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Three words which strike terror in my heart

As much as I love the idea of "summer" more often than not when I was growing up it filled me with a certain dread.  This week, I'm to choose five "outdoorsy" songs which relate to "camp, recreation, and sports," three of the most horrifying words in the English language as far as I'm concerned.

Growing up what I loved about summer was reading the Summer Theatre Schedules: Ann Miller in Can-Can.  Oh wow! Noel Harrison in Half a Sixpence. Sign me up!  Alas, that's probably not what Andy had in mind.  

So here is something close to the assignment:

"Hello Muddah Hello Faddah."  It seems almost impossible to believe but this Allan Sherman gem was a mainstream pop hit in the summer of 1963. (According to Wikipedia it was #2 for three weeks in August of that year!) I grew up on Allan Sherman's seriously funny Jewishy parodies of popular and classical tunes, and I was one of those obnoxious kids that knew every lyric from the first three albums. (I still do.) His score for the affectionately-thought-of flop The Fig Leaves Are Falling is sadly, surprisingly bland. And the misconceived off-Broadway musical revue of his songs entitled Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah wasn't very good. The parodies which I love so much seem too rooted in their particular time and place to feel fresh anymore. Still, listening to this song harkens back to a much more innocent time in our country's history and during this divisive and brutal election year we should try and remember that time when something relatively gentle and funny captured the nation's heart.

"The Baseball Game." In Bill Finn's amazing musical Falsettoland, "The Baseball Game" is an uproarious scene in which a very "modern family" observes a genetically klutzy Jewish boy play baseball. Needless to say I identified with it very strongly. In the show it's a delightful sequence, however my favorite performance of it was in the Infinite Joy concert which was performed for a few Monday nights at Joe's Pub in New York wherein the wild Stephen Da Rosa delivered a musical theatre tour de force by performing all of the roles at the same time. Listen and be dazzled!

"A Terrific Band and a Real Nice Crowd."  I'm stretching a bit here. File this selection under "recreation. In the flawed, but rather wonderful musical Ballroom, the recently widowed Be—a taking the advice from her friend Angie—goes to a ballroom for a night out.  This song, "A Terrific Band and a Real Nice Crowd," memorably performed by the late great Dorothy Loudon is an "I Want" song of the highest order.  And my favorite lyric in the song is also a subtly inspiring one as well: "It's not the Matterhorn, it's only a flight of stairs." It never fails to move me. Thanks both to the words themselves and Ms. Loudon's gutsy delivery of them.

"How Shall I See You Through My Tears?" And speaking of stretching...One of the most underrated and misjudged musicals of the last 50 years is Bob Telson and Lee Breuer's extraordinary The Gospel at Colonus. Here's a show that was a Pulitzer finalist, had a PBS Broadcast, played BAM and on Broadway. It fused genuine gospel music and performers with the purity of Greek tragedy together into a musical evening of pulse-quickening power. Confession time: Not being familiar with gospel music when I first saw it (on PBS before it came to Broadway) I didn't actually understand that all the music was original. And I think that there were others like me so that when it did finally appear on Broadway Bob Telson & Lee Breuer's achievement was under-appreciated.  How, you may ask, does this relate to the subject of  "Camp, Recreation, and Sports"? Well the opening number of Todd Graff's indispensable movie Camp is Sasha Allen's rendering of one of many beautiful songs from the show: "How Shall I See You Through My Tears?," and I thought this is an opportunity to give a shout-out to an over-looked theatre score that was decades ahead of its time.

"The Sun Is Gonna Shine Again." Not falling under the category of  "Camp, Recreation, or Sports" but most definitely an "Outdoorsy" tune is Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's ridiculously optimistic "The Sun is Gonna Shine Again" from their infectiously melodious score for Bright Star. Just let the new Broadway star Carmen Cusack and the rest of the company fill your heart with joyful end-of-summer optimism. And besides, you know what the end-of-summer signals?  That's right - a new season of musicals is upon us!


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