CAMP Show Queen
|by Kenn Harris|
Here's a Broadway Scavenger hunt for your amusement. Listed are key characters from (mostly) famous Broadway shows. Identify the show and the person who created the role.
1. Evalina Bloomer 2. Dr. Kitschel 3. Sally Durand 4. Carrie Pipperidge 5. Big Julie 6. Coalhouse Walker, Jr 7. Amalia Balash 8. Hysterium 9. Yetta Tesssye Marmelstein 10. The Poet
ANSWERS1. Evalina is the suffragette heroine of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's delightful Bloomer Girl. Created by Celeste Holm shortly after she rose to fame as Annie in Oklahoma!, it was soon discovered that she couldn't sing very well. A Hollywood contract was "somehow" arranged and La Holm traveled westward to begin her distinguished film career (Gentlemen's Agreement, All About Eve). Occasionally she returned to Broadway to sub in The King And I and Mame, and did many non-musicals, too. Incidentally, it has been alleged that Bette Davis in All About Eve hated Celeste for her well bred airs and impeccable manners.
2. Dr. Kitschel, from the Comden/ Greene/Styne hit Bells Are Ringing, starring the immortal Judy Holliday, was a dentist who longed to be in show biz and composed songs on his air hose and drill. He was played on stage and screen by a terrific comedian named Bernie West. Believe it or not, Kitschel was no mere figment of The Comden-Greene imagination. The character was based on a former dentist named Harold Karr who composed the score for the hapless Happy Hunting.
3. In Sondheim's Follies, Sally is one of the two female protagonists, the other Being Phyllis Stone. Sally is the former Follies girl who still loves Ben, Phyllis' husband. Oy, what mess. Sally was created on Broadway by Dorothy Collins, a TV singer (Your Hit Parade) and hostess who worked as a stooge for Allen Funt on Candid Camera. Miss Collins' performance transcended all of her prior work and she introduced such songs as "In Buddy's Eyes" and "Losing My Mind." Dorothy Collins left us too early.
4. Carrie is the bubble-brained but loyal friend of heroine Julie in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. The role is a guaranteed audience pleaser. It has often been said the quickest way to obscurity in a theatrical career is to play an R&H ingnue. Miss Jean Darling, the original Carrie illustrates the adage. On the cast album, she is heard in three wonderful numbers, "Mr. Snow," "When the Children Are Asleep," and the opening song, the unfortunately named "You're a Queer One, Julie Jordan." Didn't mean what you think!
5. In Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows' masterpiece Guys And Dolls, Big Julie was supposedly the meanest of the gangsters who hung out at Nathan Detroit's floating crap game. He's the one who brings his unmarked dice"I remember where the spots formerly was." Croaking like a frog, his line, "Let's shoot craps!" was memorable. He was played by a nightclub comedian who called himself B.S. Pully. Pully has always brought me much pleasure in this show. He's in the film, too. Burrows implied that Pully was a pussycat to work with, except when he showed up late for rehearsals, as he was finishing a short stint in the clink!
6. This was the role played by Brian Stokes Mitchell in the musical Ragtime which led to his stellar career on Broadway. He had already played the lead in a dreadful revival of Oh, Kay! Coalhouse begins as an affable family chauffer/musician but the racially motivated killing of his lady love transforms him into a mad killer. The young lady in question was played by one Miss Audra McDonald, of whom you may have heard. Since playing such an ill-fated character in Ragtime, "Stokes" as he likes to be called, has spent much time in reviving such classic musicals as Kiss, Me Kate, Man Of La Mancha, Do Re Mi, Carnival, Carousel, and South Pacific.
7. If ever there were a more charming musical than the Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock's She Loves Me, it hasn't ever come to my attention. It is based on the play Parfumerie, which gave us the films The Little Shop Around The Corner, In The Good Old Summertime and (feh!) You've Got Mail. Amalia is the shy young girl who works in a perfume shop. She's in love with a wonderful penpal, not realizing that he also works in the store and they despise one another. Amalia was created on stage by the goddess-like Barbara Cook, she of the angelic voice and the mischievous personality. Two songs from the show have become mainstays of Miss Cook's concert repertoire, "Dear Friend" and "Ice Cream," and how I wish I were listening to her sing them right now!
8. In Sondheim's (Book by Burt Shrevelove) A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, burlesque humor of a distinctly Catskill Mountains variety was super-imposed upon some Roman comedies by Plautus. The results were extraordinarily successful. Hysterium was a nervous, paranoid Roman slave belonging to the wealthy Senex. Jack Guilford created the role, and to the extent that one can find anything funny about slavery, Guilford and co-star Zero Mostel made their roles hilariously unforgettable. I still laugh at the thought of Guilford trying to disguise himself as a dead virgin. Jack Guilford was a serious actor, blacklisted in the 50s, whose finest role, in my opinion was that of Herr Schultz in the original Cabaret. Try to find a video of Guilford and Gertrude Berg in The World Of Sholem Aleichem. It's amazing.9. This was Barbra Streisand's Broadway debut in the 1962 Harold Rome/Jerome Weidman musical, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, produced by David Merrick. Miss Marmelstein was a harassed secretary in this musical about a dress factory on its last legs. Streisand, dressed as a slightly weird-looking working girl, had little to do with the plot, but she had some work in several ensemble pieces, some of which were quite dramatic. For so young and inexperienced a performer, Streisand cut a striking figure. The writers gave Marmelstein one running gagshe was horny as hell, and could not get a date. She was given the song "Miss Marmelstein" in which she lamented her lot. It brought down the house every night, but the kindly producer still kept threatening to fire Streisand. At that time the young actress lacked vanity and even deigned to speak to my 15 year old self after a performance. (June 30, 1962)!
Her big Broadway show was Funny Girland the last forty years of Streisand's career are well known and need no further commentalthough I will never forgive her for the Hello, Dolly film!10. Although, he is mistakenly addressed as Hajj the Beggar, we never learn the actual moniker of the baritone hero of Kismet, father of Marsinah, lover of Lalume, the Wazir's wife, The Poet's fantastic adventures set Baghdad (Yes, Baghdad!) on its ear. Colorful and melodious, Kismet was a vehicle for the great Alfred Drake, star of Oklahoma! and Kiss Me, Kate. Nobody liked the show but the audience, applauded Drake singing. Joan Diener played sexy Lalume, the doomed.
Handsome unknown, Richard Kiley, sang Kismet's biggest hit, "Stranger in Paradise." A certain Brian Stokes Mitchell scored big as The Poet in a recent City Center encore production.
Kenn Harris is a NYC theatre and music critic, and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 11 August 08, 2008