I actually have a fond, and odd, personal connection with the shows. When I moved into my apartment decades ago, I discovered that I had the same, old phone number for the actor John Ritter. Not that he lived here -- he didn't -- just that it was his same, previous number. Every once in a while I'd get a phone call for him. Not often, but one day on my answering machine there was a message from Alexander Cohen personally -- not a secretary saying first, "Hold please for Alexander Cohen." He was inviting John to appear on the special, I believe the sequel which is why I was aware of what it was for. Obviously, he had the wrong number. But he didn't know that, and I realized that if John Ritter didn't call him back -- which he wouldn't, because he never got the message -- Cohen might get offended, and who knew if that would have any professional ramifications. So, I decided to call him back. Fortunately, he left his phone number. Alexander Cohen's secretary answered, and I explained the situation. She was very appreciative -- and a bit stunned that I had called.
(By the way, it was a treat for me to call. Alexander Cohen had a wonderful reputation for producing extremely high-end Broadway productions. For instance, among them Hamlet with Richard Burton, Harold Pinter's play The Homecoming, revivals of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Ah, Wilderness!, the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and much more. But why he particularly endeared himself to me was that, as readers of these pages know, I dearly love Michael Flanders & Donald Swann and their two-man revues, At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat -- and Alexander Cohen produced them both.)
There's even an addendum to the story. Ten years later, I had reason to meet John Ritter. He was starring in a TV movie that my friend Rob Hedden had written and was then-directing, called The Colony. (It still pops up on television from time to time, in case you spot it.) I visited the set one day, and Rob introduced us. We had a very pleasant talk -- nice fellow -- and I finally got around to telling him the story of having his phone number and Alexander Cohen's call. Not surprisingly, he found it bizarre and amusing. And it was nice to bring the tale full circle.
But back to this video. It's a 10-minute medley of major Broadway stars singing the hit songs from iconic musicals they had been in. Mind you, since the point of this TV production was to cram as many stars in as possible, none of them sing much more than a verse. But still, it's a seriously-impressive number. Not just because they're great songs and performers, but there's theater history here: people re-creating at least part of their famous numbers which were never otherwise recorded on video or film. (Only one example, because I don't want to give much of the fun away -- Alfred Drake, the original 'Curly' in Oklahama!, who famously opened that show without an overture by walking out on a near-bare stage and singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" a capella, though there is an orchestra here.) And the sequence also includes, as I mentioned, several stars who were in plays, not musicals, so they just walk across the stage.
A couple of notes. First, the video seems to start a little late, and so it misses Joel Grey (since he shows up in the finale), and it cuts unfortunately off a little early. Also, when they have the sequence from Annie, the little girl in it who was starrng on Broadway at this time was Allison Smith. For those of you who remember the sitcom several years later, Kate & Allie, with Jane Curtin and Susan St. James -- she played Curtin's daughter. And went on to have a very respectable (and still-active career), including a recurring role on The West Wing as 'Mallory O'Brien,' the daughter of Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.
But now, curtain up. On with the show...