Over the weekend, I watched the premier episode of a new series, Sign, Sealed and Delivered, on the Hallmark Channel. I had seen the pilot movie and, though it was a little cloying and more than a bit arched in some of its acting, it's a fun premise and was generally well-done. (The premise is the Dead Letter Department of a large post office, and the bunch of misfits there resolve problems that might be caused by the missing correspondence.) It's from writer-producer Martha Williamson, who did Touched by an Angel, so it's reasonably smart and thoughtful. The pilot got a bit more spiritual than I cared for, but not too much, and happily the first episode toned that down. How the series will handle it remains to be seen.
In the first episode they replaced Valerie Bertenelli as the tough, over-bearing supervisor -- the victim, alas, of direction that told her, "Don't worry, you can't be too over the top -- and instead have a more nurturing Valerie Harper. (I guess they had cast & crew shirts already made up with "Valerie"on them...) She's clearly beyond her best days, but it was wonderful to see her, and she brought a good spirit.
The rest of the cast borders between perfectly fine and "yeah, we get it, you're a charming misfit." Apparently, they've signed Dick Van Dyke for a few episodes as a semi-regular. I'll keep watching for the time being because -- a) it's okay and I like the premise, and b) I can't wait to see Dick Van Dyke.
At the end of the pilot, there was a little talent show at the old age home where the plot was focused, and Valerie Harper jumps in to help out. What she does is sing a trimmed down version of the great song, "No Time at All," from Pippin, by Stephen Schwartz (who wrote Godspell and Wicked, among others). It was a treat to see -- especially Valerie Harper gamely doing her best. But it was much too trimmed down and had some the edge taken out (an edge which ultimately is what helps makes the song so joyously life-affirming). So, especially if you happened to see the episode, I wanted to play the original here, so you can hear what it's supposed to be.
It's a tremendous song. And with an even more tremendous performance -- with a back story that makes it even more powerful.
The song is performed by Pippin's grandmother, as her way of telling her young grandson why he shouldn't feel as lost and aimless in his life as he does. In the original production, the role was performed by Irene Ryan -- who you will recall most-famously played 'Granny' on The Beverly Hillbillies.
As I said, the number is utterly joyful and life-affirming, about getting the most of life, whatever your age. And it gets the audience roaring. In a simple word,this, folks, is a showstopper. All the more reason why this number becomes all the more powerful when you know that six months into the Broadway run, Irene Ryan suffered a stroke on stage while performing the song. She passed away six months later. And when you hear one of the particular lyrics -- a great line under any circumstance -- it takes the song and performance to another level. It certainly adds a level of sadness to hear, but if you';re a lifelong trouper on the stage, I suspect that there are a lot who would say that that's how they want to go out. And especially in a number like this.
The song is slightly trimmed for the recording. In the show, she gets the audience singing along on the chorus. In the picture above, you can just-barely see the bottom of the huge scroll that they lower for the people to follow with the bouncing ball.
Here's how it's done.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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