Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Dance Party: Dancing At The Prom

This week's Dance Party returns to its original roots: dance!
The BBC Proms is a summer concert series which has been a mainstay for the Brits since (get this) 1895.  Obviously, in those days, the only way to enjoy these musical dates was to attend them (often as a "prommer," a slang term loosely translated as a standing room ticket, or if you prefer the classical term, a groundling).  The Proms eventually found their way to radio and, naturally, to television.  Though most of the concerts showcase classical works, the Proms nowadays are likely to include popular music and showtunes.
Anna-Jane Casey's career includes several years in Cats,
Starlight Express, and Billy Elliot in the West End, as well
as numerous appearances in London's Chicago and the
Forbidden Broadway series.
Our star today is Anna-Jane Casey, and if you've never heard of her, you're not alone.  I had to research her myself.  While a busy actress in musicals in Britain, she is totally unknown elsewhere.  This week's Dance Party proves she is a talented and engaging musical theatre performer.

For our source material, who better than a Broadway legend?
Jerry Herman, here flanked by his original Mame and Dolly, has more than a few Tonys, including awards for his scores to both Hello, Dolly! and La Cage Aux Folles.  Speaking of the latter, La Cage not only won the Best Musical prize for its original production (beating out that year's Pulitzer Prize winner Sunday in the Park with George), the show also won the Best Revival Tony for both its returns to Broadway.  This week's Dance Party does not come from any of those shows.
Jerry Herman provides this week's Dance Party, from his score to Mack & Mabel.  Herman turned 83 years old last week, so it's understandable that his musical career these days consists only of revivals and various revues and tributes containing his existing material. Jerry's songs have graced the Dance Party a few times over the years.
Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur both won Tonys for these performances in Mame. Their big duet, "Bosom Buddies", has appeared twice in these pages. Go here to see them recreate the song at a Tony Award show, and go here for the rendition which appears in the disastrous film version of the show. Neither Lansbury nor Arthur appear in this week's Dance Party.

This is Karen Morrow, a leading interpreter of Jerry Herman's tunes.  She does not appear in this week's Dance Party either, but she did, here, when she belted the only memorable song to survive the train wreck which was Herman's Dear World.
This is Douglas Hodge, who does not appear in this week's Dance Party. When California's Prop 8 was making news, I took the opportunity to showcase the most recent revival of La Cage Aux Folles, for which Hodge won a Tony.
This is Tommy Tune, who also does not appear in this week's Dance Party. But when he did, his tribute included a video retrospective of his career which is really fun to watch.  And by coincidence, it features the same song which is showcased this week.
The BBC Proms are broadcast for the Brits to enjoy every summer, and every once in a while, a clip makes its way over the pond for the Yanks to enjoy.  "The Proms," by the way, is shorthand for "Promenade Concerts," a slang term also adopted by American high schools for their annual spring dance. This week's Dance Party is the grand finale to one of the BBC Proms, and features my favorite style of dance, the tap. Happy Birthday, Jerry Herman!

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