Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Dance Party: 100%

Carnegie Hall exploded when Loudon mixed
two dissimilar Sondheim classics.
This week's Dance Party features another repeat offender, deservedly so.  Dorothy Loudon is one of my favorite performers, so she has graced these pages before.  I first saw her in the original production of Annie (I wrote about seeing that show here), and her showstopping performance was showcased on the Tony Awards, which I featured here
"Easy Street" stopped the show, and was featured on the Tonys. Annie was the first time I had ever seen or heard of Dorothy Loudon.
Despite having starred in one of the smash hits of the 1970s, our Dorothy didn't have a lot of success in traditional book musicals, starring in flop after flop early in her career. 
New Yorkers loved Loudon, who headlined at
The Blue Note before her Broadway career.

After her triumph in Annie, she became a go-to gal for variety and concert appearances;  her hilarious mash-up of two Sondheim songs brought down the house at Carnegie Hall, during a tribute to the composer, and it appeared here.

I wrote earlier that I also saw Ms. Loudon in her follow-up to Annie, a barely recalled musical called Ballroom.  It was a stunner, and I saw the show twice in the week I visited New York in 1978.  It is from this flop that today's Dance Party is plucked.
With Vincent Gardenia in Ballroom.

Ballroom didn't yield anything like a hit song, but "50%" is often heard these days in cabaret settings.  It's the 11:00 number in Ballroom, deservedly so, and Loudon hit it out of the park. In this song, our leading lady accepts the fact that she is the "other woman" in her new relationship.  
Sharing the stage with Katherine Hepburn
in West Side Waltz.

I can verify that the number brought down the house in the theatre.  There is a grainy clip out there of Dorothy's rendition sung on the Tony Awards (Ballroom, though up for several awards, had long since closed, which is a shame.  If the TV audience had been presented with one of the spectacular dance sequences which Michael Bennett created, I believe the box office would have improved), and that clip is worth catching. 

Loudon made only two films, including this favorite, Garbo Talks. Interestingly, when her two biggest Broadway hits, Annie and Noises Off,  made the move to celluloid, Carol Burnett took her roles in both.
This week's moment, however, is decades later, when Loudon performed it at Carnegie Hall, for one of those PBS fundraising specials which used to happen so often.  It's from the late 90s, and Loudon had just learned that the cancer she had been fighting was inoperable. 
With John McMartin in a TV episodic. The duo headlined in
Showboat in Chicago.

Several online sources claim this was Dorothy's last stage appearance, but that isn't quite true. This may have been her final musical performance, but Loudon had already performed a preview of the all-star revival of Dinner at Eight when her illness forced her to withdraw.  She died 10 months later;  her will established the Dorothy Loudon Foundation, which funds charities concerning actors. 
Performing the comic song "Vodka." Her Tony
appearances were legendary: they stopped writing
her patter and just let her rip.

Known primarily for her comic performances, our gal displays some dramatic chops in this ballad;  it is probably the most famous song she ever introduced.  Dorothy Loudon's birthday is Monday, so in her honor, enjoy this emotional moment from Ballroom.