily for their unabashed innocence and easy-to-take charm, their A-list casting of such top-drawer talents as Charles Laughton, Robert Cummings, Franchot Tone, and Robert Stack, and near-top of the line production values — although to be perfectly honest they were a few steps below the best that rival studio MGM had to offer.

Still, it was that very ordinariness, a quality that Durbin so attractively exuded in many of her screen portrayals that tugged at people’s hearts. Later in 1938, she shared a special Academy Award with fellow child star Mickey Rooney for (and I quote) “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth … and by setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

Notwithstanding her appeal as a non-threatening, girl-next-door type, in 1948 Ms. Durbin decided to retire from the screen at the advanced age of 27. By then, Deanna had flowered into a fully matured and, it must be noted, boldly voluptuous figure. Two films from 1944, the first, Christmas Holiday, in which she portrayed a New Orleans hooker of all things, and the other, Can’t Help Singing, a Technicolor musical Western that showed her in a bathtub surrounded by frothy bubbles, left little to the imagination and pretty much burst her bubble of wholesomeness for all time.

Relocating to Paris, Deanna married (for the third time, if you’re keeping track) a Frenchman by the name of Charles Henri David. She was rarely seen or heard from until her death, at 91, in April 2013. Durbin left behind a series of lightweight pictures that, while totally ingenuous in their makeup and design, held classical music in high regard.

Although popular with the middlebrow crowd, Deanna accepted the fact that she attracted mostly older audiences, her reasoning being that she “represented the ideal daughter millions of fathers and mothers wished they had.” You may take a bow for that statement, dearie.

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!

Eddy & MacDonald in Naughty Marietta
Eddy & MacDonald in Naughty Marietta

British-born movie critic and irascible raconteur, David Thomson, had a lot to say about our next pair of candidates for screen stardom: “It is possible that, without so accomplished a soprano voice, Jeanette MacDonald would now be more highly regarded as a comedienne. Without a song, she would not have had to keep company with the egregious Nelson Eddy.” Ouch, that hurt!

What Mr. Thomson may not have considered was that Ms. MacDonald’s career-defining affiliation with the robust-toned Mr. Eddy was exactly what the war-weary American public wanted and kept clamoring for during their unbroken string of hits between the years 1935 and 1942.

After all, what was Laurel without Hardy, Abbott without Costello? And, righty put, what was Jeanette MacDonald without her Nelson Eddy? Ah, but there’s the rub! For you see, both stars, whether separately or as a melodious unit, had forged onscreen personalities so tailored to their own personas that, without regard to their individual talents, would forever be associated in people’s mind with the most winning (and, nowadays, the campiest) movie musicals in film history.

Born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1903 (or 1901, depending on your source), Jeanette Anna MacDonald was the youngest of three girls, one of whom was the actress Marie Blake, a.k.a. Blossom Rock, best known to TV addicts as Grandmama on The Addams Family series. Blessed with a lyrically-trained voice and above-average acting and dancing skills, young Jeanette came to New York in 1919, later making headway on the Great White Way in a variety of shows, revues and light operas from 1920 onward.

Discovered, after a fashion, by silent screen veteran Richard Dix and European film director Ernst Lubitsch, MacDonald burst onto the scene in a series of lushly filmed, suave and sophisticated musical comedies for Paramount Pictures, co-starring the dashingly urbane French sensation, Maurice Chevalier. They made four movies together, the first of which, The Love Parade in 1929, is an excellent example of what came to be known as the “Lubitsch touch.” Indeed, MacDonald and Maurice made beautiful music together (while he made goo-goo eyes at his partner), but their subsequent output failed to ignite the spark that the fast-moving Love Parade had started.

Having had better luck with The Vagabond King (1930), which highlighted the rich baritone rumblings of the strikingly handsome British subject, Dennis King (Fra Diavolo or The Devil’s Brother), MacDonald jumped ship for other studios — among them United Artists and Fox Film Corporation — for a round of musical parfaits that exploited the artist’s growing popularity on the big screen. Several classics resulted, including another coupling with Monsieur Chevalier in One Hour with You and Love Me Tonight (both in 1932), along with a few others.

