Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Dance Party: My Favorite Carradine

While the late David Carradine's ex-wives are all crawling out of the woodwork for their 15 minutes of fame, dishing the poor guy's sexual deviations, I am remembering a pretty swell stage performance of his younger half-brother Keith. I wrote about seeing the original Broadway production of The Will Rogers Follies here, in which Keith surprised the heck out of me with a warm and winning performance. The show was an enjoyable ride, and swiped the Best Musical Tony from the blockbuster Miss Saigon (coincidentally, the subject of last week's Dance Party. Eventually, we'll hit them all...). I did not see Miss Saigon (that helicopter phobia) and thus hoped Carradine would win a Tony for his performance, but Jonathan Pryce's "Engineer" instead took the prize.

But the undisputed star of The Will Rogers Follies did not appear on its stage. That distinction was held by creator/director/choreographer/everything else Tommy Tune, who turned a pretty slim story into a series of showstoppers. Tune had another musical running simultaneously, Grand Hotel, which I also saw and loved. The differences between the two shows couldn't be more striking: while Grand Hotel was dark, grim, and utterly pessimistic (in the first moments of the show, an emaciated doctor crosses the stage and shoots up heroin before beginning the story), Will Rogers was bright and sparkling like a Fourth of July parade. (Grand Hotel has also appeared on the Friday Dance Party here; see what I mean about eventually getting to everything?)

Here's a swell clip from Will Rogers Follies, which was telecast live in Japan to attract foreign tourism. Try to ignore the subtitles; to my knowledge, this videotape has never been released in the US. A portion of this same sequence was performed on the Tony awards program, where it took the roof off the joint. This showstopper, buried in the middle of act II, proves that Tommy Tune can do anything, even bring down the house with choreography which all happens sitting down.

Enjoy my favorite Carradine, as he considers running for president: