Broadway Musical Fans, Here’s a Book Recommendation for You!

SHOWSTOPPERS! by Gerald Nachman: one singular sensation of a Broadway book!

If you love musicals – and I’ve loved them my whole life – then have I got a book for you!  Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore, or better yet log onto your Amazon account, and check out SHOWSTOPPERS! by Gerald Nachman.

I’ve always enjoyed hearing about the back story of how theatrical works are put together.  In this book, Gerald Nachman presents a fascinating, detailed, beautifully researched account of Broadway hit songs and the legions of people who made them happen.

For example, have you ever heard of a 1964 Broadway show called A Damned Exasperating Woman?  Of course not.  That’s because, after Jerry Herman wrote a song that Louis Armstrong liked so much he recorded and released it before the show in question opened.  The song became such a hit it was decided that the show should be named for the song.  Its title?  Hello, Dolly!    The new revival that just opened, starring Bette Midler,  is breaking box office records right now, 53 years later, and while Louis Armstrong is long gone (and missed), we’re all still singing that song.

The back story of the music of Hello, Dolly! is just one of the dozens of fabulous behind-the-scenes-to-before-the-floodlights chapters in this book.  Ever wonder about the differences between the partnerships of Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, and Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein?  Curious about the real Annie Oakley, who inspired the Irving Berlin musical Annie, Get Your Gun, which was written with Ethel Merman in mind?  Want to find out more about another Annie, the one who was adopted by Daddy Warbucks?  Then this is the book for you.

The chapter that I personally found the most interesting is the one about the song “Wilkommen” in Cabaret.  But let me back up here.  I found the record one day when I was home sick from school as a kid, played the songs and adored them from that point on.  I’ve always particularly loved “Wilkommen,” where the Emcee of a Weimar Berlin cabaret, played by Joel Grey, welcomes the guests in German, English and French.  The song is at once a great show tune and a miniature language lesson in the bargain.  But keep in mind, the first time I played the song, I heard it.  I did not see it acted on a stage.  I didn’t know Joel Grey came out on the stage wearing bizarre make-up.  Until reading SHOWSTOPPERS!, I did not realize that the number, the first in the show, was staged to deliberately set a creepy tone for the audience and let them know what kind of theatrical evening they were in for.  Those who missed seeing many of these classics performed live  the first time around will surely welcome the chance to hear these stories.  They’re certainly giving me a new appreciation of many of my old cast albums.

This book is a treat.  Love Broadway?  Go for it!

 

See Peggy Eason at The Iridium on February 3rd!

The one, the only, PEGGY EASON!

The one, the only, PEGGY EASON!

Want to see one of “The 25 People in Cabaret to Watch in 2015” perform live and in person as she shows the world how fabulous is done?

Then come and see Peggy Eason at The Iridium on February 3rd at 8:00 PM!  She’s a friend and I can hardly wait for this event.

Here’s the link to the Iridium’s site:

http://theiridium.com/events/3569/scobar-entertainment-and-the-iridium-present-peggy-eason-live-at-the-iridium-25-general40-preferred/

Please contact Richard Skipper at Richard Skipper Celebrates for more info: 845-365-0720 or Richard@RichardSkipper.com

 

Josephine Baker & The Rainbow Tribe

"Josephine Baker and The Rainbow Tribe," a new book by Matthew Pratt Guterl

“Josephine Baker and The Rainbow Tribe,” a new book by Matthew Pratt Guterl

Here’s the latest book I’m reading, and I highly recommend it: JOSEPHINE BAKER AND THE RAINBOW TRIBE.  It’s by Matthew Pratt Guterl who has done an incredible job of researching the life of Josephine Baker and attempting to separate fact from fiction in the retelling of her story.

If you don’t know who Josephine Baker is, then she’s someone you may wish to look up.  I first heard of her in a college history class called “Weimar Culture and Cabaret,” which tied in the events in pre-Nazi Germany – and Europe – with the cabaret scene.  One day the professor brought in a recording of Josephine Baker singing a song in French.  She was, we were told, an American Black woman from St. Louis  who had found fame on the stages of New York and Paris.  The voice on the LP record that he played for the class was the clearest I’d ever heard.

Josephine was appalled at the racist environment in the USA and found the relaxed atmosphere of 1920’s France a lot more to her liking.  She was to remain there.  During World War II, she was an active member of the French Resistance.

After the war, wanting to make a statement about the pointlessness of racism, she adopted children of all races, and from all over the world, along with her French husband, Jo Bouillon, who happened to be White.  It was the first instance the world had ever seen of inter-racial adoption.  They adopted a grand total of twelve children and raised them in a castle!

Josephine called her family “The Rainbow Tribe.”  It always puts a smile on my face whenever I think of the term.  It’s so great to find a book that covers their whole story.

It’s a bit complicated, though, and so is Josephine.  Josephine’s heart may have been in the right place, but was her head?  The circumstances behind some of the adoptions are also not as ideal as I would have liked to believe.  It turns out that the children’s upbringing was far from the image of perfection initially presented to the world, yet the story is nonetheless fascinating.

BRAVO, Matthew Pratt Guterl, for putting this great narrative together, too!

The one and only Josephine Baker!

The one and only Josephine Baker!

Josephine singing “J’ai Deux Amours” – “I Have Two Loves.”  She was referring to her country and to Paris.