Lookie what have turned up lately on the shelves of Odyssey--DVDs of My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies and My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs! And at a good price, too--P395 each.
These DVDs, if you must know, were previously never made available locally. The Leading Ladies concert was held in 1999 and the Love Songs companion event two years later, but it has taken all these years for the DVDs to arrive here. I got my own copies back in 2004, when, still without a DVD player, I asked my friend Alan to buy me VHS tapes of the concerts from the US.
I still have those original VHS tapes--anyone want them? I'm serious; they're in near-mint condition, but since I don't have a machine to play them anymore, might as well give them away. Just holler if you're interested.
Bootleg copies of these two concerts eventually became available at Makati Cinema Square, but nowhere in the quantities of the pop-rock music DVDs. This is Broadway stuff, after all--not as appreciated by the regular dibidi suki. You really had to know where to find them (tip: at the stalls that also sold classical music). Now, I can replace my bootleg discs with these originals.
What's so special about them? For starters, they're hosted by Julie Andrews--appearing on stage after the botched throat operation that robbed her of her voice. She spoke well, all right, but didn't sing. Not until the Love Songs follow-up concert, where she surprised the audience by singing--or trying to--a couple of lines from The Rain in Spain, in a duet with Michael Crawford. The crowd leapt to its feet, many weeping, cheering her on.
The Leading Ladies concert at Carnegie Hall was a full-scale diva event. There were, among others, Liza Minnelli, Elaine Stritch, Audra McDonald, Dorothy Loudon, Jennifer Holliday, Marin Mazzie, Nell Carter, Bebe Neuwirth, Andrea McArdle, Linda Eder, Rebecca Luker--outstanding voices all. Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, etc. would have made the line-up even glitzier, but as it was, even with their absence the evening offered one superb musical highlight after another.
In My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs, another young Broadway diva, Heather Headley, of The Lion King and Aida fame, killed the audience with a splendid rendition of He Touched Me--a number from the '60s flop musical Drat! The Cat!, which starred the then promising Broadway leading man Elliott Gould. He Touched Me would have remained an obscure song, another one of those stage ditties that got away, but Gould's ascendant actress-singer wife at that time liked the song, sang it in her bravura style and turned it into a smash. The wife's name was Barbra Streisand.
Yes, I'm showing off my brag-worthy but absolutely worthless Streisandiana expertise. Speaking of whom, what do you think of reports that Glee's Lea Michele is being considered to star in the first-ever Broadway revival of Funny Girl? Because of its iconic identification with its original star, not to mention the demands of an extraordinarily punishing score that composer Jule Styne had tailored to Streisand's voice, Funny Girl has never had a revival after Babs. Whatchathink--can Lea Michele hack it?
Where was I? Oh, the two My Favorite Broadway DVDs. If I were you, I'd go to Odyssey (Megamall, where I bought them--but they might be in other branches, too) right after reading this and snap up those two precious items. Perhaps, once Odyssey, Astrovision and other local record stores see that Broadway-related merchandise also get sold here, they'd be encouraged to bring in more. Disclosure of vested interest: Then I wouldn't have to badger friends to buy them for me abroad--or, worse, be forced to use my new plastic on Amazon orders.
PLUS: Highlights from the concerts--
1. Jennifer Holliday rattling the rafters of Carnegie Hall and goading the crowd to a raucous ovation with her signature song, And I'm Telling You (I'm Not Going), from Dreamgirls. Out-of-this-world voice, but that hairdo looked seriously scary.
2. Three terrific voices--Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn harmonizing on a lovely medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Changes Everything (from Aspects of Love), Unexpected Song (from Song & Dance) and I Don't Know How to Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar). That coloratura note in the end? That's by Audra, Juilliard scholar and four-time Tony awardee.
3. A Broadway institution, Elaine Stritch, sings--nay, reenacts--The Ladies Who Lunch, the song she made famous in the original run of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Note how Ms. Stritch started on the wrong pitch but immediately corrected herself, then proceeded to act out the song brilliantly. No one, but no one, can spit out those lines--“Does anyone still wear... a hat?”--with more bite or panache. (Ms. Stritch is starring alongside Bernadette Peters in the current Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, where her inimitable brand of scabrous comedy is on full display, especially in the song Liaisons. Here--see how she has the audience in stitches simply by rhyming “liaisons” with “raisins”.)
4. The late Dorothy Loudon singing a heartbreaking Fifty Percent, the famous 11 o'clock number from Ballroom. From an early post I had written about this performance: The song “Fifty Percent” qualifies as the ultimate querida manifesto, the Aria of The Other Woman. Ms. Loudon, now rather frail and in fading voice, had only this number in the “Leading Ladies” concert, but her performance amounted to a towering summation of her magnificent talent as a musical theater artist. The hard-won triumph in that voice, the weight of every weathered note, the truth in every phrase and pause--they made for a complete, shattering understanding of the character she was breathing life to in song.
5. Heather Headley and her rivetingly spare (“acoustic,” if you will) rendition of He Touched Me. The shorn head, the long neck, those divine cheekbones, the glowing caramel skin--she looked smashing too, every inch the Nubian princess she played in Aida.