Hominy & Hash: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Not enough of us remember Arthur Godfrey,=
and even I haven't thought of him for years --until Sunday night watching = the Tony Awards on CBS. His raspyvoice and two-finger ukulele plucking wer= e almost audibleI could hear him sing "Seems like old times..." and I sang,= too, as one nominated musical after another waited to be named the best of= Broadway.
"Bells are Ringing," "Annie Get your Gun," "The MusicMan," "The Roc= ky Horror Show," "Cabaret," "Major Barbara,""42nd Street," "The Full Monty,= " are just some of the revivals onBroadway or newly brought to Broadway, of= ten reincarnated from an oldmovie that often had been a book. Everything o= ld is new again -- if you're seeing it for the first time.
When I saw the movie "Ragtime," I returned to another erawhen the m= usic I now love was new, for two hours to be part of something that in real= time was well before mine.
When I saw the original "Moulin Rouge," I enjoyed being up close and pe= rsonal, so to speak, with artist Toulouse-Lautrec. I know his work and the= n felt I knew him as well. None of us could have gone to that World's Fair = but we felt we had in "Meet Me in St. Louis." The Broadway revivals are di= fferent, somehow.
Are they produced because no one wants to take a chance on an original= idea that costs $4 million dollars and might close ineight days -- or neve= r open? Better they should spruce up an old blockbuster for a whole new ge= neration. The producwer twirling his cigar in Shubert Alley reasons: "If t= hey come out in droves to see a new companydo "Hamlet" every year, why not = Comden and Green's "Bells areRinging?"
Actually, even while they guarantee success for themselves,my child= ren can now enjoy the same shows we did 40 years ago.
I resist the temptation to tell them about theoriginal. When roles ar= e created, they are "owned" by that star.When I took Kerry to see "Guys and= Dolls for her 21st birthday,she was ecstatic. I couldn't tell her that Fa= ith Prince was noVivian Blaine and Nathan Lane was too roly-poly and jovial= to beNathan Detroit, at least the way smoking, gambling, hard-drinking Sam= Levine played him.
I wasn't the only one seeing the show as a revival thatnight. In t= he outer lobby, Helen Gurley Brown and husbandproducer David Brown, took ti= me to wish Kerry a happy birthday,ask about her future plans and engage in = more unhurried easygoing small talk. Tom Brokaw, Robert Mitchum, Walter Cr= onkite, Lauren Hutton and other recognizable celebrities were on hand that = Sunday night to see Damon Runyon's masterpiece again.
Peter Gallagher's Sky Masterson was even better than Brando'sin the= movie. but nowhere near Robert Alda's in the original play.An hour later, = we saw Peter leave by the back door and walk downthe now quiet street to a = bus stop. He had on wire-rimmedglasses and carried a backpack over one sho= ulder. All in a day'swork. No limo. No stagedoor Jennies or Johnnies for= this SkyMasterson.
At the Tony Awards, Faith Prince, now starring in "Bells areRinging= ," sang the show stopper that Judy Holiday introduced:"I'm Going Back Where= I Can Be Me." And, here again, she is noJudy Holiday. They can both gri= nd out the song vocally andphysically, but without Judy's whimsy, it isn't = the same.
Although the talented Faith is neither Vivian nor Judy,she very def= initely can top Ethel Merman. When theyrevive that star's shows, all featu= ring belting bravado, Faithwill do them better. While the cigar-twirling producer in Shubert Alley shiesaway from a = new show rather than face a flop, Mel Brooks,producer of "The Producers," d= eliberately sets out to write andproduce a flop -- and he does! This "flop= ," based on hisoriginal movie that really flopped, took 12 Tony Awards out = ofthe 15 nominations it received.
The Tony Show itself was wonderful entertainment with thedancers fr= om "42nd Street" tap dancing out of the theater, ontothe street, down the s= ubway steps and into the subway car itself-- without missing a beat. I kno= w that familiarity added to myenjoyment but comparing the old and the new i= s not pleasurable,but frustrating. A fond memory is painted over with a ne= w coatof paint, and it's sometimes too garish, sometimes too bland.
I recall another song Arthur Godfrey sang: "I'd give amillion tomo= rrows for just one yesterday..." Now isn't that acrazy notion? That's wha= t I thought at the time when I couldeasily see a million tomorrows and had = plans to spend each promisingone of them fulfilling dreams. Back then, I ha= d no memorable yesterdays.
But, now, well ... the Old Redhead knew what he wassinging about.