This is one of those things that get the rare designation, "This is Really a Special Treat."
As I've written (and posted clips and full-videos of a few), there was a period in the late-1950s and early 1960s when television had a particular Golden Age of musicals, either producing an array of original musicals for TV, often written by major Broadway songwriters, or doing full productions of Broadway hits, often with the original stars re-creating their roles
Many years ago, when he was not only well-known as Jackie Gleason's sidekick 'Ed Norton' on The Honeymooners, but probably only-known to most people as Jack Gleason's sidekick, Art Carney started in a couple of original musicals for television, both under the general title of "Art Carney Meets..." and then fill in the blank. The first was his meeting "...Peter and the Wolf. The second was "...the Sorcerer's Apprentice.
The attention-getting "gimmick" for both of these TV musicals is that he was the only human actor in the cast, with all the rest of the roles taken up by the Bil Baird Marionettes. If that name doesn't mean much to you today, back then the Bil Baird Marionettes were huge. Not nearly at the later level of the Muppets, but they were seen all over and widely popular. In fact, even if you don't know the name, you likely do know their, even people who have hit their teen years yet. That's because you'll know their work if you've seen the movie of The Sound of Music. Given that the film not only was a massive hit in the theaters but is annually on TV, it's a fair guess that you do know them. In the "Lonely Goatherd" scene, when Maria and the children put on a puppet show for all the adult dinner guests...those puppets are the Bil Baird Marionettes.
Alas, I haven't get been able to find anything from "...The Sorcerer's Apprentice." But...okay then, this is the big treat: here is not only a fun clip from Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf," but...the whole freaking thing!!
This was originally aired on November 30, 1958 on ABC. It was a big enough hit that I believe it got repeated as an annual special for a few years, after which they then did the new "....Sorcerer's Apprentice." Though I can't swear on the timeline to that.
There are some additional impressive credits here. The music for the show, of course, as you might imagine, is all by Sergei Prokofiev -- though not all from his classic Peter and the Wolf, but with a few other numbers that use theme's of his from other of his work. But what notably also stands out is the lyrics for all the songs are by the eminent poet, Ogden Nash. Yes, really.
It's charming and a joy to watch, even if only as a wonderful treasure from that era. It works lovingly, though in fairness is extremely dated and a bit slow. So, if you choose to watch it over a couple of sittings, that's understandable. Not because it's sooo long -- it isn't remotely, it only runs an hour -- but you might feel, "Okay, that's enough for now." And then come back to finish it later. And it's worth it for that. But who knows, you might well enjoy sitting through it all at once. It's a special treat.
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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