Broadway Around the Christmas Tree
Filichia rifles through his cast albums to create a Broadway-themed tape for a tree-trimming party.
I hope I have time to finish this column, because I'm invited to a tree-trimming party tomorrow night that will be given by one of my favorite musical theater aficionados. Others are bringing wine and eggnog, but I promised to fill a 110-minute tape with Christmas songs from Broadway shows.
A while ago, I discussed Here's Love, the musical version of Miracle on 34th Street, and mentioned that the score is comprised of a lot of delights and duds. I'm programming tracks #5 (the title song), #6 ("My Wish"), #7 ("Pine Cones and Holly Berries") #10 ("Expect Things to Happen"), #12 ("That Man over There") and #14 ("The Finale"), but I'm not going anywhere near the others. We probably won't even get half the tinsel on the tree before those are done, so I'm going to raid A Broadway Christmas, which Varèse Sarabande issued six years ago and Fynsworth Alley re-released a couple of years ago. It opens with a jaunty rendition of "Be a Santa" from Subways Are for Sleeping, which Fynsworth re-released some months ago--but that doesn't mean that everyone who mail-ordered it from the company has got it. (Please, guys, would you please be a Santa and at least deliver David Wolf's to him? He's got his credit card receipt, and plenty of long-distance charges asking you for it. Everything but the album.)
Though A Broadway Christmas offers such familiar fare as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "We Need a Little Christmas Now," two gems by two teams of masters make the biggest impression on me. So I'll be sure to program tracks two and nine for "Christmas Eve," a truly beautiful song that Bock and Harnick wrote but inexplicably dropped from She Loves Me, and "I Thank You for Your Love," which Jones and Schmidt wrote for The Mummer's Play. But I'll also include the aforementioned song that urges us to "Haul out the holly." (Wonder if I should further haul out the "Holly Golightly" cut from the excellent Breakfast at Tiffany's album? No, that would be pushing it.)
I won't, however, program either tracks #7 or #10 from A Broadway Christmas. The former is "Hard Candy Christmas" from Whorehouse and the latter is "I Don't Remember Christmas" from Starting Here, Starting Now. They're good songs, and they're well performed here--but, good Lord, I think a tree-trimming tape should be celebratory of Christmas, and both those songs are awfully dour. Maybe, just maybe, I'll include "Hard Candy Christmas" from John McDaniel at the Piano: Christmas, for Rosie O'Donnell's musical director doesn't include the somber lyrics in his nifty new album.
I'm surprised that A Broadway Christmas producer Bruce Kimmel didn't include either "Christmas Day" or "A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing" from Promises, Promises. I know I sure will. Granted, "Fact" only refers to Christmas in its B-section, but it's such a terrific song that we could use another rendition of it. And it's lovely song to dance to--even though that means we won't decorate the tree nearly as quickly. But A Broadway Christmas does afford us the opportunity to dance to "Lovers on Christmas Eve," a song that's been forgotten because the show from which it Came--I Love My Wife--has been forgotten, too. This musical about suburban spouse swapping seemed all so innocent when it debuted in 1977, when herpes was the worst that sexually active people had to worry about. Those were the days!
There's Christmas Memories, Barbra Streisand's new album, but the damn thing doesn't have even one song from a Broadway show. (What a slap in the face from an artist who would be absolutely nowhere today had not Broadway launched her!) And yet ... and yet .. I'm including one cut just because of the verse of one song. Yes, Stephen Sondheim went back to his yellow legal-pad and wrote some new lyrics to introduce "I Remember" from his 1967 TV special Evening Primrose. So completist collectors just had to bite the bullet and buy the disc--but I bet we all hated ourselves in the morning after we heard the rest of it.
There's "Christmas at Hampton Court" from Rex, which I'll include because it gives us a chance to hear the young Glenn Close sing before she knew she would become an icon. "God Bless Us Everyone" from A Christmas Carol is one of the best songs that Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens has each written without the usual partners. "A New Deal for Christmas" from Annie is a good song, too, though I may choose the version from the cast album of the Spanish version of the show, Anita.
By the way, what does a musical theater enthusiast put on his Christmas tree? The question makes me remember my pals John Linwood Williams and Debbie Humphries, who insisted on decorating their tree with items that suggested Broadway musicals. A Statue of Liberty represented Rags. A little castle meant Camelot. A pawn symbolized Chess. But I did think they were stretching it when they had a pair of red and green condoms to denote Let My People Come.