The sun will come out tomorrow, but Judge Bryan Pope says pull out those umbrellas and galoshes, because Wednesday will be overcast with scattered showers.
Welcome to the theater, to the magic, to the fun!
Now this is entertainment! Composers Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, Annie) and Arthur Schwartz (The Band Wagon) take center stage in this entry in The Songwriters series of DVDs, and they give us quite a show.
The disc contains two programs, "An Evening with Charles Strouse" and "An Evening with Arthur Schwartz." Both were taped in the early '80s before a studio audience, so don't expect any frills. There are no sets, no costumes, minimal staging, and only a three- or four-piece band to accompany the singers.
Strouse's program is the better of the two, largely because he has an impressive array of crowd-pleasing shows from which to draw. He is not a strong singer, but he's an engaging storyteller with a keen sense of humor (check out his quick take on Edith Bunker when he sings "Those Were the Days"). When simply telling a story just won't do, he pulls his collaborator, lyricist Martin Charnin, onstage for a skit.
Strouse does sing, but he wisely leaves the more muscular musical numbers to belters Debbie Shapiro and Allison Smith (the lead in Broadway's Annie at the time, and a good 20 years away from playing Leo McGrarry's daughter on The West Wing). Shapiro, a long-time supporting player on Broadway, is a joy to listen to, especially when she's channeling Margo Channing during "Welcome to the Theater," from Applause. "How Lovely to be a Woman" is an odd fit for the ten-year-old Smith, but she sells it with her astonishing range and professionalism. What a performance.
Schwartz, on the other hand, doesn't have a bad voice at all, but he still turns the heavy lifting over to three professionals. Nancy Dussault (Ted Knight's wife on Too Close for Comfort) and Judy Kaye are the strongest, but Edward Evanko also shines, particularly during the Band Wagon medley.
By this time, Schwartz had been around Hollywood for decades, and he shares some wonderful stories. His memory is phenomenal, and his delivery has just a touch of sadness over faces and places long since gone. Schwartz's evening is filled with funny, poignant moments, and no musical lover should miss it.
"An Evening with Charles Strouse" stars Strouse, Shapiro, Smith, and Martin Charnin. It features the songs:
• "One Boy"
"An Evening with Arthur Schwartz" stars Schwartz, Dussault, Kaye, and Evanko. It features the songs:
• "Dancing in the Dark"
The Songwriters—Charles Strouse and Arthur Schwartz is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio with, I believe, a Dolby mono soundtrack. Audio is by no stretch of the imagination dynamic, but I had no trouble hearing the performers. The package includes brief text bios on both Strouse and Schwartz, as well as program credits. No subtitles.
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