To hear the original orchestrations of "I Got Rhythm" makes me wish that there was a video of Ethel Merman performing it when she was only in her early 20's and hot, hot, hot! Putting Chita Rivera in her spot was indeed, hot, hot, hot, and Chita tears the number delightfully apart. This is the second half of a Gershwin tribute that must be heard in the gorgeous stereo, not only for the wonderful performers, but the incredible instrumentals of Gershwin. There are medleys of his film songs, a special performance (obviously filmed somewhere else and edited in) of Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein, and the returns of Madeline Kahn and Larry Kert from the first part who might not be Fred and Ginger but are enjoyable with "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". Drew Barrymore is adorable as she manages to keep up with the two foot taller Tommy Tune on "Fascinating Rhythm", lypsinking to Fred and Adele Astaire. A tribute to "Porgy and Bess" is also delightfully sung, showing the versatility of the Gershwin Brothers beyond the restraints of popular music and symphonies.
Maureen McGovern, also returning, delightfully performs the very witty "They All Laughed" (at Rockefeller Center, now they're dying to get in....), Harold Nicholas still having it with "Slap That Bass", and a jazzy Rosemary Clooney showing why she still remains very popular with "A Foggy Day". One of the great unsung musicals ("Of Thee I Sing!", a riotous political spoof) gets honored with the upbeat "Love is Sweeping the Country", while there's a brief hearing of "Mine" from that Pulitzer Prize winning show's flop sequel, "Let Em' Eat Cake". The show ends with "Our Love is Hear to Stay", poignantly Gershwin's last song, and one of his most popular. The great American songbook owes a lot to these writers of many generations ago: The Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II and the many composers he worked with, and Vincent Youmans. Without the Broadway musical, American music as a whole might never had advanced as far as it did, and this special is a beautiful tribute to those golden years that the Broadway musical continues to celebrate.
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