Theatre yesterday and today



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When I began this blog four years ago, I made clear that I would offer opinion, but not considering myself a critic, I pledged not to review plays or musicals. I kept up with that… until two years ago when I was offered to write entertainment criticism for the website TheatrePizzazz.com. Prior to accepting the offer, this was never a profession I had any interest in. My biggest fear was the question of who am I to tell writers, many of whom are more talented than I could ever hope to be, that on some particular occasion they didn’t pass muster? Why should my opinion matter at all when it’s audiences that always have the final say? Certainly there have been shows for which critics toss bouque


One hundred years ago this evening Poor Little Ritz Girl opened at the now demolished Central Theatre on West 47th Street in Times Square. It was written by the songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, for whom it marked their official debut as authors of a Broadway musical. Until their partnership broke up in 1943, the next twenty-three years featured their names in the Playbills of some thirty shows — a remarkable achievement. Lorenz Hart (foreground) and Richard Rodgers at the piano. Many were revues (a couple were even revivals), but that does nothing to diminish their prodigious output. If I were to list even some of the hit songs they wrote, it would take up the full thousa


Legendary comedian Bob Hope passed away on this date in 2003, just two two months beyond his 100th birthday. Although still known to millions at the time of his death, a new generation of young people most probably read his obit with little awareness of the tremendous impact he had on American culture. And now that it’s seventeen years later, we’re close to another generation very possibly unfamiliar with Hope and exactly what made his contributions to the entertainment industry so important. For one thing, Hope single-handedly invented the notion of a “stand-up” comic on television, as well as coming to embody what it meant to elegantly and wittily host an awards program on television. Now


With the premiere this past July 3rd of the original Broadway cast of Hamilton on Disney Plus still fresh in my mind (it’s sensational), I began an internet dig on whether or not Lin-Manuel Miranda was the first to bring the larger than life character of Alexander Hamilton, patriot and Founding Father, to the stage. So, imagine my surprise when I Googled and found that a play called Hamilton opened 103 years ago in 1917—which also happens to have been the year of the last great pandemic. And yes, it was about that Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton on the ol’ sawbuck. It was co-written (along with Mary P. Hamlin) by the British actor George Arliss, who also starred in the play. A renowned stage ac


Well, it’s the Fourth of July, and if you’re a fan of Turner Classic Movies (and who isn’t?) it’s time for that indispensable channel’s yearly screening of 1776. Hot on the heels of last night’s premiere of the original cast of Hamilton on Disney +, it seems as good a time as any to celebrate both while we celebrate the birth of America (for better or for worse). As I’ve confessed countless times, I have a deep connection with 1776, mainly due to my love of the original Broadway production, which I saw on March 15, 1969 at a preview the afternoon before it opened. It was the first time I had the chance to make up my own mind about something before the critics weighed in and it was inspiring.


As famous theatre stories go, the one about the night Shirley MacLaine (as understudy for Carol Haney) went on with a moment’s notice in The Pajama Game is pretty much up at the top of the list. Although there have been certain particulars added over time — after all, it happened sixty-six years ago last night — the underlying facts are 100% true. Having written this column a few years ago, I thought that a few new interesting tidbits I discovered since made sense to rewrite and repost. Of course it carries with it a scene as old as when films first began to talk and sing — the understudy who goes on in a pinch and becomes a star overnight. This one goes like this: At age nineteen, MacLaine

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© 2016 Ron Fassler - All rights Reserved

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