It was the Broadway season when Barbra Streisand demanded "Don't Rain on My Parade" and Carol Channing heard the waiters at the Harmonia Gardens say "Hello, Dolly!". From June 1, 1963 through the final day of May 31, 1964, theatergoers were offered 68 different productions: 24 new plays, 15 new comedies, 14 new musicals, 5 revivals of plays, 3 revues, 3 plays in Yiddish, 2 in French, 1 double-bill and even 1 puppet show. Peter Filichia's The Great Parade will look at what a Broadway season looked like a half-century ago analyzing the hits, the flops, the trends, the surprises, the disappointments, the stars and even how the assassination of JFK and the arrival of the Beatles affected Broadway. The Great Parade is a chronicle of a Broadway season unprecedented in the star power onstage: Barbara Streisand, Carol Channing, Claudette Colbert. Colleen Dewhurst, Hal Holbrook, Mary Martin, Christopher Plummer, Robert Preston, Julie Harris, Jason Robards, Jr., Carol Burnett, Tallulah Bankhead, Alec Guinness, Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Richard Burton, Mary Martin, Beatrice Lillie, Hermione Gingold, Robert Redford and many more. Neil Simon and Stephen Sondheim burst on to the Broadway stage with Barefoot in the Park and Anyone Can Whistle. The '63-'64 season was one of Broadway's greatest and in The Great Parade, Peter Filichia gives us another classic.
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About the Author
PETER FILICHIA is the theater critic emeritus for both the Newark Star-Ledger and its television station, News 12 New Jersey. He writes a weekly column for Musical Theatre International. He has served four terms as president of the Drama Desk, the New York Association of Drama Critics and is now head of the voting committee and the emcee of the Theatre World Awards. A frequent contributor to theater publications and the writer of many cast-album CD liner notes, he lives in New York City.
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The Great Parade
Broadway's Astonishing, Never-to-be-Forgotten 1963-64 Season
By Peter Filichia
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Peter Filichia
All rights reserved.
The Great Parade of 1963–64
From 1946–47 to 1976–77, every volume of Theatre World had the same cover design.
The annual that chronicled the previous theatrical season from June 1 to May 31 displayed on its dust jacket the headshots of six of the semester's most illustrious performers.
In 1963–64, editor Daniel Blum opted for:
Carol Channing (Hello, Dolly!)
Richard Burton (Hamlet)
Albert Finney (Luther)
Carol Burnett (Fade Out—Fade In)
Beatrice Lillie (High Spirits)
Alec Guinness (Dylan)
They were all fine choices. But no Barbra Streisand, who officially became a bona fide star thanks to Funny Girl? On April 10, Streisand made the cover of Time; a mere forty-two days later, on May 22, she was on the cover of Life.
And she wasn't good enough for Blum's dust jacket?
(Maybe Blum had a crystal ball that told him Streisand would never-ever-ever come back to Broadway—and that made him decide not to make a big deal of her.)
Two of the performers Blum did choose also made the cover of Life that season. Burton was seen in the middle of Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy. Channing, who was shown snuggling up to Horace Vandergelder's cash register, wound up there before making the cover of Look, too.
The other Broadway Life cover girl was also overlooked by Blum: Elizabeth Ashley, who played the irrepressible newlywed in Barefoot in the Park. (The editors at Life were apparently more impressed with Ashley than with her co-star: Robert Redford.)
Did Blum choose Finney solely for his Tony-nominated stint as the title character in Luther? One could suspect that the Theatre World editor was influenced by Finney's suddenly hot Hollywood profile, thanks to his Oscar nomination for playing the title character of Tom Jones.
On the other hand, Blum had six previous Oscar winners from which to choose: Claudette Colbert, José Ferrer, Alec Guinness, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, and Joanne Woodward. Aside from Guinness, the rest had to be satisfied with seeing their pictures inside the book.
That season, Woodward co-starred in a comedy with her husband, who didn't have an Oscar—not yet—but was arguably more famous: Paul Newman. He was already Hollywood royalty, along with three other movie stars who could have been blessed by Blum: Kirk Douglas, Charles Boyer, and Lee Remick.
Today we have plenty of movie stars who visit Broadway, but almost always in limited engagements. Some film luminaries think, "Hey, I'll give up three months of Hollywood millions for a mere hundred thousand or so a week on Broadway, where I'll win a Tony that will look nice next to my other awards." (That worked out well for Geoffrey Rush and Denzel Washington. Not as successful was Tom Hanks, who at least received a nomination, unlike Julia Roberts, who didn't.)
