John Kander will be celebrating his 90th birthday Friday, March 17. His show written with Fred Ebb, Chicago, is the longest running Broadway musical in American theater running 20 years. This revival was born out of City Center’s Encore Series at the right time. Kid Victory, with new collaborator, Greg Pierce, is ending its limited run at the Vineyard Theatre. John is still working on two shows with Greg Pierce and there are still some unproduced shows written with Fred Ebb that will, hopefully, will see the light of day.
On Friday March 10, the celebration began with two Kander and Ebb celebratory tributes on the same night. – The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and American Showstoppers at Schimmel Center at Pace University. What a difficult decision to make for a huge Kander and Ebb fan such as myself!
I attended the American Showstoppers hosted, arranged, and orchestrated by Fred Barton. This consisted of a stellar cast and some connected with the works of K&E, i.e. Karen Mason in the K&E revue And the World Goes Round and Brent Barrett as Billy Flynn in Chicago playing Broadway and around the country; Lindsay Roginski starred as Roxie Hart on Broadway and in the national tour and Jesse Lutrell has performed the role of Emcee in a production of Cabaret. Joining this prestigious group were Nick Adams, Farah Alvin, Richard Byron, N’Kenge, John Preator and an orchestra of 14 musicians besides Fred Barton.
What was extra special about this show was that the chosen songs were not typical K&E – – no “New York, New York,” but some of the under performed gems, or some that did not make it to Broadway that were cut along the way. There were plentiful stories about why and what happened to these songs.
We heard “Stepping Out” from the movie of the same name as the show opener; Karen Mason singing “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” from The Rink, “Ten Percent” cut from Chicago out of town had the same impact that “All I Care About” because it competed with Jerry Orbach. David Rounds’ role was cut too. Nick Adams got to sing “Ten Percent” and you really saw how similar the songs were. Songs from 70 Girls 70, “Old Folks,” “Go Visit Your Grandmother”; songs from Curtains, “It’s a Business,” and “I Miss the Music,” the latter a song actually written by John Kander after Fred Ebb’s passing, and a tribute to him that brought tears to my eyes. We got to hear a beautiful rendition of “Marry Me” and “Married” sung by Karen Mason with Richard Byron.
“Loopin the Loop” cut from Chicago as a song, but the music remains at the end, was sung and danced by Nick Adams; “A Certain Girl,” from The Happy Time, “A Quiet Thing,” a gem sung by Farah Alvin with the refrain which set up the song; “The Day After That” from Kiss Of the Spiderwoman. “The Money Tree” from The Act, sung by N’Kenge.
Many of the shows and songs were vehicles for Liza Minnelli, and Chita Rivera; actually Liza had auditioned for the Broadway Show Cabaret and was turned down, she wound up getting the movie and the rest is history. They did write some songs for Barbra Streisand for the follow up of Funny Girl, the motion picture Funny Lady “How Lucky Can You Get,” and Karen Mason blew the audience away with that song . Fred Ebb did not like to write ballads, but did write “Why Should I Wake Up” for Cabaret which was sung by John Preator. We did hear “All That Jazz” sung by Lindsay Roginski; The Scottsboro Boys was represented by N’Kenge with “Go Back Home” and the show closed with “Cabaret,” bringing the cast together in a rousing finale.
I didn’t want this evening to end!
Photos/Article: Maryann Lopinto