Judge Bryan Pope likes New York in June, but nothing beats Des Moines in March.
The songs that are the background music of your life-as you've never heard them before.
Some people just love Broadway and film musicals. But others looooove them. I'm talking about the people who read Playbill online, have been in the audience for every Lanie Kazan cabaret performance, and know the names of all seven Pontipee brothers in order from oldest to youngest. If this sounds like you, then pay attention. The Songwriters series of DVDs right up your alley. Just not this edition.
Composer Burton Lane and lyricist Mitchell Parish are legends, no question there. Lane collaborated with Ira Gershwin, accompanied a young Francis Gumm (and if you're reading this, you know who I'm talking about) in a day-long audition marathon for MGM, and gave us "On a Clear Day," "Old Devil Moon," and the standard "How About You?" Parish worked with Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller, among others, and wrote the words to "Sweet Lorraine," "Stars Fell on Alabama," and, of course, "Stardust."
Their careers could not have been anything short of fascinating, so it's a surprise and a shame that the two programs on this disc—"An Evening with Burton Lane" and "An Evening with Mitchell Parish"—fall flat. Taped in the early '80s, both programs offered an evening of live music and stories with minimal staging and orchestrations (often just a piano).
The most unfortunate error was allowing both Lane and Parish to perform many of their own songs. Neither are singers, and their voices are rough, inexpressive, and without tone. A handful of professional vocalists are hand for each program, and it's a wonder that they weren't used more generously. After all, when you have performers like Liliane Stilwell, Robert Vallee, and Broadway legend Larry Kert at your disposal, you don't leave them waiting in the wings while you croak out a tune. Lane has one effective performance, and that's during the ensemble number "That Great Come and Get It Day," which coasts along with its catchy, Dixieland beat.
As veterans of the entertainment industry, Lane and Parish have entire trunks full of stories for the studio audience (which appears to be mostly of the blue-haired Sunday matinee variety), and while the stories are peppered with famous names, they suffer from a lack of storytelling flair. By contrast, Charles Strouse, who'll you find on the vastly superior The Songwriters: Charles Strouse and Arthur Schwartz knows how to set up a story and is great fun.
"An Evening with Burton Lane" stars Lane, Kert, Bobbi Baird, and Martha Wright. It features the songs:
• "Old Devil Moon"
"An Evening with Mitchell Parish" stars Parish, Stilwell, Vallee, Jeri Craden, and Irving Barnes. It features the songs:
• "Stairway to the Stars"
The Songwriters—Burton Lane and Mitchell Parish is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The audio sounds like Dolby Digital mono, and it is poor, although I suspect that has more to do with problems encountered when this program was originally taped. Volume fluctuates, particularly during Parish's portion of the program, and vocals are often muffled. The package includes brief text bios on both Lane and Parish, as well as program credits. No subtitles.
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