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article imageReview: ‘Michael Grade's Stars of the Musical Theatre’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Jan 3, 2014 in Entertainment
New York - In this hour long documentary, Michael Grade goes on a personal odyssey through the musical from 'Oklahoma!' to 'West Side Story' to the present.
Grade identifies these two as watersheds, and as this is a man who grew up in and around the theatre, who will argue with him? Oklahoma! was launched on Broadway in 1943, and the show itself launched the partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was a radical departure as much as because of what it didn't feature as for what it did — in particular there were no gags, although it is not necessarily lacking in humour.
West Side Story was launched on Broadway in 1957, coming to the West End the following year. It is currently touring the UK until 2015.
The 1956 musical My Fair Lady starred Julie Andrews; the 1964 film version featured the acting of Audrey Hepburn, but the voice of ghost singer Marnie Nixon.
Grade meets many of those involved; the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner died in 1986, but Chita Rivera who starred in the original West Side Story production still looks very sprightly, even though she will be 81 later this month. Although she is somewhat younger, Elaine Paige, who starred in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita, puts in an appearance. Unfortunately, her anecdote about her audition for that show cannot be repeated here.
The dark show Sweeney Todd may not be to everyone's taste — regardless of Mrs Lovett's meat pies. Currently, a dozen of its songs can be found on SongFacts.
Finally, the show Les Misérables was panned by the critics, and to date is said to have been viewed by 65 million people in 42 countries and 22 languages. Yeah, right.
Currently on BBC iplayer, if this whets your appetite, check out some of the offerings available on YouTube, including one he didn't mention, the feelgood Legally Blonde by the husband and wife team of Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin.
More about Michael grade, alan jay lerner, West Side Story, Elaine paige
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