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Review of 1950’s Songbook at The Ordway

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Quote of the Day:  True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. George Gershwin

Photo courtesy of Ordway Media
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts has a great program called The Broadway Songbook. They have done musical medleys from such Broadway greats as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. They are currently showcasing “Musicals of the 1950’s” which some consider to be the height of musical theatre. With musicals such as The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, The Pajama Game,West Side Story, and The King and I it’s hard to argue against that sentiment. They mix in a few sleepers as well. Some shows didn’t have the staying power of Guys and Dolls, or they aren’t as easily done by every high school, college, and community theatre. A bit of trivia from last night is that Guys and Dolls is performed somewhere every day of the year! Most of us could hum the tune to Sit down you’re rocking the boat, or 76 Trombones from The Music Man. Some songs from the era made it into mainstream music as it was recorded by the greats of the time like Rosemary Clooney singing Hey There, or Frank Sinatra crooning Luck be a lady tonight.

My sister Joy and I enjoyed the song selections, although, we felt the whole performance went a bit long. Granted, we have a long drive back to Brainerd when it’s over, but I could see areas where editing/cutting would improve the overall experience. While I like learning some musical theatre history during these performances, this time it went too in depth, particularly about shows that I’ve never seen or even heard of and will likely never be performed again. James Rocco, producing artistic director and host for the evening, put together many great numbers and did his research on the 1950’s musicals. Still, we don’t need, or really want, to know everything about the era. Most of us are there to hear our favorites.

Our favorite of the evening was when Jennifer Baldwin Peden sang Adalaide’s Lament, her love-sick solo from Guys and Dolls. We were convinced that she’d played the part in her career. In fact, what I enjoyed the most about the performance was the little bit of dialogue they’d often use as they were getting into the songs and characters. The accompanist and musical director of The Ordway, Rayond Berg, deserves his own standing ovation as he seemingly effortlessly brings the singers and audience through the various repertoire of this musical period. 

The Ordway is going through a construction phase. They have torn down their intimate 300 seat McKnight theatre and are replacing it with a 1100 seat concert hall. For The Broadway Songbook, which was normally held in the smaller theatre, they had the audience sitting on stage with the performers. It was a little awkward. We could see the performers enter from the dressing rooms and wait for their entrance. Once they were in their places at the back of the stage, they felt more removed and harder to see from our seats, which were at the front of the stage and to the right and not all that comfortable. When you’re setting up seating, think about giving people a bit of space between each other. Most people aren’t as small in the seat as those padded metal chairs, and we’re Midwesterners, afterall, and need our elbow room. A better intimate arrangement would be to have us surrounding the performers on three sides, so we all feel closer and part of the performance, or have us all sit in the comfortable seats in the front section and create a smaller stage environment that we can all enjoy.

The Broadway Songbook is running October 17-20, 2013. Coming soon to The Ordway is Liz Wright and Raul Midon, October 25, the Yemen Blues, October 29, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  The Wizard of Oz, Dec. 4-29, 2013.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What are your favorite musicals or songs from musicals?


  1. Hopefully your next experience there is better.

  2. I loved all the musicals of the 50s , Oklahoma and Carousel were two of my special favourites.

    Great post.
    Enjoy your week-end.
    Yvonne.

  3. Sounds like my kind of show. I’m a big fan of musical, especially the older classics. My favorites are the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. Evita is another that I really enjoyed. I thought Madonna did a wonderful job in the movie role.

    A recent musical that many people are now probably unfamiliar with or may have forgotten is The Magic Show which featured magician Doug Henning. I was listening to the soundtrack for that one just the other day. It had some pretty cool songs. Great album!

    Lee
    A Faraway View

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