Okay, with this, the trilogy ends. But boy howdy, what a way finish it. This is known as bringing down the house.
Up to this point, I've played two versions of the song, "No Time at All" from the musical Pippin by Stephen Schwartz. The first was a trimmed-down version from the original Broadway cast album, sung by Irene Ryan (best known as 'Granny' on The Beverly Hillbillies). The other was video from the TV production that had Martha Raye in the role -- not as good, but enjoyable, a bit trimmed, too, but it showed the full production, including big scroll coming down with the lyrics for the audience to sing-along.
Alas, there's no video of the song being performed by Irene Ryan who did it so overwhelmingly better than anyone I've heard sing it. But -- all right, here's the major treat -- I have the next best thing: audio of Irene Ryan live on stage, singing it during a performance of Pippin. The whole number, talking with the audience, an extra minute of material beyond the other versions. I could tell you it's absolutely great, but that's subjective. However, there's another way to prove the point --
You'll notice below that the clip says it lasts 7:24. But that's deceptive, the song doesn't really last that long. It just last about six minutes. So, what's the rest of the clip? Dialogue perhaps of the next scene? Nope -- it's applause. Wild cheering. For a full minute-and-a-half. But even that doesn't do it justice. You see, the thing is, as you'll hear on the clip, the applause isn't dwindling out at the end, it's still roaring loud and strong, and even, it seems, building. But the recording just runs out. So, I have no idea how long it actually went on.
If you want the definition of a showstopper, this is it.
It's that good.
I read an piece written by John Rubenstein who starred as 'Pippin' in the show. It was an homage to "dear Irene", and he mentions that every night after the song, he had to stand on stage doing nothing, waiting -- and waiting for the thunderous ovation to finally end. He wasn't complaining, but saying that out of deep admiration. He doesn't say how long it would last each performance, but does mention that on opening night it went on for eight minutes. Now, of course, that might be an exaggeration, but given what we can hear on this clip that just stops, it's not out of the question that opening night enthusiasm could have lasted that long, or at least come close.
This is just a joyful, exuberant, sharp, biting, hilarious, wonderful performance by that gem of a term, a seasoned pro. A real trouper. And it's made all the more emotional by that tale I mentioned the other day, how Irene Ryan suffered a stroke during a performance of Pippin, and passed away six weeks later.
I tried to find the definitive story of what precisely happened, but it's a little hard to track down. Rubenstein, who should know, tells his version -- he mentions seeing her getting weaker over the course of days and his bringing it to the attention of the producers, yet he also says she died three days later. But she didn't. His good friend Walter Willison (who I wrote about here, posting a song he sang in the musical about Noah, Two by Two) tells a similar, but slightly different version. So, it's uncertain if she suffered a slight stroke during the performance but continued on, or suffered it after the show, or collapsed during the performance, or...? One of those first two seems most likely.
In any event, it's so lucky to at least have this vibrant, life-affirming performance on audio tape. So, from 1972, here is Irene Ryan with "No Time at All." The whole thing. Along with some wonderful photos to accompany it all. And joyful laughter and singing along, wild applause and cheering of the audience.
What a way to go.
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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