But in 1963–64, Burton, Newman, and Woodward were the only ones who'd demanded limited engagements; the others signed for the long haul, ranging from a year's commitment to a run-of-the-play contract. Even Streisand honored her two-year pact.
Besides, no one expected that even Burton would do enough business to run more than four months; none of Hamlet's fifty-nine Broadway productions dating back to 1761 had ever run longer.
Blum might have eliminated Douglas, Boyer, and Remick because each had appeared in a flop—as had Mary Martin. She'd become the First Lady of the American Musical Theater now that Ethel Merman had officially retired from Broadway (again). Despite Martin's three Tony wins (and a special one for taking Annie Get Your Gun on the road), she couldn't keep Jennie running.
Julie Harris of Marathon '33 and Helen Hayes of The White House had each already won two Tonys, but 1963–64 did not give them their greatest vehicles. Hayes would have a bigger beef with T. E. Kalem of Time magazine than with Blum. In A. E. Hotchner's historical pageant, she portrayed the wives of eleven presidents from Abigail Adams to Edith Wilson as well as nineteenth-century gossip columnist Leonora Clayton. Kalem didn't like the play ("Presidential snipshots," he called it), but he didn't even mention Hayes by name. What a slap in the face for the star whose forty Broadway appearances had made her the First Lady of the entire American Theater.
We can forgive Blum for omitting such luminaries as Tallulah Bankhead, Tom Bosley, Colleen Dewhurst, Peter Falk, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Plummer, Robert Preston, and Cyril Ritchard, all of whom saw their shows prematurely close. So did Bert Lahr, despite winning the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for Foxy. But what about Jason Robards Jr. or Barbara Loden in Arthur Miller's After the Fall? He was already a star, and she became the Tony-winning toast of the town for her homage to Miller's second wife, Marilyn Monroe. That even got her the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
While we're talking Tonys, Hume Cronyn, who wasn't even halfway through his sixty-two-year Broadway career, won for his Polonius in Hamlet. What's more, Cronyn was the first actor honored for a Shakespearean role in the thirty-seven revivals of the Bard's works since the Tonys had begun in 1946–47. And what of Cronyn's castmate Alfred Drake, already the recipient of a brace of Tonys? Both men were Theatre World cover-worthy.
Blum may have chosen Carol Burnett just to entice book buyers; she was, after all, well known to the nation from her prolific appearances on the highly rated Garry Moore Show. By the time Blum's book went to press, however, the dire handwriting was on the wall for Burnett's Fade Out—Fade In: handwriting that was distinctively in her penmanship. (More on that later.)
By the time Blum had submitted his manuscript, Lillie's High Spirits must have closed, too. But wasn't Tammy Grimes at least as valuable to the show, given that she appeared in seven songs (in a substantially larger role) to Lillie's four? Certainly The Saturday Evening Post thought so; she, not Lillie, got the cover when High Spirits was featured.
We could go on. Blum might have chosen Sandy Dennis, who was given the Best Actress in a Play Tony for Any Wednesday; pop star Steve Lawrence, who'd surprised everyone with his strong acting in What Makes Sammy Run?; Emlyn Williams, who dared to play the much-accused Pope Pius XII in The Deputy, the season's most controversial play; international star Josephine Baker, who brought in her revue for a couple of weeks in February and did so well that she did three more in April. Blum's awarding Baker the cover would have been a nice type of Lifetime Achievement Award.
Let's face it. No matter which six performers Blum chose, he would have endured criticism for the ones he'd left out. It was that strong a season for performers. To paraphrase one of the lines Burton said as Hamlet for his then-record 137 performances, we shall not look upon its like again.
The Tony Awards reveal how impressive a season it was. Let's look at the stats: As the 1963–64 season began, the Tonys had in their seventeen years of existence dispensed a total of 135 performance awards. Actors and actresses representing thirty-six of those wins opened shows in 1963–64—meaning that a theatergoer could have seen more than a quarter of all Tony-winning performers (26.66 percent) in new productions this one season. This doesn't even count Special Tony winner John Gielgud, who was heard but not seen as the Ghost in his own staging of Hamlet.
In fact, if one adds in shows from other seasons still playing in 1963–64, a theatergoer could have seen fourteen more Tony-winning performers. That ups the percentage to 37.03 percent. Make that 37.77 percent if you count Jack Cassidy, who two days before opening in Fade Out—Fade In won a Tony for his featured role in the previous season's She Loves Me. And had Stanley Holloway's musical Cool Off! come to Broadway instead of coming off after playing all of five days in Philadelphia, the percentage would have been 38.52 percent—close to two out of every five Tony winners—in just one season.
