Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Whatever Lola Erps

At the risk of mixing my social media, Facebook was all atwitter this week, with a new game.  I'm a team player (though I was always picked last for any team I ever encountered), so I thought I'd play along.  The challenge was this:  determine what song was sitting atop the music charts the week you were born, then find a version of it on YouTube, and post it on Facebook.
I find it fascinating that YouTube has become so universal that it's assumed one can find a version of any song in existence on the site.  But I'm not complaining, since 98% of all my Dance Party clips come from the site.  Anyway, as the week progressed, I got depressed.  It seemed like all of my Facebook friends, at least the ones who were participating in the challenge, were posting "birth week" songs to which I was listening in high school or college.  I don't like feeling elderly, but this game made me feel so.  Nevertheless, I investigated my own birth week, only to discover that the Billboard charts, which determine which song is #1, hadn't even been invented yet.  But by examining record sales and other historical hoohah, we can now determine which songs WOULD have been chart toppers, if there had been a chart to top. 

The big winner my birth week seemed to be a substantial hit, as it remained #1 on this retroactive chart for several weeks. 

I had never heard of the thing, and with good reason.  It's a lousy song called "The Wayward Wind," and it was introduced by a singer nobody has ever heard of these days, a woman named Gogi Grant (sounds like a cartoon character, doesn't it?).  In another example of how ubiquitous YouTube has become, there is actually a clip out there, of Gogi singing her big hit, but it's so friggin' boring, I can't bring myself to post it.  Go here if you are deranged enough to want to hear it.

I didn't want to give up completely on this new Facebook game, so I wondered what else was happening the year of my birth? Naturally, my thoughts turned to Broadway, and what do you know?  The Tony Award for Best Musical that year was (drumroll, please): Damn Yankees.

Damn Yankees is not one of my favorite musicals, but it was one of my favorite theatrical experiences.  The role of Mr. Applegate, the Devil, was a dream role of mine, and back in the early 90s, I had the chance to play it at the Glendale Centre Theatre in California.  I was so pleased with my performance that I posted a clip of my big number as a Dance Party a few years ago.  You missed it?  Go here.

I won't torture you with another clip of my production of Damn Yankees (though the show was a very good rendition). 

Instead, this week's Dance Party comes from the film version.  This movie (which is deeply flawed, primarily by the casting of the non-musical boytoy Tab Hunter as the romantic lead) is important, as it preserves one of the great stage performances of the era.  Gwen Verdon's portrayal of the devilishly seductive Lola caused a sensation on Broadway, but it didn't translate all that well onto film. 

That's not Verdon's fault.  She became recognized, on the strength of Damn Yankees, as the premiere interpreter of choreographer Bob Fosse's work.  The fact that she was sleeping with him had nothing to do with it (and when Ann Reinking became known as HER generation's premiere interpreter of Bob Fosse's work, that didn't have anything to do with the fact that she was sleeping with him, either).

The song which is this week's Dance Party has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of Damn Yankees, it doesn't even make much sense.  While the show is the Faust legend updated to 1950s suburbia, the song below is just another opportunity to show off Verdon's unusual dance technique.  And who better to partner her in the number than her Svengali, Bob Fosse himself?