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Songs that are color-centric in honor of the change of seasons?

The first song I thought of was the Marvin Fisher/Jack Segal cabaret classic "When Sunny Gets Blue." It's not a Broadway Tune but it sure is packs a wallop whether sung by a very young Barbra Streisand where it reflects the heartbreak of an early love or Barbara Cook on her Loverman album of a few years ago, where her vocals express an entire lifetime of heartbreak.

Andy had suggested the Cy Coleman / Michael Stewart classic from Barnum, "The Colors of My Life," and it's lovely song, but even when I first saw the show early in its run I thought they had their eyes on a Kodak theme song rather than a tune suitable for the show. Speaking of which another Kodak song, Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" would fit the bill for this blog except it's not from a show. At least that's what I thought, but then I found it had been used in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert so I guess it counts as a sort of Step-ShowTune. Later, I found a much more preferable version of the song on Volume 2 of the many soundtracks from the TV series Glee. The song is over-produced in the manner consistent with the musical numbers on that show, but it still shows what a marvelous composer and lyricist Ms. Lauper is. If "True Colors" wasn't written for the theatre, it certainly signaled that its author has a genuine talent for it.

And speaking of songs not written for the theatre but which signaled an understanding of it, one could do no better than to look at John Kander & Fred Ebb's very first collaboration: "My Coloring Book." The song is deceptively simple in its straightforward construction, but the complexity of the lyric and fullness of the backstory it evokes is a thing of wonder. What an astounding song on which to begin one of the great musical theatre collaborations of all time. For me the most satisfying version of the song (and probably the most famous ) is the one recorded by Barbra Streisand. But if proof of the durability of the song is needed, there are other versions from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Perry Como, Cliff Richard and most recently a beautifully performed version from Kristen Chenoweth. Color it "Perfection."

And since I am sliding down a Kander & Ebb rabbit hole I figure I'll mention a gem of theirs which is either underrated or ignored. It's from The Happy Time and it's called "Walking Among My Yesterdays," beautifully sung by Robert Goulet on the Original Broadway Cast recording but performed with the fullness of time and experience by Barbara Cook (again!) on her Barbara Cook's Broadway and on her tribute to musicals staged by Gower Champion, That Champion Season, where it is paired with the buoyant title song of "The Happy Time." Come to think of it, this song sung in the show by a world-roaming Photographer would be a perfect fit for "that Kodak moment."

Has there ever been a more powerful endorsement for appreciating a color than that from Alice Walker in her novel The Color Purple?

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.”

Attention must be paid to The Color Purple. It's a beautiful, passionate, let me get a color metaphor in here, rainbow of a show. If you have never seen it, do so. If you have, you know what I'm talking about. I loved the Brenda Russell-Stephen Bray-Allee Willis score for this show in its initial Broadway production as well its fast-moving pulsating cast recording (yeah, I worked on it so I'm prejudiced). However, the John Doyle directed re-invention of it from the Menier Chocolate Factory in London mined depths and beauty in the show which had hitherto been largely ignored.

LaChanze's well-deserved Tony-winning performance was thrilling in the Broadway original, but we all knew that LaChanze was terrific before she appeared in the show. With this new version we discovered a star in Cynthia Erivo. This kind of breakthrough performance is the stuff of Broadway legend, and the fact that it's happening NOW means that you shouldn't be reading this; you should be booking tickets to see the show or at the very least listening to the New Broadway Cast Recording. Just play it through from start to finish.It's a different, less smooth (thanks to the artfully reduced orchestrations) experience than the first album; but alongside Ms. Erivo you have the pleasure of Jennifer Hudson's sassy portrayal of Shug Avery and the fabulous Danielle Brooks performance of the very sassy Sofia. (There's a lot of sass in The Color Purple.) On a personal level I'm sorry that I won't be able to see Heather Headley (who replaced Ms. Hudson last spring) in her wildly acclaimed portrayal of Shug. Everyone I know (and seemingly all the critics) agree that she lifts the show up even further than before. Those tears which stream down the cheeks of every member of the audience nightly are something to which every musical aspires.

Purple: now there's a color to brighten up the change of seasons.


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