"EVERYTHING old is new again!" is definitely the cliche of the moment, left over from the era of Peter Allen's appealing songs in the late '80s and early '90s. (And speaking of Peter, it was fun to see photos of Hugh Jackman recently -- as he is now in his "Wolverine" physique -- and remember that only a few years ago, he was playing a gilt-clad Peter Allen onstage.
So, if you read what's going on -- that certain nostalgia for danceable rock music --recalling the glories of the past goes way back to World War II and includes all the decades in between. These eras are being revisited with a vengeance, probably as a predictable contrast to the questions and fears of today's times. The New York Times recently wrote that Daft Punk's homage of a golden age is the danceable hit of the coming summer.
The brand-new thing going on is the way it's all being delivered to us on the Internet and post-Internet and tiny gadgets and machines that replay infinitum at any and all times.
I HAD QUITE a night out last week when Tommy Tune did a brand-new version of his Broadway biography in song and dance called "Steps in Time," at Town Hall.
This was a one-night-only chance to see the still handsome nine-time Tony winner and it was standing room only as Tommy tapped out leaving Texas for his first NYC chorus job. (He landed that after his first audition: "Every Texas father's dream for his son!" Tommy quips.)
The show was dedicated to the late great Charles "Honi" Coles, tapper par excellence from Harlem to Hollywood -- a man who died onstage from a stroke with his tap shoes on and without the audience knowing.
In fact, a lot of this song-and-dance memory revolves around "My One and Only" Tommy's big musical hit that ran on Broadway from 1983 to '85. This Gershwin-inspired creation was dreamed up anew by a lot of very talented creatures -- Tommy himself, his leading lady Twiggy, Tony Walton, Peter Stone, Wally Harper, "Honi," Coles and many leading ladies from Lucie Arnaz to Stephanie Zimbalist to Sandy Duncan.
Sunday night at Sardi's there was a gathering of luminaries from the various "My One and Only" productions, gathered together for a 30th year reunion. Tommy's Houston family was there, as well as the man who had pulled it all together and to whom Tommy gives total credit, director Mike Nichols.
AT TOMMY's Town Hall event, Twiggy herself was in the audience and we gave her a standing ovation after Tommy had sung several romantic numbers, indicating his love for this British charmer, both onstage and off.
Tommy, resplendent in red and black, can still dance rings around the younger competition. And his vocalizing has taken on compelling force. He gives credit to his newfound bassist Marc Schmied and his pianist of 37 years -- Michael Biagi. But his dancers, Hal Shane and Michael Fatica are great, as well as the musical backup, Robert Hirschhorn and John Meyers.
Why wouldn't Town Hall give New Yorkers a chance to experience history in musical theater? I don't understand this one-night-only business.
OK -- So "Glee" does not just exist on TV anymore. In real life, musical theater and young people co-exist, often brilliantly. Case in point is the recent El Rodeo School production of "Bye Bye Birdie," directed by Fred Pinto. (The school is in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The show consisted of super-talented seventh and eighth graders. Those who saw the show -- not just the doting parents -- thought it seemed more like a sharp off-Broadway production, rather than an "amateur" group of kids. The set design, staging and choreography were all first rate. Last year, Pinto -- who has Broadway credits -- put on "Hairspray" for the El Rodeo, which is still talked about. (He has also produced touring company productions of "42nd Street" and "West Side Story.")
"Bye Bye Birdie" had some star wattage. Owen Lloyd, the son of "Modern Family" creator, Christopher Lloyd, was one of the stars. Other talented youngsters included Jade Garland as Kim McAfee (the "Ann-Margret" role in the movie version) and Gabby Balzs as Rosie. Remember these names. I'll take credit for having first noticed them in print.
The remarkable Angelina Jolie attended El Rodeo, as did the Kardashians. (Well, you can't win 'em all.)
Musical theater is alive and thriving at El Rodeo in Beverly Hills.
FOR REAL movie fans -- Criterion's restored high-definition version of the great 1936 offering "Things to Come." This film was based on the H.G. Wells novel that predicts a coming generation of turmoil, war, disease, dictatorship and finally, the paradise of Utopia. Wells was prescient in many areas, but we've yet to achieve Utopia. Maybe next time.
ENDQUOTE: "Let's see what they do to her. How she is in about 10 years." That's former Dixie Chick, Natalie Maines, pondering the future of today's country/crossover darling Taylor Swift. Hmmm. As long as Taylor sticks to writing songs about her exes, and refrains from any political stance, she'll probably be OK. The Dixie Chicks were all but ruined when Maines declared onstage in 2003, "We're ashamed that the president of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas." As Rolling Stone writer Brian Hiatt observes, "...it was as if she'd French-kissed Saddam Hussein."
The Chicks split, eventually, after a hard-fought comeback, and they might reunite. All the women remain friends.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
The 'One and Only' Tommy Tune makes 'Steps in Time' in NYC
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