I've posted several videos recently of Alfred Drake in a couple of TV musicals, an edited version of Kiss Me, Kate that reunited him with his Broadway co-star of the show, Kathryn Morison, as well as an original made-for-TV musical, Marco Polo.
I figured it was time to branch out a bit. Today, it's become a big deal to bring back the idea of live musicals on TV, which NBC has done with enough success that ABC is going to try it, as well. But back in television's Golden Age, the networks were not only doing it regularly, but with original, live, made-for TV musicals as well as existing Broadway productions, some of which I've posted here. Most famously, of course, is Peter Pan, but also The Fantasticks, Once Upton a Mattress, Damn Yankees, Brigadoon, George M!, and many more. (Not all of the latter were live, and some came from a bit later than the '50s.)
While many of these "revivals" on TV are at least somewhat remembered, the original productions are pretty much forgotten. And they're some of the most fascinating of all, if only for the talent involved and the adventurous quality of simply doing them. Not all are forgotten, of course -- probably the most famous was Cinderella by Rodgers & Hammerstein, and starring Julie Andrews. But most didn't reach that level. I thought it would be nice to show segments from some of them from time to time.
Starting off, this is from Jack and the Beanstalk. Done it 1956, it starred a very young Joel Grey as Jack, and also featured Celeste Holm, Arnold Stang (one of Mark Evanier's faves) and Cyril Richard. He's particularly notable because 1956 was a great year for him with live musicals on TV -- that's the same year he starred as Captain Hook in Peter Pan!!
The writers of the original musical are impressive, as well. The book and lyrics were by Helen Deutsch, a screenwriters whose credits include King Solomon's Mines, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Lili, which not only got her an Oscar nomination for best screenplay, but she also wrote the lyrics to the film's wildly-popular theme song, "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo." And the music was written by Jerry Livingston, who got three Oscar nominations for the wonderful "The Ballad of Cat Ballou," The Hanging Tree," and the classic "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" from Cinderella, for which he wrote the full score, including "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and also the score to the animated Alice in Wonderland, which included "The Unbirthday Song." But perhaps most famous of all was his novelty song, "Mairzy Doats."
Here then are the opening 10 minutes of Jack and the Beanstalk. Excuse the watermark credit superimposed on the video.
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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