I can't believe this silly little segment has been going on so long, but the calendar does not lie. The Friday Dance Party passed its third anniversary this week. Every week for the past three years, a new and exciting, or old and enthralling, or odd and disgusting, musical clip has graced these pages. Before taking a look back at the 54 clips which comprised this year's Party (yes, there were 54 clips in 52 weeks, math never was my strong suit), credit must be given to my old Wayside Theatre buddy, Larry Dahlke, who invented the segment on his own blog. Three years ago. He abandoned it very soon afterward, but the Dance Party doggedly continues here!
You might imagine that most of the clips presented originally came from the Broadway stage, but relatively speaking, only a few did. Which brings me to the reason there were 54 clips in only 52 weeks. Just last week, we had a double-header, from The Apple Tree and She Loves Me, and the weekend Hurricane Irene roared up the east coast, we had a Very Special Episode of the Friday Dance Party, on Saturday, honoring the Broadway show which carries her name. Otherwise, though, the pickings from the legitimate stage were pretty slim. When I was myself appearing as Potiphar in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last winter, we caught the song from the TV version of same.
Around Christmas time last year, we watched a grainy but energetic presentation of one of the most meaningless numbers ever to stop a show, from Promises, Promises. And when an old lesbian died, we took a look at how one of the standards from The Sound of Music had been holding up. The year could not be complete without a visit from Neil Patrick Harris, his generation's true song-and-dance man, and the year also included a harrowing anthem from Patti LuPone, the night she won the Tony for Gypsy. And we had one of the most unusual clips ever presented on the Tony Awards, when that musical powerhouse Katherine Hepburn gave us a taste of her performance as Coco (Chanel).Movie musicals, though, made a strong showing this year, with Mitzi Gaynor, Bette Midler, and Lucille Ball presenting some songs, and on my birthday, my special friend Pat Carroll crooned one of Disney's most dastardly tunes. We had some teams, too, including Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire (again), Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, and Harold and Maude. The clip from Grease was inspired by the death of Jeff Conaway, and ditto the Victor/Victoria duet, by the death of Blake Edwards.
Regular visitors to these pages will not be surprised to learn that many, many Dance Parties were inspired by dead people. My little obituary/tributes were included when TVs Designing Women did some lip syncing, and when composer Andrew Gold died, we heard from The Golden Girls and Mad About You. Though the Village People did not die (at least, not all of them), the producer of their misguided appearance in the cult flop Can't Stop the Music did. Peggy Lee wondered "Is That All There Is?" when Jerry Leiber died, and composer John Barry delivered a haunting ballad from Mary, Queen of Scots before he died, a number he co-wrote with Mary herself, from a distance of about four centuries.
Ed Wood's favorite star Dolores Fuller wasn't much of a song writer, or much of an actress either, but Elvis had a clambake when she died. When Jill Haworth, the first musical Sally Bowles, went the way of her girlfriend Elsie, we had one of my favorite tunes from Cabaret, and when character actor Jay Garner left us, his number with Steve Martin gave us a lift. A couple of oldsters finally left the stage, including Betty Garrett and Jane Russell (and it's no wonder Jane lasted so long, assuming she visited this gym often). When David Nelson died, his brother Rick went to a garden party, and when the actress who, as a tike, played Bonnie Blue Butler, died, her fictional parents scandalized Atlanta by dancing in Gone With the Wind.
My favorite clip of the year, from a gal I had never heard of, was inspired when its songwriter, Hugh Martin, passed the peace pipe for the last time. And when Groucho's son Arthur finally said the magic word, it was "Lydia" (the Tattooed Lady).
Sadly, a couple of my clips I posted have since been removed by their rightful owners, but you can still go here to read my obit for Lucy's longtime writer, and here to read my thoughts about William Holden. He didn't die this year, of course, but as it was Labor Day, I was thinking about his performance in Picnic, which takes place on the holiday.
Other holidays were celebrated on the Dance Party, too. We spent Veteran's Day with Martha Raye, New Year's Eve with Eartha Kitt, and Christmas with The Monkees. When I missed St. Patrick's Day, "Danny Boy" tried to apologize.
Let's see, who else? The Monkees joined forces with Bobby Sherman for one of the first music videos, years before they were classified as such, and the guys who wrote Avenue Q teamed up with the guys who wrote Scrubs, and came up with a crackerjack opening number for a musical episode of the latter. Dorothy Loudon put two disparate Sondheim songs together to bring down the house at Carnegie Hall, and Craig Ferguson put his own particular spin to one of my favorite novelty numbers of all time (I've even sung it at auditions).
Meanwhile, two French dancers delivered the most athletic Dance Party of the year.
More than a few of this year's clips reflected something personal going on in my life at the time. When I was feeling under-rehearsed while prepping The Nerd last summer, I turned to the master of Under-Rehearsal, Dean Martin. The Nerd also prompted a return visit from Cass Elliot, while the gesticular choreography used in my production of Joe's Coat inspired these hand jives. My backstage demeanor prompted a visit backstage to another theatre, while my participation in the legal strategy of Witness for the Prosecution brought Betty Hutton to mind. The anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepherd inspired a same-sex tango, and when my L.A. buddies gave up their motor home (not that those two things are of equal importance, of course), they were serenaded by these two guys, in perhaps the most creative of the Dance Parties (the entire thing was shot on a cell phone, in a single take).
Finally, my recent New York investigations were commented upon by Judy Garland, who happens to like New York, and by the cast of Hold That Co-Ed, who enjoys limping.
And that, I believe, includes everybody who contributed to the Dance Party this year. If you care to, you can see all the Dance Parties, from the beginning, in reverse chronological order, here.
If you are deranged enough to do so, you will see only one clip repeated, from one of my guilty holiday pleasures. Go ahead and make some fun of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.
To kick off the fourth year (jeez) of the Dance Party, a bit of a tradition. The very first Dance Party, as well as the First and the Second Anniversary clips, were all young amateurs, discovering the joys of dance. I won't be breaking with tradition today, here is this week's Dance Party: