Okay, it's time. A couple of wonderful songs from the gem Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. And an unexpected joyous bonus. The classic show was the first-ever animated holiday special and for many years got repeated annually. But its simplistic animation finally caught up and alas it went out of the rotation. A shame since it's such a terrific production. For all its being Mr. Magoo and only about 45 minutes long, it's a very nice adaptation of the story. And the score...well, it's Broadway quality and probably the best musical score for an animated TV special, and one of the best for TV, period. The music is by Jule Styne (Gypsy, Bells are Ringing) and the lyrics by Bob Merrill (Carnival, Take Me Along) who -- while writing this -- were in the middle of working on Funny Girl.
Though no longer on network TV, for a long time the show could be found every year on syndication. But unfortunately even that has largely faded away, though occasionally it pops up. But on its 50th anniversary a few years ago, NBC brought it back to prime time, and happily its DVD release gave the show new life.
Here are two particularly-enjoyable songs.
The first, "Ringle Ringle" introduces us to Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.
And this is the big "showstopping" production number, as the Cratchit family prepares for their Christmas dinner with "We'll Have the Lord's Bright Blessing."
And now the bonus. With a shout-out to Shelly Goldstein. (The Lady Shellington is a close compatriot with me in our love of the TV special.)
For those who were skeptical of me calling this a Broadway-quality score, It turns out (aside from the reality that it is) that the show did play on Broadway -- sort of. In 2014, the Actors Fund did a benefit concert with a fairly elaborate staged reading of the TV show, with full costumes, limited sets and even some choreography. And this is a 3-1/2 minute montage. And it looks absolutely wonderful. And sounds like they used the original music arrangements.
(At the end of the video are some credits, and it notes being done with DreamWorks Animation and Margaret Styne. I'm going to guess that the former hold the rights to the TV special and the latter may hold some rights since she was the wife of composer Jule Styne.)
Since the show is only about 45 minutes, it's much too short to mount a full production, but I suspect it could be paired with another one-act show or also done in community theaters.
By the way, their adaptation of the thieves' song, "We're Despicable," is scary-good how close they came with the casting and even the animated choreography. Even down to the tiny details, at one point, of the comically-weird, twisty hand movements.
I guess this is a sort of bonus video to the bonus. For those who don't know the "We're Despicable" number from the animated musical, here it is for comparison purposes.
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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