All this activity caught the attention of our old friend, Louis B. Mayer, who had been trying to sign up the busy singer-actress for a goodly number of years. Mayer’s fortunes were about to change, however, when after two unsuccessful efforts at MGM, including a sound remake of The Merry Widow (1934), directed by Lubitsch and featuring the debonair Chevalier again, the studio hit pay-dirt when Jeanette MacDonald was eventually paired with newcomer Nelson Eddy in the film version of Victor Herbert’s operetta, Naughty Marietta.

A classically trained singer with an easy top and sturdy build, Eddy hailed from Providence, Rhode Island. Two years older than MacDonald, he was no less talented than his future working partner. After the early divorce of his parents, Eddy went to live in Philadelphia, Jeanette’s old hometown, where he began his vocal studies. Employed at a variety of jobs (among them a clerk and a newspaper reporter), young Nelson entered and won several voice competitions, all of which landed him recurring opportunities at the Philadelphia Civic Opera.

By the time he and MacDonald had joined together in song, Eddy had made numerous concert and opera appearances with the likes of maestro Stokowski, sopranos Helen Jepson and Elizabeth Rethberg, conductor Fritz Reiner, tenor Giovanni Martinelli, bass Ezio Pinza, and composer Ottorino Respighi. There was even mention of his name joining the illustrious ranks of other American baritones of the time, i.e., Lawrence Tibbett (himself a movie star), John Charles Thomas, and Richard Bonelli. Hey, Figaro!

With that background, was it any wonder that MGM had nothing but the greatest of difficulties in placing the tall, blond-haired and boyish-looking Eddy in non-singing parts? In total, Eddy and MacDonald appeared in eight feature films, many of them directed by either W.S . Van Dyke or Robert Z. Leonard or both, beginning with Naughty Marietta and followed by Rose Marie (1936), Maytime (1937), The Girl of the Golden West (1938) based on David Belasco’s play, Sweethearts (1938), New Moon (1940), Bitter Sweet (1940), and culminating with I Married an Angel in 1942.

MacDonald with the "King," Clark Gable, in San Francisco
MacDonald with the “King,” Clark Gable, in San Francisco

Both artists left MGM shortly thereafter. On their own, they had mixed results, as well as mixed reviews from audiences and critics alike; basically it was hit or miss. By herself, Jeanette MacDonald went on to star in several pictures, the most prominent being San Francisco (1936) with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy (where Jeanette warbled the Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust), The Firefly with Allan Jones (1937), Broadway Serenade (1939) with Lew Ayres, Smilin’ Through (1941) with Brian Aherne and her husband Gene Raymond, Cairo (1942) with Robert Young and Ethel Waters, and Three Darling Daughters (1948) with Jane Powell and José Iturbi. Her final film, The Sun Comes Up (1949), presented audiences with her strangest partner yet: the dog Lassie!

With other leading ladies, Nelson Eddy received top billing in Rosalie (1937) with Eleanor Powell, Let Freedom Ring (1939) with Virginia Bruce, Balalaika (1939) with Ilona Massey, The Chocolate Soldier (1941) with Risë Stevens, and Northwest Outpost (1947), again with Massey. He also starred in Universal’s The Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Susanna Foster and Claude Rains, Knickerbocker Holiday (1944) with Charles Coburn, and as an opera-singing cartoon whale in Disney’s Make Mine Music (1946).

There were rumors of a tempestuous affair between Mr. Eddy and Ms. MacDonald, both on and off the screen. It was even bandied about that Nelson had asked Jeanette to marry him on more than one occasion, but each time she turned him down flat. Were they longtime lovers, or just close friends? Who knows?

What we do know is that both MacDonald and Eddy were born in the same month of June, almost two years apart. She died in 1965, while he passed on in 1967 — a little over two years later. Must be another of those sweet mysteries of life they so often sang about.

The Golden Girls

It’s been said that all of Louis B. Mayer’s taste was in his mouth. Whether this observation was indeed true or not, Mayer could still boast of having had under contract three of MGM’s most conspicuous sirens: sopranos Ann Blyth, Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell. All three were known as the Metro Girls, for better or worse — the jewels in the studio’s musical crown in its postwar heyday.

The main reason for their popularity, besides good looks and more than decent acting chops, was their voices — both speaking AND singing voices, to be exact. You can read all about these fabulous artists in Brian Kellow’s fact-filled essay, “The Lost Metro Girls,” in the August 2002 issue of Opera News. For our purposes, let’s say that all three ladies had been bitten by the theater bug at an early age, with opera rarely or tangentially entering into the picture.

