Composer and sometime lyricist Jerry Bock died a year ago this week (naturally, I wrote about it here). With his partner Sheldon Harnick and librettist Joe Stein, he created one of the preeminent musical theatre classics in the history of the genre, Fiddler on the Roof. That monster hit put
the rest of his career in a bit of a shadow, so where better to add a bit of sunshine than with the Dance Party? And this week is a twofer: two short clips featuring songs from lesser-known musicals by Jerry Bock, each of which is performed by one of my favorite musical comedy ladies.
The Apple Tree ran for about a year in the mid-60s, a respectable run at the time. The show earned a Tony award for its female star, Barbara Harris, but it has not held up well over time. It's actually three shows, as it's comprised of 3 musical one-acts. The first is the Adam and Eve tale (hence the show's title), and it's based on a Mark Twain story. The second act is an adaptation of an allegory written in the 1800s. The third, and most famous, act is adapted from a Jules Feiffer story, Passionella, which in itself is a riff on the Cinderella legend. In The Apple Tree, homely chimney cleaner Ella is transformed into a glamorous TV star.
The show is mainly revived, nowadays, in high school settings, as the production demands are minimal, and there are nice opportunities for young actors. In the original show, Ms. Harris and her costars, Alan Alda and Larry Blyden, appeared in all three playlets, but amateur groups usually spread the wealth, and cast their productions with different actors in each act. The only Broadway revival of the show ran for only a few months in 2006-07, with the great Kristin Chenoweth playing the leading ladies. Kristin appeared in a previous Dance Party (in fact, one of my favorites of all time), and here, she is singing one of her big numbers on The View.
But the show has a terrific score, and the following clip features my favorite song from it. And it's being sung by one of my all-time favorite musical theatre performers, Nancy Dussault.
She is still kicking, bless her, and this clip is from her club act presented at the Gardenia in Hollywood just a few months ago. Dussault had a thriving Broadway career in the 60s, earning a Tony nomination for the flop Bajour, and another one opposite Phil Silvers in Do Re Mi. She was one of the Maria replacements in the original Sound of Music. Decades later, she played the Witch, for a time, in the original production of Into the Woods. If you can find another musical actress who can sub both Mary Martin and Bernadette Peters, I'd be surprised. Nancy has (or had, she's a little long in the tooth these days) a pure soprano and also a strong belt, an unusual combination.
Dussault never became a major star, though she is fondly remembered for her role as Ted Knight's wife in Too Close For Comfort, his follow-up sitcom to Mary Tyler Moore. She also spent two years in The New Dick Van Dyke Show, but should be credited for her work in early morning television as well. Along with actor David Hartman, she was part of the original hosting team of Good Morning America way back in 1975.