While Hello, Dolly! dominated the final 1963–64 tally with ten Tony Awards, a closer look proves what a solid year it was, for the eight performance winners came from eight different shows: Foxy, Dolly, She Loves Me, and The Girl Who Came to Supper were the musicals that sported Tony winners, while Dylan, Any Wednesday, Hamlet, and After the Fall were the plays.
Truth to tell, however, the Tony Awards weren't then what they are now, for they were only broadcast in New York. Kinescopes of the early ceremonies show them to be sedate affairs that were unconcerned with glitz or appealing to a more youthful market. Hosting the 1963–64 Tonys was Sidney Blackmer, only seven weeks away from his sixty-fifth birthday. By 2009, Neil Patrick Harris got the job partly because he was a youth-appealing thirty-five.
The issue of youth brings us to a question:
Q: What Broadway producer had the most plastic surgery?
A: Leonard Sillman. He had seven new faces.
All right, it's a joke. To get it, you'd have to know that Sillman periodically (but hardly annually) presented revues called New Faces of ... that were linked to the year of the opening.
Sillman mounted neither a New Faces of 1963 nor a New Faces of 1964. Had he done so, he would have had hundreds of rookies from which to choose. In addition to Finney, Loden, and O'Shea, newcomers who landed solid roles included Susan Browning, John Davidson, Dom DeLuise, Micki Grant, David Hartman, Tina Louise, Peter Masterson, Martin Sheen, Lesley (Ann) Warren, Sam Waterston, and Gene Wilder. Meanwhile, in the everyone-has-to-start-somewhere department, walk-ons or ensemble members included Gretchen Cryer, Graciela Daniele, Olympia Dukakis, and Ralph Waite, not to mention James Rado and Gerome Ragni, the future auteurs of Hair, in two different shows.
And then there was that cast member of Luther who played one of four backup singers to a church soloist. None of us has access to Albert Finney's bankbook, but this performer may well have wound up the wealthiest of anyone in the cast, for twenty-two years later, Dan Goggin moved his attention from male members of the clergy to female ones when he wrote Nunsense and started a veritable franchise.
If Blum's practice had been to put playwrights on his cover, he would have easily found six blue-chippers: Edward Albee, Paddy Chayefsky, Arthur Miller, John Osborne, Terence Rattigan, and Tennessee Williams. Then theater lovers would have complained that he'd omitted Jean Anouilh, James Baldwin, Enid Bagnold, Bertolt Brecht, and that rising star Neil Simon.
Should Blum have opted for the creators of musicals, his sextet might have been Noël Coward, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Johnny Mercer, Meredith Willson, and Jule Styne. Styne had had a particularly busy season: He composed both Funny Girl and Fade Out—Fade In, as well as the incidental music for Arturo Ui—and had invested in Anyone Can Whistle, a musical by Stephen Sondheim.
No question that Sondheim would never have been a Blum choice, for his satirical musical had been a spectacular flop. George S. Kaufman's famous statement "Satire is what closes on Saturday night" turned out to be true, for Anyone Can Whistle closed on the first Saturday night after opening.
Today, of course, satire is what closes on Sunday afternoon. In 1963–64, Broadway was still observing what Christians called the Lord's Day. Today the lucrative Sunday matinee has replaced the lightly attended Monday performance. Only shows that have been running for years if not decades—Phantom, Chicago—play on Monday to avoid the heavy competition from the new productions that routinely take off that night.
The 1963–64 season also had Al Hirschfeld to caricature it. Shortly after the 1946 birth of his daughter, Nina, Hirschfeld began putting her name into each of his drawings. Lucky for him that he and his wife chose a name that could be drawn with Zorro-like single strokes.
For decades, Hirschfeld allowed theater fans to have the fun of finding a "Nina" or two (or many more) in each drawing. This season, a "Nina" could be found on Colleen Dewhurst's sleeve, Christopher Plummer's coat, Alec Guinness's trousers, Barbra Streisand's pettipants, Tammy Grimes's hair, Josephine Baker's headdress, Mary Martin's bodice, Julie Harris's skirt, Janis Paige's dress, and Florence Henderson's gown.