Ann Marie Blyth, who grew up in New York City, took part in the children’s chorus at the budding San Carlo Opera Company. One might even have gotten wind of her performances, back in the day, in such perennial favorites as Puccini’s La Bohème and Bizet’s Carmen, if only as part of the onstage crowd. Blyth also flexed her stage muscles in the Broadway production of Watch on the Rhine with Paul Lukas.

Ann Blyth
Ann Blyth

On tour with the play in L.A., Blyth was noticed by a talent scout and promptly hired by Universal Pictures. But it was with MGM that she came into her own in straight acting parts, the most memorable of which, as Joan Crawford’s spoiled brat of a daughter in Mildred Pierce (1945), earned her an Academy Award nomination. Within a few years, she graduated from playing an offspring to being the cinematic wife of Enrico Caruso, as well as the mother of his child.

Notwithstanding her brief take on the number, “The Loveliest Night of the Year,” from the Mario Lanza vehicle The Great Caruso (1951), viewers got to hear Blyth’s beautiful singing voice in a series of elaborately produced operettas, beginning with remakes of Rose Marie and The Student Prince (all from 1954), and the ersatz Vincente Minnelli-directed Kismet, a poorly received box-office dud.

Unfortunately, Blyth’s singing voice was dubbed by pop star Gogi Grant in her next musical outing, the soap-opera filming of The Helen Morgan Story from 1957, about the alcoholic torch singer’s troubled life. Blyth wisely retired from the screen later that same year. As you can see, opera hardly fit into the picture at all with someone whose “early career” began on the stage.

Such was not the case with Metro’s other golden girl, Zelma Kathryn Grayson. A native of Winston-Salem, Grayson’s family moved to St. Louis, where she began serious vocal studies, even learning the part of Lucia di Lammermoor. Another of the many Hollywood transplants, the young songbird continued studying, right up until the moment Louis Mayer spotted her at a concert and, in true “I’ll show ‘em who’s boss” fashion, signed her to a film contract.

Claiming never to have fought with the legendary old haggler, Grayson was deprived of a Metropolitan Opera debut as Lucia by the ever-watchful Mr. Mayer. In Kellow’s article, L.B. is quoted as saying, “If [Grayson] is known as an opera star, she’ll have a short career. If she is a motion picture star, she’ll be a star forever.” This was the polar opposite of Met Opera General Manager Rudolf Bing’s attitude toward his own stable of stars (for example, baritone Robert Merrill) and their moonlighting antics as Hollywood actors.

Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me, Kate
Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me, Kate

For years, Grayson was left waiting in the wings. She eventually came out for her bow in the late 1940s in the first two Mario Lanza pictures, That Midnight Kiss from 1949 and The Toast of New Orleans in 1950. Their legendary tussles filled the gossip columns with scathing accounts of off-screen battles and prima donna-like behavior (on Mario’s part, not Grayson’s). After The Great Caruso, Mr. Lanza’s Metro star began to wane; Ms. Grayson’s, however, was slowly but surely on the rise. She starred opposite Howard Keel in the Technicolor remake of Show Boat which, through no fault of her own, many critics (myself included) felt was inferior to the 1936 version with Irene Dunne and Allan Jones.

Still, Grayson and Keel made a darn good team, and gave fans their money’s worth in two return engagements, first with Lovely to Look At (1952), followed by the best of their three-picture deal together, the movie version of Cole Porter’s musical Kiss Me, Kate (1953). Grayson’s man-hating harpy Katherine, coupled with her temperamental comportment as Lilli, was one of the real-life Kathryn’s finest screen portrayals, a pouty, tantrum-prone shrew that people wrongly associated with the actress herself.

Not so, for once her movie career was over Grayson continued to pursue her first love — i.e., singing on the stage — appearing in touring companies of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, Verdi’s La Traviata, Donizetti’s Lucia, and Puccini’s La Bohème and Madama Butterfly, as well as going the nightclub route all over the continental United States.

Despite her fame in filmdom, and contrary to Louis B. Mayer’s prediction, Kathryn Grayson became both an opera star AND a movie star, forever. Her voice was finally silenced on February 17, 2010, at age 88.

