Last week, I had footage here of Julie Andrews re-creating her famous and alas never-filmed role as Eliza Doolittle on a special hour-long tribute to Lerner & Lowe on The Ed Sullivan Show. As I mentioned, though the broadcast was mainly a salute to the career of the songwriting team, the songwriters themselves chose to use 15-20 minutes of it to promote their then-current musical, Camelot.
Camelot had had a troubled pre-Broadway tryout. It was running very long (almost four hours at one point), and then the director Moss Hart had a heart attack and needed to leave the show. Lyricist and book writer Lerner took over the directing reins and, while not solving all the problems, at least got the show into working condition as it limped into Broadway.
(In his memoir, The Street Where I Live, Lerner has a great line about working on problems in shows, advice that I've always remembered and is good for many areas of life. He wrote that sometimes when you fix something, you think you've made it good, when all you're really done is make it less bad.)
Anyway, when Camelot finally opened on Broadway in 1969, it got mediocre reviews and mediocre box office. It was able to survive because it had such huge advance ticket sales, being the next show from the team who had most-recently done My Fair Lady and with that show's same star Julie Andrews and also Richard Burton. But the creative team knew the advance would eventually run out. As a result, their decision, with Ed Sullivan's approval, to promote Camelot. (Because Julie Andrews was starring in the show, that allowed for the added benefit of having her there to re-create her role of Eliza Doolittle, as well. Thank goodness.)
The public response to the material from Camelot was so explosive that the next morning Lerner got a phone call to come down to the Majestic Theatre, where the show was playing. He thought there was a problem, but when he arrived he saw lines literally around the block. The new influx of money gave the show more time, and that allowed director Moss Hart to recover and return. With his work and new efforts by Lerner and Lowe, Camelot was finally put into the shape that made it a legendary musical. It ran for 873 performance, over two years. But the original show on Broadway was different, which is why some of the songs on the cast album are no longer in the musical.
Here are three selections from that now-famous Ed Sullivan Show broadcast. At first, I was intended to include them all here in one post because they were so short. But watch and read on, there is a bonus treat. But I've decided to keep them all together, anyway.
Here first is a short segment of the wonderful title number, "Camelot"
And not the bonus treat.
Originally, I had a short, minute-long segment of Burton and Andrews singing the charming, "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" But at the last minute before posting this, I decided to take one last look (because hey, you all deserve a last look) -- and found the entire song! The sound quality isn't as good, it's a little tinny, but it's thoroughly listenable. And five minutes of this trumps the other, by far.
And finally, here are two minutes of an unknown Robert Goulet becoming famous before your eyes.
And the next morning, there were lines around the block of the Majestic Theatre.
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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