I posted this a long while back, but it deserves another airing for a few reasons. Most notably because it's so wonderful. But also, it seems like they've cleaned up the fuzzy image. And further, when I previously posted it, it was part of a longer video, and this is the single song alone.
It's country singer Reba McEntire onstage singing "Can’t Get a Man with a Gun" when she appeared on Broadway in the Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, replacing the revival's original star, Bernadette Peters in 2001.
I don't tend to like to post stealth videos of Broadway performances, but do under certain circumstances. At the top of that list is when a performance is so special that it risks being lost forever because of the ephemeral nature of the theater. There shouldn't be a likelihood of the performance having an afterlife, on DVD for instance. And I try under the best of circumstances to keep the video short.
This production almost did have an afterlife. Reba McEntire was reportedly so great in the show that there was talk of recreating it in a TV production. But for a range of reasons that didn't happen. And so the performance was indeed lost forever.
I want to put this in perspective. My folks saw the show on Broadway with its legendary original star, Ethel Merman, in one of her great performances. For decades, my dad especially would enthuse about that production, and if ever there was another version of the show that came up in conversation, he'd dismiss it without a second thought. There was no one for that role but Ethel Merman. (In fairness to my dad, he wasn't alone in this opinion.) And he kept it up as long as I can remember, half a century.
A few years ago, when I came across video of this particular song I wanted to show it to him, even knowing the "risks." It's a tremendous interpretation of the song. Not just adorable, whimsical, sexy, pure-country, shy, and brassy -- an impressive and difficult combination -- but perhaps most-impressively for me, she nails every single joke. Which is no small thing because there are a lot of them.
It was difficult to get my dad to agree to watch it -- among other things, he had no idea who Reba McEntire was -- mainly because I got The Lecture. There was no one for that role but Ethel Merman. But I finally got him to watch. And let the video of the song run.
He asked to watch it again.
It's that terrific.
Ethel Merman remained his gold standard for the show, and deservedly so. From the tales of legend she owned the stage. But my dad wholeheartedly acknowledged that Reba McEntire gave a performance that was not only great and valid, but something that Merman would never or could ever attempt. It was her own.
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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