Keep on Smiling

Jane Powell
Jane Powell

The last of the highly-touted Metro Girls, bubbly Jane Powell, was the least inclined of the threesome toward a career on the operatic stage. The possessor of a sparkling personality and a winning 100-watt smile, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Jane distinguished herself through many onscreen appearances, all the while weathering numerous vocal crises for almost the entire length of her stint in La-La-Land.

As far as we could tell, Ms. Powell, a Portland, Oregon native, never sang or starred in opera. Yet, her sharply focused soprano would be heard in such varied assignments as A Date with Judy (1948) and Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), both with Carmen Miranda, Royal Wedding (1952) with singer-dancer Fred Astaire, Three Sailors and a Girl (1953) with Gordon MacRae, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) with the omnipresent Howard Keel, and Hit the Deck (1955) with crooner Tony Martin.

She also made it a point to appear in musical theater. A partial listing of her activities includes such classic shows as Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, Carousel, My Fair Lady, and Brigadoon. But Powell, who was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce, earned the first of her positive notices on the air, prophetically on the radio program Stars of Tomorrow. She entered the cinema at the tender age of fifteen, playing a variation on her own vivacious identity as a perky, sincere, and overly enthusiastic ingénue with the cherubic face and a never-say-die outlook on life.

Married five times, the last (and still current) of which is to former child actor Dickie Moore, Powell was put under contract to MGM. Ironically, though, her movie debut occurred over at Universal, Deanna Durbin’s home studio, in the 1944 feature Song of the Open Road. How’s that for a prescient title? From then on, it was work, work, and more work for the industrious Ms. Jane, who was anything but plain in her “forever young” screen traversals.

Louis B. Mayer had finally found a replacement for Deanna Durbin, who he always felt had slipped through his studio’s fingers. However, by the mid-1950s movie musicals were on their downward slide. As far as her future film endeavors went, Powell saw the handwriting on the wall clearly enough. She left the pomp and vanity of Tinsel Town for the stage, making a second go at a theater career: she was ideally cast, in 1973, as Debbie Reynold’s replacement in the Broadway hit Irene.

Still experiencing trouble with her vocals, Ms. Powell soon called it a night. She is fondly remembered by her legions of fans as that never-aging, eternally jovial youth who lit up many a movie musical with her lyrical output and sun-drenched optimism.

Recommended Reading:

  • Citron, Marcia. Opera on Screen, Yale University Press, New York, 2000.
  • Dizikes, John. Opera in America: A Cultural History, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993.
  • Fawkes, Richard. Opera on Film, Duckworth Publishers, Great Britain, 2002.
  • Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia, HarperPerennial, A HarperCollins Book, New York, 1994.
  • Kellow, Brian. “The Lost Metro Girls,” The Crossover Variations — Opera, Broadway and the Movies, Opera News Magazine, Volume 67, Number 2, August 2002.
  • Mackay, Harper. “The History of Hollywood’s Secret Voices,” Opera News Magazine, October 1994.
  • Midgette, Anne. “Verdi On-Screen: A Century’s Operatic Riches,” The New York Times, January 25, 2002.
  • Myers, Eric. “Universal Appeal, The Crossover Variations — Opera, Broadway and the Movies,” Opera News Magazine, Volume 67, Number 2, August 2002.
  • Scherer, Barrymore Laurence. “The Flickering Light: Der Rosenkavalier and Other Silent Opera Films,” Opera News Magazine, December 11, 1993.
  • Schroeder, David. Cinema’s Illusions, Opera’s Allure, Continuum Books, New York, 2002.
  • Wlaschin, Ken. “Glory of Opera Films That Hit the Right Notes,” The Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2000.
  • Wlaschin, Ken. Opera on Screen: A Guide to 100 Years of Films and Videos, Beachwood Publishers, 1997.

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes

‘7’ the Winner! The Brazilian Musical Comes of Age — Part Three: The Critics Agree!

