Saturday, September 28, 2019

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 5

MeTV has made the transition from previously unaired early Carol Burnett Show segments (from Seasons 1-5) to the long-in-syndication Carol Burnett and Friends (Seasons 6-10). Will they show segments from the final season 11 when Dick Van Dyke was a regular for part of that time? Anyway, for Part Five of my reconstructing Carol's beloved series, we pick up various airings from Amazon, YouTube and MeTV.

Season OneOct. 16, 1967: Phyllis Diller, Gwen Verdon, Bobbie Gentry, William Schallert
( r.) Carol, Phyllis Diller, Bobbie Gentry and Gwen Verdon
as the Beatles
Found on YouTube. Broadway dance legend Gwen Verdon and country-western star Bobbie Gentry are given solo spots and not integrated into sketches, as was the custom with most of the musical guest stars in later seasons. Bobbie sings her hit "Ode to Billy Joe," which Carol would later reference in the infamous Went With the Wind sketch ("Why Billy Joe McAllister, I thought you jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge!"). Gwen performs a bizarre dance to the Simon and Garfunkel hit "Feelin' Groovy (The 59th Street Bridge Song)." (A bridge theme?) The chorus boys, who include Lee Roy Reams before he broke out and became a featured player in such Broadway shows as Applause and 42nd Street, are costumed by Bob Mackie as if they are in Dr. Seuss cartoon wielding Seussian instruments while Gwen is bedecked with flowers like a hippie goddess. Phyllis Diller delivers her usual comedy schtick of being unattractive and a horrible housekeeper. All three guests join Carol in a tribute to the Beatles, costumed as the Fab Four on the Sgt. Pepper album cover. They march through the studio audience, a rare staging for the show.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

2019-20 Broadway/Off-Broadway Update: Creative Casting

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick
will star in a revival of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite
Creative casting distinguishes two new Broadway productions. Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are not the first two stars that come to mind when thinking of leads for Neil Simon's 1968 three-part comedy Plaza Suite. The real-life couple are comedic talents but they're not exactly versatile. The play, consisting of three one-acts set in the same suite in NYC's swankiest hotel, features six very different people. I can see the Brodericks as the second set of visitors--a shallow Hollywood producer and his high-school sweetheart--and maybe even the third--the crazed parents of a bride who refuses to leave the bathroom on her wedding day. But that's a stretch. I'm having trouble envisioning them as the first couple, an estranged middled-aged pair on the brink of splitting up. It's not that they couldn't play these roles. It's just hard for me to imagine them as late middle-aged (even though they really are) and sad. I also wonder if they will be updating the script since it is chock full of late 1960s references modern audiences might not get (Anybody remember Metracal? It was a diet drink and got a laugh back then.) When I directed a production for an Equity showcase in Brooklyn, we changed all the movie stars' names in the second piece and increased all the prices of the wedding expenses the father constantly spouts in the third. John Benjamin Hickey makes his Broadway directorial debut of this revival which opens at the Hudson Theatre on April 13.