by Linda Amiel Burns

Scott Siegel’s Broadway By The Year began its 16th Season at The Town Hall with a fine cast singing songs from shows of the 1930s.

Siegel, who created, writes, directs and hosts Broadway By the Year, initiated a new format for their 16th Season. The concerts will explore music born on Broadway over four formative decades, the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s & 1970s.

On February 22, 2016, the first evening featured songs from the 1930’s, a turbulent time in America beginning with “the great depression” and ending with war looming overseas. Many films of the time reflected the social unrest with political satires, and Broadway produced a record low number of shows as new productions dipped to 98 shows in 1939. For the first time since the turn of the century, there were less than 100 shows being offered.
However, people wanted escape entertainment, to be cheered up, and many shows of the Great White Way provided that. It was a time when some of America’s greatest composers were writing for the theater: Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, The Gershwins, Irving Berlin and others. The strong cast consisted of Robert Cuccioli, Nellie McKay, Tonya Pinkins, Emily Skinner, Billy Stritch, Michael Winther, Sean Harnkess, Brian Charles Rooney, Michela Marino Lerman, Philippa Lynas, and Luke Hawkins. Music Director Ross Patterson led the “Little Big Band” with Tom Hubbard on bass and Jared Schonig on drums.

Broadway star Robert Cuccioli’s lush voice and great stage presence was perfect for the classic songs that he performed. “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter (1935 – Jubilee), “Night & Day” (1932 – Gay Divorce), “You and The Night and The Music” (1934 – Revenge with Music) and most requested song ever “As Time Goes By” (1931 – Everybody’s Welcome). Tonya Pinkins performed Jerome Kern’s beautiful “All The Things You Are” (1939 – Very Warm for May) and really scored with the dramatic “Suppertime” (1933 – As Thousands Cheer) by Irving Berlin about a woman serving dinner to her family after she finds out that her husband had been lynched.

The talented Emily Skinner looked lovely and sang “I’ll Tell The Man in the Street”(1938 – I Married An Angel) and her terrific vocals really shown on the sentimental “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1938 – Right This Way). Nellie McKay sang a timid version of “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (George White’s – Scandals of 1931) but the audience enjoyed her singing “You Made Me Love You” (Ziegfeld Follies of 1931) to Bernie Sanders instead of the way Judy Garland sang it to Clark Gable.

There were some dance numbers as Philippa Lynas sang ‘I Wish I Were in Love Again” (1937 – Babes In Arms) while Luke Hawkins tapped skillfully to the tune. Brian Charles Rooney sang “I Get a Kick Out of You (1934 – Anything Goes) while Michela Marino Lerman danced and flirted with him to her own choreography. One of the highlights of the evening was Billy Stritch at the piano singing “Isn’t It a Pity?” (1933 – Pardon My English) and a terrific jazz version of “Comes Love” (1939 – Yokel Boy). Of course, this was only the tip of the iceberg of the remarkable songs from the 1930s, but it was evident that America’s great art form, the musical theater, was developing and growing and serving to not only entertain but to reflect the changing times of the country.

For more info: Contact Scott Siegel

The Town Hall Box Office: 212 840-2824

Broadway By The Year Series Schedule:

Monday, March 28th – The 1950s

Monday, May 23rd – The 1960s

Monday, June 20 – The 1970s

*Backstage Photos: Maryann Lopinto
*Performance Photos:Genevieve Rafter Keddy