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REVIEWS OF MÖELLER & BOTELHO’S 7 – THE MUSICAL, ONE OF THE FINEST MUSICAL-THEATER PIECES EVER TO HIT THE BRAZILIAN STAGE

"Seven Curses" from 7 - The Musical
“Seven Curses” from 7 – The Musical

Intermission Feature

    “With their considerable knowledge brought to the area of musical theater, the team of Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho has, for the first time, forged a path toward that of the musical as stage spectacular with 7 – The Musical. This new work— with a book by Möeller, lyrics by Botelho and music by Ed Motta — follows the example set by Stephen Sondheim, with a play that is more erudite and adult than traditional popular American musicals have been…

    “As always, Claudio’s lyrics, sung as well as they are, sound so impeccably right for the dramatic situation at hand… Charles’ direction strongly guides the large cast along, favoring behavior according to character type, as dictated by the text, and is especially efficient when dealing with massed ensembles.”

Barbara Heliodora, O Globo

    “With the premiere of 7 – The Musical, Brazilian musical theater has reached full maturity. Its parents – Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho – have been carefully nurturing it, with affinity and gratitude… but with the launch of their 15th joint venture, [they have] presented to the public their most ambitious project yet, one that is 100 percent by their own hands. If before the team had bent itself backwards [to do justice to] the grand masters of musical theater, this time it has started from scratch: the elegant songs of ‘7’, a good portion of which are semi-operatic in tone, were written by Ed Motta specifically for this staging. This is musical theater in its natural state, with songs that serve the narrative to perfection – the lyrics by Botelho, musical director of the show, side by side with Motta’s music, are both touching and thrilling, but are there to advance the plot…

    “From the looks of it, the tale that’s being told reveals the ease with which Möeller, the author and director of the text, has in uniting subject matter with lightness of touch. The excellent cast assembled for this production sings about the absence of love, and the fate that drives them to the play’s ultimate realization: that moving forward is better than looking backward. Rogerio Falcão’s lovely but somber sets cause an immediate impact in their recreation of first a forest, then several balconies, along with allusions to the familiar landscape of the Lapa Arches.”

– André Gomes, O Dia Newspaper

Alessandra Verney (Bianca) & Raul Veiga (Herculano) abroadwayeaqui.com.br
Alessandra Verney (Bianca) & Raul Veiga (Herculano) http://www.abroadwayeaqui.com.br

“The show argues the case for what a Brazilian musical can be. The production… reveals its national identity by means of elements found in the universality of its themes. Inspired by confabulated tales of witches and witchcraft, in traditional narrative recollections, they are transferred to a Rio of the imagination where snowflakes begin to fall. The characters relive the archetypes previously conferred on them by the Brothers Grimm, singing as if they had stepped out of a Sondheim musical. There’s nothing more Brazilian, by the spirit of playfulness present throughout – with the needless necessity of labeling itself ‘native’ in origin – than to prove that an Anglo-Saxon matrix can receive a treatment that celebrates, by sheer force, this very identity.

“Ed Motta’s music, with inventive and dazzling lyrics by Claudio Botelho, boasts a refinement and rhythmic variance that adjusts itself to the evolution of the dramatic context. With complex but no less melodious harmonies, Motta’s score is attractive to the point that, upon leaving the theater, one wants to hear it all over again from the start. The musical direction, the arrangements, the conducting and musicianship establish a sonorous quality that gives full weight to the beauty of this score… Director Charles Möeller, in his most ambitious assignment yet, orchestrates each individual detail, creating compositions and frames of great beauty, and leading the surprisingly competent cast with sureness and ease.”

Macksen Luiz, Jornal do Brasil

“It’s difficult to associate Ed Motta who debuted in the record market in 1988… with his theatrical debut as the sophisticated composer of 7 – The Musical. Ed wrote the score (the lyrics are by Claudio Botelho) and provided the musical direction (together with Botelho) of the team comprised of Möeller & Botelho on their 15th joint production. The melodic refinement is in complete harmony with Ed’s recent repertory of works.

“What is surprising – and most reassuring – is the composer’s ability to place his music at the disposal of the theater. Ed wouldn’t fare too badly on Broadway, with such numbers as ‘Dance Around the Dead Man,’ ‘My Friends the Cards,’ ‘Oh, Look at Me,’ ‘If This Pathway’ (with echoes from the children’s song ‘If This Street Were Mine’) and ‘My Heart on Your Heart.’ Motta’s music has a sullen and somber quality that manages to provide the dark tone called for in Möeller’s script, [which is] made up of references to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, along with various allusions to witchcraft.”

