Broadway's Lost Treasures II contains some exciting numbers from Tony telecasts, but there are several notable omissions.
Once again, we have clips from the famous 25th Anniversary Tonys of 1971, when stars of yore were paraded out to sing their greatest hits. So there's Robert Morse doing "I Believe in You," which I'd say is superfluous -- not only because it's missing the second "A" section but also because we have the 1967 movie, wherein a younger and fresher Morse does the whole song. From the same 1971 broadcast there's Richard Kiley performing "The Impossible Dream." Fine; he didn't get to do the movie and, for that matter, he didn't get to do this number on the Tonys when he and the show were nominated in 1966 because the national broadcasts didn't begin until 1967. But I'd still prefer to see clips of new musicals than recaps from the 1971 show.
I want to see sets, too, and the 1971 show just offered as background theatrical lightbulbs that spelled out the year in which each performer played in each show. Granted, most Tony excerpts of shows have offered skeletal sets that would make a bus and truck tour blush. We all understand, for moving a nominated show's set from the theater in which it's playing to the theater that hosts the Tonys is arduous and costly. As a result, on each Tony broadcast we usually see only the slightest suggestion of what the original set designers created. But some nominated musicals have had such ornate sets that they didn't perform live on the broadcast; rather, their numbers were taped in advance at their own theaters on the original, permanent sets. Those are the clips I want, starting with Katharine Hepburn in Coco.
Cohen does open this new collection with a selection that offers a sumptuous set: the title song of the 1987 Anything Goes. Howard McGillin just stands in the background and Bill McCutcheon doesn't know his lyrics, but Patti LuPone's there to treat us to the song -- and, at one point, a wink. (Here's something that occurred to me while watching now that couldn't have hit me during the original broadcast: LuPone looks remarkably like Alan Cumming in drag! Take a look and see if you agree.)
Also on the new collection are "One Day More" from Les Miz, "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from the 1992 Guys and Dolls revival, "That's How You Jazz" from Jelly's Last Jam, and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the 1994 Carousel. They're all handsomely rendered, but don't many of us have these clips from taping the Tonys on the nights when these numbers were broadcast? Perhaps I shouldn't cavil at Cohen's inclusion of Grand Hotel's "We'll Take a Glass Together," given that I judge it to be second only to "Who's That Woman?" in Follies as the greatest production number in the four-plus decades that I've been attending musical theater. Still, I and many of you already have this number from that 1990 June night when we taped the broadcast.
True, there's a new generation of theatergoers who weren't alive or aware enough to tape those Tonys, and perhaps a few of them don't have friends who've made them tapes of their tapes. But wouldn't they and the rest of us more enjoy clips from the Tony shows of the '60s and '70s, a time before VCRs wended their way into American homes? Even though there are only minimal sets for Mary Martin and Robert Preston in "Nobody's Perfect" from I Do! I Do! and for Norman Wisdom doing the title number from Walking Happy -- both from the initial 1967 telecast -- they'd definitely be worth seeing.
Also on Broadway's Lost Treasures II are Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur doing "Bosom Buddies." Alas, the performance is not from 1966 -- again, a year before the first national broadcast -- but from a more recent Tony show. Seeing these two ol' pros selling the number decades later is certainly nice, even though Arthur twice comes in late. But we do have Arthur in her prime doing the song in the movie of Mame, albeit with a woefully inferior partner; so I'd rather have had "Life Is" from Zorba or the title number from The Happy Time with Robert Goulet looking charming and sounding great, years before he became a seedy joke.
The most surprising choice that Cohen made is both inspired and, oxymoronically, dull: Jane Lapotaire in Piaf. We're all so musical-centric that we may never have thought to include a Best Actress in a Play clip that gives a hint of why she won the award. And yet...and yet...there is Lapotaire singing "La vie en rose," which is a second-hand show tune. I prefer music made for Broadway -- e.g., "24 Hours a Day," the opening number from the Las Vegas musical, Golden Rainbow, in which slot machine players pumped their one-armed bandits in rhythm.
Jerry Orbach has made both editions of Broadway's Lost Treasures -- undoubtedly because the nation knows who he is for all he's done for law, if not for order. While "Lullaby of Broadway" was on the first and "All I Care About Is Love" on the second, I'm rooting for "She Likes Basketball" from Promises, Promises -- which Orbach performed minutes before he won his Tony for that show -- on Broadway's Lost Treasures III. Things should get really interesting on that release.