So, the other day here we had Katharine Hepburn in a Broadway musical. I figured that it only made sense then to have your other favorite Broadway singing and dancing star, Liv Ullmann, in a Broadway musical, too!
Yes, Liv Ullmann.
This was when the famed Norwegian actress and film collaborator with director Ingmar Bergman starred in the last show Richard Rodgers ever wrote, I Remember Mama, based on the long-running play from 1944 about an Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco in the early 1900s. The musical was not successful, running for only 108 performances. Liv Ullmann took a good deal of the heat for that, criticized for being out of place. But the thing is, in fairness, I've heard the score, and it's extremely mediocre at best. And I Remember Mama was painfully dated in 1978. (Both things which will be apparent in this video.) I have a feeling that Rodgers one reason Rodgers chose it because he owned the rights, having produced the original play with Oscar Hammerstein. For all I know, he'd always wanted to turn it into a musical. And it might have been a great idea 35 years earlier.
There was probably much sweetness, and perhaps another actress might have made the musical more cohesive. But I wouldn't be surprised that it was the star power of Liv Ullmann that help get the show to run even those 108 performances.The lyrics are by Martin Charnin (who wrote the lyrics to Annie). Additional lyrics are by Raymond Jessel who came in later. (It's the same Ray Jessel I wrote about here who in more recent years developed a wonderful one-man cabaret act of his songs.). A few years ago, I met Ray a few times, and asked him about I Remember Mama. Knowing that it was a troubled production, I wondered if it was a tough decision to come on board under such circumstances. "Are you kidding?," he said. "I got the chance to work with Richard Rodgers. It was absolutely worth it."
There's a little bit of interesting Broadway trivia that preceeed this video, which meant nothing at the time. Prior to the scene, they staged a little tribute to Richard Rodgers -- who was in very poor health -- and had Len Cariou sing an early Rodgers and Hart song. Cariou then introduced the scene. Playing Liv Ullman's husband in the show is the actor George Hearn. The trivia is this: at the time Len Cariou was starring on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. And when he later left the show, he was replace by...George Hearn, who subsequently starred in the TV production version of it (opposite the Broadway Mrs. Lovett, Angela Lansbury). For those keeping score, Sweeney Todd swept the Tonys that year and won Best Musical.
Okay, all that aside, here is Liv Ullmann and family singing "A Little Bit More" from the 1979 Tony Awards.
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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