Oh the magic of Broadway and the classic T.V. variety special...
The Broadway stage has had many highs and lows, and if you were around in the early 1980's, you'd have to really walk through Times Square to see why it was historically at an all time sleazy low. You wouldn't know it by the long running shows running when this aired, three of them profiled here: "A Chorus Line", "Annie" and "Dreamgirls". And that cast, many from the theater yet all recent hits on either T.V. or the movies, yet all extremely talented.
Like some of the Tony Award shows of the 1980's, this has a party setting, with guests (particularly a delightfully hyper Charles Nelson Reilly) making funny comments to set up a musical number. A great opening number with a good majority of the stars. Stars do shows that they never got to do on stage (or may have done in stock), culminating with Merman herself coming out to raucous applause and show that she could still hit those notes and hold them. In a hint of things to come, Bernadette Peters sings "Broadway Baby" from "Follies" (much like the star to be would do with "NYC" in "Annie"), although Bernadette would take on a different part when she did that show on Broadway.
Taking over Merman's role in "Call Me Madam", Carol Burnett duets with Placido Domingo. Merman's "Call Me Madam" film co-star Donald O'Connor takes on Harold Hill in "The Music Man"; Burnett takes on "Guys and Doll's" Miss Adelaide and Debbie Allen becomes Deena in "Dreamgirls", a show her sister Phyllicia Rashad was appearing in at the time. The long MIA Ann Jillian gets to do a music video style production of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" (stealing non-singing guest star Zsa Zsa Gabor's jewelry), and Sammy Davis Jr. puts on Henry Higgin's hat for a diverse twist on "My Fair Lady". Jillian's production number reminded me of Cher on the Tony Awards a few years later performing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy".
Casts from the then running long productions of "A Chorus Line" and "Annie" strut their stuff as well, ironic considering that two of the recent stars of the movie version of "Annie" (Burnett and Peters) appear with no mention of that film. A salute to the Broadway revues of the golden age is highlighted by "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" sung by "Mama's Family's" Ken Berry. Loretta Swit, not usually associated with singing, gets to perform "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from "Pal Joey" and is quite different here than she was on TV's "M.A.S.H." Texaco commercials with Bob Hope are also equally entertaining. They really don't make em' like this anymore, unless of course, you are on Broadway.
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