|Using the image of the Native American isn't quite as bad as|
calling them "redskins." The rebranding of the team is as
controversial as ever; the Washington Warriors has been
suggested as a more suitable moniker.
I don't follow football, and never played it, but still, as usual, I've found a way to make this discussion about me. Back in my undergraduate days at Cal State Northridge, I played a Native American character, back when we called them Indians. To my shame, I used every stereotype Hollywood had offered us for playing such roles.
|Ugh. I even said, "Ugg."|
I cringe at the
Back then (around 1975), nobody even considered that the Hollywood image of Indians might be offensive to an entire race, so I will cut myself some slack on that one. The role was Lonesome Polecat, and the show was a large-scale production of a brassy old musical from the 1950s, Li'l Abner. It is from that musical that this week's Dance Party is plucked.
|I actually like this film version, though must admit, the libretto is pretty hackneyed.|
|The Tony wasn't enough for Edie Adams|
to keep her role in the film. She appears
in a very sweet, moving Dance Party
The task finally fell to pop songster Johnny Mercer, who provided a zippy score to what most people today find to be a lackluster book. With Michael Kidd at the helm, though, the show was a success in 1956, winning a Tony for Kidd and for his leading lady, Edie Adams.
|One of the few numbers cut for the movie, "Oh Happy Day" celebrates the triumph of science over humanity. It's really a throwaway song, but the version at CSUN was a showstopper.|
In their infinite wisdom, Paramount Studios discarded their Tony-winning star for their movie version, replacing her with one of the reigning sexpots of the period, Leslie Parrish. Original Mammy Yokum Charlotte Rae lost her role in the film to one of her replacements in the Broadway cast, Billie Hayes.
|"I Has Spoken!" And indeed, she had. Billie Hayes snagged Mammy Yokum for the film, besting original star Charlotte Rae. The latter went on to a surprising TV career, becoming a much bigger name, while Hayes is largely remembered for her kids show performances on Saturday mornings. You can catch her own Dance Party from several years ago here.|
I have a soft spot for Li'l Abner, as it was the first musical in which I sang anything solo. It was only a verse of the opening number, but the experience gave me the confidence to pursue other musical theatre roles.
Our version was directed by a faculty member at CSUN, Maryellen Clemons, about whom I wrote a long while back, when she died. (I had an awkward relationship with her, which you can read about here.) I give Maryellen credit, though, for recreating a huge amount of the original Michael Kidd choreography.
The clip below brings back lots of memories for me; our version of this number at CSUN was an almost step-by-step copy of Kidd's moves. I watch it and wonder how the hell I ever moved like that; it's the most athletically challenging choreography I have ever accomplished.
And I am always a fan of any screen adaptation of a stage show which preserves the original's performances, as happens here.