Saturday, October 20, 2012

Episode 6 with Guest Star Steve Lawrence

Note: Recently it came to my attention that the air dates found on one site did not match the air dates listed in my diary. In the meantime I discovered a museum listing  which listed dates match my personal dates, so in the future, I wll be using these. Episode 4 on which Don Rickles was the guest was first shown on October 18th.

from the authors 1972 collection
 On Julie Andrews’ next show, Episode 6, she was joined by singer, Steve Lawrence, along with co-stars Alice Ghostley and Rich Little. Lawrence has a fine voice and a sense of humor that easily matches Julie’s, which makes the show a lot of fun. The show aired for the first time on October 11th, 1972.
Episode 5 opens with Julie and Steve singing the title song from the 1970 Broadway musical, Applause. Behind them is a varying backdrop of applauding people. At the end of the song, there are several shots of the audience from various angles, confirming that a good portion of the show was taped before a live audience. For those reading this complete series of blogs on The Julie Andrews Hour, if you are able to see this clip, it should give you a good idea of the space where the show was taped.
Following Applause, Julie Andrews and Steve Lawrence are joined by Alice Ghostley and Rich Little for a rousing verson of “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee An Actor’s Life for Me." The song, set in a costume room, gives the performers a chance to play other roles.   Julie Andrews and Steve Lawrence sing “Indian Love Call.” Wearing a feather in her hair, Indian beads around her neck, and a mini suede dress with moccasin boots, Julie looks quite mod. In fact, wearing this get-up she’d probably have fit in well with some of the hippies on the streets of Hollywood.

While the pair sing beautifully together, Steve Lawrence knows how to add that light touch of humor, making the songs slighty off-center and funny. In another musical number during this portion of the show, Julie is drinking from a big mug while she sings. She and Steve play it for laughs. Looking at the big hooped skirt she is wearing for this number, Steve says, “I think orchestra’s in there.” The audience finds this hilarious. Throughout the show we can see that Julie and Steve understand one another’s style and are comfortable working together.
As Ms. Andrews intimates during some of her later shows, while working on Broadway in the 1950s and 60s, she met many fellow performers. Quite a few of the people who appeared on The Julie Andrews Hour were persons she became friends with during that time.
Steve Lawrence, born Sidney Liebowitz on July 8, 1935, grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Since his father was a cantor, he was exposed to music and singing from a very early age. In the 1950s, he was drafted into the army and became the official soloist for the United States Army Band. Steve Lawrence had numerous hit recordings during the 1950s and 60s, including “Go Away Little Girl,” “Pretty Blue Eyes” and “Footsteps.” One connection he had to producers Bill Harbach and Nick Vanoff was that he worked on the Steve Allen show before it became the Tonight Show. While working on the show, he met and sang with his future wife, Eydie Gorme. The pair became a singing duo and were married in 1957. 

During the Hi-Didddle-Dee-Dee skit, Rich Little plays Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler to Alice Ghostley’s Scarlett O’Hara, and George Burns to Alice’s Gracie. Then, in one of the most charming routines, Rich and Julie impersonate Laurel and Hardy. With make-up and costume, as well as his great talent, Rich Little is transformed into Hardy and Julie is the soft-voiced, gentle Laurel. Her portrayal of Laurel is quite touching and a sharp contrast to all her other work. I

In addition to Laurel and Hardy, Rich and Julie also played
Groucho and Harpo.

Julie in the glamourous halter dress
From the Ruth and Vannie
Shaufelberger Collection.

For the “Follow Your Sign” segment of the show, honoring persons born under the astrological sign Libra, Steve Lawrence joins Julie, who is dressed a glamourous, black, halter gown. Lying on a sofa, Rich Little pays homage to Truman Capote. He plays Capote with great seriousness,  and has the audience laughing. To celebrate John Lennon, Julie and Steve sing two songs in counterpoint – Michelle and Here, There and Everywhere. It is quite lovely.
There’s a fine dance from No, No Nanette with Julie and her eight fellows, followed, at last, by a solo from Julie.  Standing beneath the crystal tree in a lovely gown, she sings, Falling in Love with Love. Recently, when speaking to a man who worked on the show he mused over what had happened to that tree. “It cost a fortune,” he said, “and it was hell to move.”

Julie under the crystal tree. This photo from the
Ruth and Vannie Shaufelberger collection was
taken off the television. It lacks the brilliance of the,
original, but gives you an idea of the scene.

The view of Julie Andrews singing in the darkness beneath this tree is stunning. Bill Davis has varied the shots between total darkness lit only by the tree and a green backlight. As shown in the “Julie” documentary, the creators and music directors of this show seemed intent on having Julie sing in a lower key, perhaps hoping she would sound more pop than concert or Broadway. Of course, with her five octave range, this was not a problem for her, though it her higher notes are the most brilliant. At times, the song does seem low, but in a stunning turn of events, the arrangement has her ascend to a higher  during the last portion of the song. What she does here is not easy and it is a stupendous ending to this beautiful song.
In the second half of Episode Five a duet of songs that did NOT win an Oscar is sung by Julie and Steve. There are some pretty popular songs here, including “Pennies from Heaven,” “The Trolley Song” and “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe.” During the first part of this sequence, the presentation of some of these songs, which only consists of a phrase, seems a bit pedantic, but that changes with the final song. When Julie and Steve sing “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” it’s goose bump time. There are some songs on The Julie Andrew Hour series which should be put on a recording for the world to enjoy. This is one of them!

The last section of the show is devoted to a musical sketch which takes place in Europe during WWII. Rich Little plays an English actor (whose name escapes me), as a British officer who is dating Julie. Alice Ghostley is a barmaid who is really a German spy and Julie is that chipper, young singer whom everyone in the pub loves. Steve Lawrence plays an American pilot who is there to help win the war and is much loved by all the girls.
The skit is clever and funny, but the performances put by all four actors, as well as the dancers, who also play bit parts, is brilliant. Director Bill Davis and choreographer Tony Charmoli have arranged a lot of activity in the pub’s small set and it’s something you want to watch again to catch all the bits. At times, one forgets that one is watching a television skit and imagines that it could be a full blown film. Julie Andrews is beautiful and charming, and really throws caution to the wind, playing a role beyond being herself. It’s quite amazing. You can see the force of energy she must have put in her stage roles. She knows what it takes to put a character over on the footlights and make a performance great. Rich Little is so stuffed beneath his clothing and so into his role, that we forget he is Rich. It is the same with everyone. The direction on this skit, the songs, dances… everything makes it shine. You can hear how much the audience loves it when the cast sings “Roll Out the Barrel.” On a special note, I recently found out that  producer Nick Vanoff also appears in this sketch--as the accordion player!

From the author's 1972 collection

The show closes with sincere smiles of joy from Julie and Steve. In a move not repeated by anyone (that I know of), Steve Laurence asks Julie if he can join her in singing her closing theme song, “Time is My Friend.”
It was a lovely night.

Coming soon: More about the cast and crew AND A week in the life of The Julie Andrews Hour - what it took to put on a show!

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