Pop culture critic Scott Siegel opened the time capsule last evening at The Town Hall in another of his on-going Broadway By The Year productions. This time, the year was 1961: John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President and giv es the first ever live presidential news conference; the race for outer space occupied our minds; Alan Sheperd was the first American in space; the Russians built the Berlin Wall; it was the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion, an attempt to overthrow Cuba, occurred; Nureyev defected; Vietnam was heating up; the Peace Corps was established; the genetic code was broken; Pampers were introduced; the Beatles came on the scene performing for the first time; the film “West Side Story” was released; Roger Maris of the NY Yankees beat Babe Ruth’s home run record. The average cost of a new car was $2,850. “Today,” Siegel noted, “that’s about the same price a family of four spend to see the “Book of Mormon!”
He put the Broadway musicals of the year in context of the time, setting the stage for what was to follow – selections from “Carnival,” “Donnybrook,” “The Gay Life,” “The Happiest Girl In The World,” “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” “Kean,” “Kwamina,” “Let It Ride,” “Milk and Honey,” “Subways Are For Sleeping,” and “Sail Away” – the shows that lit up the Great White Way in 1961. Siegel, who shares a wealth of Broadway knowledge, created, wrote and hosts the series bringing to the stage vocalists and musicians who perform some of the best songs from each show.
Jeffry Denman, who directed and choreographed the show, performed some of the strongest numbers, including “When You Want Me” with his wife, Erin. He also did a solo leading the company enthusiastically into “Brotherhood of Man.” Scott Coulter, who directed the show, did a wonderful job with “His Own Little Island” along with Denman and Felipe Tavolaro, who flew in from Brazil for theconcert. Coulter’s solo number, “Her Face” from Carnival, was magnificent and brought new energy into the show. Kerry O’Malley performed two less than memorable songs from the little known musical “Kwamina” which closed after 32 days. Christine Andreas has a beautiful voice and wonderful phrasing in “Sail Away” and “Adrift on a Star,” but the strongest part of the show was Emily Skinner, who performed “Why Do the Wrong People Travel.” The sentiments Noel Coward expressed in those lyrics are still relevant today.
Ross Patterson and His Little Big Band accompanied.