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BROADWAY SONGBOOK OF 1977
12 February 2014
I've spent some time this week getting an article written for an upcoming concert. This is the annual fund raiser for Citizens Who Care, an organization Walt has been on the board of for several years. This is the 22nd year that this concert has been presented. It has been the group's major fund raiser, but there are some murmurings that they may do something different next year, since the audience is dying off and they need to attract younger people ("younger" meaning <60 years old!)
Anyway, since I don't know who from Davis might be reading this, I thought I would reprint my article, a preview for Davis Enterprise subscribers and if you don't subscribe, how terrible it would be for you to miss my deathless prose. The article also talks about what Citizens Who Care Is...
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1977 was a pivotal year for Broadway, and 2014 may be a pivotal year for the Citizens Who Care annual benefit concert.
Citizens Who Care is a nonprofit agency in Yolo County, dedicated to providing social support programs and respite services for the frail elderly and their family caregivers. This is the 22nd year for the popular concert, which is one of Citizens Who Cares largest fund raisers.
Past concerts have featured the works of such composers and lyricists as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Hoagie Carmichael, Rodgers and Hart, and the music of performers like Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra, just for starters.
"The show has traditionally been attended by people for whom the music had been a part of their everyday lives," said Stephen Peithman, who writes the show and serves as its narrator. "We wanted to try to make sure that we were going for a broader audience this year," he added, noting that ticket sales for the traditionally sold-out concerts were a bit down last year. "Since it is a fund raiser for a worthy cause, we want to interest as many people as possible."
Peithman explained that the success of this years concert may determine whether or not a different sort of fund raiser should be considered for next year. "We have to look at our audience and see what type of show will work best. The audience has changed. Weve been doing this for 22 years. You have to avoid same ol same ol thing Want to keep these shows fresh. You want to please the audience you have but also want to get new audiences."
With that in mind, Peithman looked to the year 1977 on Broadway as a year when the look and sound of Broadway musicals began to change. In the early years of the Broadway musical, composers and lyricists wrote songs with catchy tunes and memorable lyrics with the idea that the audience would leave the theater humming the tunes and wanting to buy the sheet music or a recording, that the "big songs" would get radio play and that would drive more people to buy tickets to see the show.
The top ten charts of hit tunes contained songs from Broadway musicals well into the 1950s.
But by 1977, that era was past and composers were looking at how to write musicals from a different perspective, not to write commercial hits, but to write songs that made sense within the context the plot.
The 1970s rock era had come and was well established, the folk song era had come. Broadway was rethinking how it might change things, so 1977 was a pivotal year looking both backward and forward. There were hits about present day (A Chorus Line and I Love my Wife) and others that were new musicals that looked back to the 20s and 30s like Chicago and Annie, with stories that were up to date and modern, but looking back musically.
"Thats what it made this idea so intriguing to me," said Peithman. 1977 offered us the opportunity to showcase new musicals and at least 2 reviews (Bubbling Brown Sugar, about the Harlem renaissance of the 1920s and 30s and A Party with Comdon and Green, where the pair took the stage for a whole evening and sang their own songs.
Audiences who have been coming to Citizens Who Care shows for years will be familiar with songs like "Aint Misbehavin," "Sophisticated Lady," "Make Someone Happy" and "New York, New York" but this year will also showcase newer music from great hit shows like Annie ("Tomorrow," "Easy Street"), Chicago ("All That Jazz," "Razzle_Dazzle"), A Chorus Line ("What I Did for Love," "One"), Godspell ("Day by Day"), and Pippin ("Extraordinary," "Love Song," "No Time at All").
"One of the shows were doing, I Love My Wife, has a great score by Cy Coleman. The songs are just wonderful. Were having fun with the razzmatazz style," chuckled Peithman.
"Its a cliche but there really is something for everyone in this show. Weve worked hard to come up with songs that tell the story of a year on Broadway. Thats the glue that holds it all together with so many different styles that people of different tastes in music will like."
Will this be the final year for this particular kind of concert? Peithman doesnt know. A lot depends on how ticket sales go this year. "Were looking at different options for next year," he admitted. Should it be different kind of concert? Feature different kinds of music? "Its one of those ongoing conversations," he said.
The most important thing is that whatever the group decides, it needs to serve a purpose. "The important thing is raising money for Citizens Who Care, which has benefitted so much from these concerts."
The concert will be presented at the Veterans Memorial Theater on Saturday,
February 22 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 23 at 2 p.m. All seats are $35. Easy access
seating is available on request for theatre goers with limited mobility. For tickets and
information call (530) 758-3704 or go to www.citizenswhocare.us.
Tickets are also available at the Citizens Who Care office, 409 Lincoln Avenue, Woodland,
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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