Little did Hirschfeld know that the Martin Beck Theatre, where he went to caricature Dewhurst in The Ballad of the Sad Café, would one day be renamed for him. And he would not be the only representative from 1963–64 who would eventually find his name on a Broadway theater. Joining Helen Hayes, who already had one, would be Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim, and Samuel J. Friedman.
The first two names are familiar to you; the third probably isn't. Friedman was a press agent who in 1963–64 represented Fair Game for Lovers—a comedy about a father's insisting that his teenage daughter live with her boyfriend under his roof—for eight poorly attended performances.
Such a credit doesn't get your name on a theater; Friedman's family paid to have the house renamed in his honor. But in 1963–64, no one remotely saw "naming rights" on the horizon. Today, theater owners are so desperate (or greedy) for money that we may one day be seeing plays in the Kaopectate Theatre.
In this survey, we'll encounter six people who would never have made Blum's cover although their names will come up more often than any of the other luminaries: Howard Taubman, Walter Kerr, John Chapman, Richard Watts Jr., John McClain, and Norman Nadel.
These were the daily critics who served the entire 1963–64 season. Taubman wrote for The New York Times, while Kerr worked in that capacity for the New York Herald Tribune. By virtue of his newspaper's circulation and prestige, Taubman was the more powerful. Kerr, however, was considered to have theatrical savvy and was the most respected of the half dozen (which is why he eventually had a theater named after him, too).
Kerr was a master of the "lede," which is journalism-speak for "lead," a writer's opening line(s). Among Kerr's 1963–64 ledes were "A memorial service for Café Crown was held at the Martin Beck last night" and "Tambourines to Glory is almost a musical and almost a straight play—and 'almost' is the worst word I know." For Double Dublin, it was "Wit has been the principal export of Ireland since the dawn of time, and I am deeply distressed to report that twilight approaches." What's more, Kerr wasn't above using a one-word paragraph to succinctly express his feelings. For Jennie: "Drat." For Baby Want a Kiss: "Stop." If Kerr sounds insensitive, he could also write a lede that would turn theatergoers into sprinters so that they could be first in line at the box office. All the critics raved for Hello, Dolly!, but Kerr expressed it best with "Don't bother holding on to your hats, because you won't be needing them. You'll only be throwing them into the air anyway."
As for Chapman (New York Daily News) and Watts (New York Post), they spoke to occasional theatergoers who could only afford to sit in the first balcony (as the mezzanine was then called) or the second (which is now simply called "the balcony," so that it seems less far away). McClain (New York Journal-American) and Nadel (New York World-Telegram & Sun) brought up the rear. A good notice from them was at best useful and at worst better than nothing.
Actually, when the season officially started on June 1, there were seven daily critics. Little did Robert Coleman of the New York Daily Mirror know that he had only fourteen more Broadway reviews in his future; his paper would fold on October 16, the day before the opening of Jennie. (At least he was spared seeing that.) As a result, Coleman's name won't show up here nearly as often as his brother wizards.
Still, six different voices offering appraisals sounds very good to us now. If these half-dozen reviewers didn't provide great literature, they clearly did their best when attending opening nights that began circa 6:30P.M., seeing the show, taking their notes, rushing up the aisles during curtain calls, returning to their offices, writing what they could think of then and there—on typewriters, yet—while overhearing editors mutter "Where is it?" so that the review could make the morning edition.
No wonder that they made mistakes. McClain in his review of Have I Got a Girl for You! mentioned that one character reminded him of "Duke Masterson in Guys and Dolls" and that a Jewish mother summoned up memories of "Molly Bergen."
Taubman admitted in his pan of Café Crown that "I chose to attend a preview for a change of pace—and to see a new work apart from the tension of a first night." Yes, and it gave him an extra day to write his review.
Today, reviewing a preview is standard practice. Not only does a critic have far more time to collect his thoughts, he winds up writing better prose because he has more time thanks to having a computer rather than a Smith-Corona.
Excerpted from The Great Parade by Peter Filichia. Copyright © 2015 Peter Filichia. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Table of Contents
1. THE GREAT PARADE OF 1963–64,
2. THE MUSICALS,
3. THE SHOWMAN,
4. THE COMEDIES,
5. THE DRAMAS,
6. THE REVIVALS,
7. THE MINORITIES,
8. THE RECORDINGS,
9. THE GREAT PARADE PAUSES,
APPENDIX 1: The Season's Facts and Figures,
APPENDIX 2: The 1963-64 Tony Award Winners and Nominees,
APPENDIX 3: The 1963-64 Performers the Tonys Spurned,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,
ALSO BY PETER FILICHIA,