08 October 2009


When I was a weee little lad, my exposure/interest in live-action musicals was pretty much dictated by films what my mother loved growing up.  This wasn't a problem because (a) she had pretty decent taste, so I watched a lot of SOUND OF MUSIC, MY FAIR LADY, PETER PAN, and CINDERELLA w/Leslie Ann Warren and (b) I was, you know, six.  I don't think I would have "gotten" PRETTYBELLE anyway.  But in 1989 (when I was in Kindergarden or 1st Grade), a new TV musical came out.  Perhaps this was the first musical that my mother and I each experienced for the first time at the same time, at least the first that left a lasting impression.  POLLY is POLLYANNA (which I have never seen in its entirety) reset in the 1950s segregated South.  I think the idea is fairly inspired, using Polly's ANNIE-like optimism to affect the attitudes of a small southern town.  Mrs. White (the cranky lady akin to the Agnes Moorehead "You've got a stubby little nose" character, played here by Celeste Holm) is actually white.  She lives on the white part of town, which one must literally cross a bridge to get to.  Need I say that the movie ends with both races on that bridge, walking towards each other?  A bit on the nose perhaps, but it ultimately tells a much more nuanced--and believable--musical story of this struggle than MEMPHIS will at the Shubert tonight. 

This musical number in particular has stuck with me for the past 20 years.  Not only does it feature great choreo from Debbie Allen (who also Directed), and a spirited performance by the hyper-talented (and, for a time, ubiquitous) Brandon Adams, its infectious ear-worm of a tune is performed a capella (until the unfortunate button which is remniscent of Andrew Lippa's massacre of YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN).  How I dream of this song making it onto an episode of GLEE...

Did I mention Jasmine Guy and Phylicia Rashad are also in it?  This lovely trio has also followed me for 2 decades.

And this is when I learned of Music Theater's particular ability to handle the emotions of a strong woman scorned--and my ability to relate (and sing along)

No comments:

Post a Comment