Mauro Ferreira (The Blog Notas Musicais – “Musical Notes”)

Rogeria (Odette), Marya Bravo (Madeleine) & Gottscha (Elvira)
Rogeria (Odette), Marya Bravo (Madeleine) & Gottscha (Elvira)

“The use of the Gothic tale of Snow White… in parallel with, or as a basis for, the intriguing book by author Charles Möeller, resulted in the unusually notorious universe of Nelson Rodrigues, our best-known transgressor of dramaturgy, with all that we’ve grown accustomed to in his works, from its mythical aspects to the suburban phase [of development]: a woman scorned and ill-resigned to her fate; a wandering and womanizing husband (nothing less than a certain Herculano!); as well as whores, prostitutes, and conniving clairvoyants. It’s a veritable bubbling cauldron of melodramatic ingredients: hate, jealousy, revenge, knives literally ripping apart impetuous hearts…

“The tone is of a tragicomedy, a grandiloquent and solemn one at that, with tidbits of comic relief and humor of a typically carioca nature…The musical direction and reduced orchestrations are worthy of Ed Motta’s original score, as are Claudio Botelho’s lyrics, unbeatable as usual in this context.”

Afonso Gentil (Theater Critic associated with APCA)

Creative Team:

Book and Direction: Charles Möeller
Music: Ed Motta
Lyrics: Claudio Botelho
Musical Direction: Ed Motta and Claudio Botelho
Musical Supervision: Marcelo Castro
Arrangements / Orchestrations: Delia Fisher
Musical Preparation / Conductor: André Távora Kacowicz
Assistant Directors: Paula Sandroni, Tina Salles
Sets: Rogério Falcão
Costumes: Rita Murtinho
Scenic Design: Beto Carramanhos
Choreography: Renato Vieira
Sound Design: Marcelo Claret
Lighting: Paulo César Medeiros
Public Relations and Press: Marcia Niemeyer
Production Directors: Aniela Jordan, Beatriz Secchin Braga, Monica Athayde Lopes

A show by Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho

Original Cast (2007 Season – João Caetano Theater – Rio de Janeiro)

Alessandra Maestrini – Amelia
Alessandra Verney – Bianca
Eliana Pittman – Rosa
Gottsha – Elvira
Ida Gomes – Old Stepmother
Marya Bravo – Madeleine
Rogéria – Odette
Zezé Motta – Carmen
Tatih Köhler – Clara
Raul Veiga – Herculano
Jonas Hammar – Alvaro
Cristiano Penna
Fabrício Negri
Jules Vandystadt
Rodrigo Cirne
Tuto Gonçalves

2008/2009 Season Cast (Carlos Gomes Theater – RJ)

Alessandra Maestrini – Amelia
Alessandra Verney – Bianca
Eliana Pittman – Rosa
Janaina Azevedo – Elvira
Ida Gomes / Myriam Thereza – Old Stepmother
Ivana Domenico – Madeleine
Marina Ruy Barbosa – Clara
Rogéria – Odette
Zezé Motta – Carmen
Jarbas Homem de Mello – Herculano
Pedro Sol – Alvaro
Betto Serrador
Marcel Octavio
Otavio Zobaran
Stein Junior
Tuto Gonçalves

2009 Season Cast – São Paulo (Sérgio Cardoso Theater)

Alessandra Maestrini – Amelia
Alessandra Verney – Bianca
Eliana Pittman – Rosa
Ivana Domenico – Madeleine
Janaina Azevedo / Renata Celidonio – Elvira
Malu Rodrigues – Clara
Rogéria – Odette
Suzana Faini – Old Stepmother
Zezé Motta – Carmen
Jarbas Homem de Mello – Herculano
Pedro Sol – Alvaro
Beto Serrador
Daniel Nunes
Marcel Octavio
Otávio Zobaran
Tuto Gonçalves

Orchestra:

Alexandre Brasil / Omar Cavalheiro – bass, guitar
Alex Freitas / Levi Chaves – alto sax, flute, clarinet
Gabriel Guenther / Marcio Romano – drums, percussion, vibraphone
Pedro Mibielli / Anderson Pequeno / Tomaz Soares – violin
Thaís Ferreira / Luciano Corrêa – cello
Vitor Gonçalves / Marcelo de Castro – piano, keyboard

(With gratitude and acknowledgement to Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho, Ed Motta, and Tania Carvalho)

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes