Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

Memory can be a confusing thing. For some reason I thought that the first time I had seen Patricia Routledge on stage was with Alastair Sim at the 1969 Chichester Festival.  I have written previously about the comic delight that was Sim's Mr Posket in The Magistrate and that Patricia Routledge once said that it was through working with Sim that she perfected her comic timing.

Patricia Routledge as Alice Challice in Darling of
the Day
, the 1968 musical that won her a Tony Award.
However a quick look through Broadway records tells me that the first time I saw her was in Darling of the Day (it was called Married Alive when my friend Charlie and I saw it) on its pre-New York try-out in Toronto.  It starred Vincent Price and the lyrics were by E. Y. Harburg and the music by Julie Styne and despite the billing the real star was Patricia Routledge.  And yes it was a musical and that year - 1968 - she won the Tony Award as Leading Actress in a musical.

What most people don't realize is that Hyacinthe Bucket was a trained singer and that many of her early stage appearances were in musicals.  And most people don't realize that in 1976 she also starred in Alan Jay Lerner and Leonard Bernstein's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue playing every American First Lady from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt.  The show was a legendary flop but opening night Routledge stopped the show with Duet for One where she played both Julia Grant and Lucy Hayes on the day of Rutherford B. Hayes's inauguration.  With a simple re-angling of her bonnet and a slight change of accent she switched from one to the other in a brilliant display of her musical and dramatic abilities.  Bernstein would not allow an original cast recording so unfortunately only a less than perfect pirated recording of that opening night performance exists.

Several years before that virtuosic performance she recorded an album of show tunes and romantic ballads released by RCA in 1973 under the title Presenting Patricia Routledge.  Unfortunately the orchestrations are the lush arrangements of the period that swamped many a lesser voice;  the simplicity of her singing and delivery ride over the throbbing violins and cut through the saccharine to the heart.

Many standards of the time are included along with the occasional lesser known piece such as this lovely song from Jerry Herman's Dear World.

I was one of those people who resisted the cloying Gallic charm of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and I was never that fond of its hit song I Will Wait For You - even if it was mouthed by Catherine Deneuve.   I'm trying to think of a single singer of the time that didn't cover Michel LeGrand's song but not many gave it quite the same operatic treatment as Routledge does here.  Still can't say that I'm fond of it but she does a fine job and its the only other cut from this album I've been able to find.

And somewhere out there in the ether there must be a copy of her singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the 1994 revival of Carousel at the National Theatre.   Her Nettie was universally praised in a highly praised production but unfortunately she didn't accompany the show on its transfer to New York.

And by the way yesterday (February 18th) was her 85th birthday and she seems to still be going strong.

February 19 - 1674: England and the Netherlands sign the Treaty of Westminster, ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. A provision of the agreement transfers the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England, and it is renamed New York.
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1 comment:

David said...

Going strong indeed. I met her through my pal Ed Seckerson - whose touring interviews with her I'm sure you would love - at a performance of Dear World. Fun to talk to, but very Hyacinth Bouquet when I asked if I could snap her and Ed together: 'Neau, neau, neau and NEAU!'

Since then I've bumped into her in Chichester Cathedral, her home place of worship, and at the Cheltenham Festival. Looking great, of course.