Friday, January 8, 2016

The Wicked Witch does Sondheim

I always find it interesting when my various passions intersect. Such things always pack a little extra fun or satisfaction, despite the difficulties in deciding which collection the thing goes into. The latest cross-pollination is between my Oz collection and my Stephen Sondheim collection.

I have been a Sondheim fan since my early teens. My first exposure to Sondheim was the 1977 film version of A Little Night Music. It is a flawed film, but no where near as awful as legend states. Anyway back to today's blog - I just got a copy of the lovely souvenir program from the National tour of the original Broadway production of the show.

A Little Night Music Souvenir program featuring Boris Aronson's set design.

The handsome program is large and packed with photographs. The Oz connection is that Margaret Hamilton played Madame Armfeldt. It was her final stage role. The tour began February 26, 1974 in Philadelphia and closed February 15, 1975 in Boston.

Incidentally, Hamilton was performing in the tour of Night Music in Los Angeles when she was interviewed by Aljean Harmetz for The Making of The Wizard of Oz (1977).

Madame Armfeldt is an aged demimondaine, a high-end courtesan, (now retired). If you've seen the film Gigi, it was the "occupation" Gigi was being groomed for: a cultured, educated, and lovely woman who would be "kept" in style by an upper-class gentleman - for,.  uhm . . . "favors."

I'm not going to go into the whole plot of A Little Night Music, but you sort of need to know at least that much to understand the song Hamilton sings in the sound clip below.

This is Margaret Hamilton's solo in the show, a song called "Liaisons," in which she recounts her triumphs and losses in love and luxury - and the seeming decline of style, culture, and civilization.

On the one hand, Margaret Hamilton may seem an odd choice for a musical. She does not have a beautiful voice. And in this song she shifts between speaking and singing. But it's a great performance nonetheless. Hamilton did play in at at least two other musicals over the years: as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! and as Parthy Ann Hawks in Showboat - neither big singing parts.

Below are a few more photos of Hamilton in A Little Night Music.


Nasal Noteworthy said...

Hi: I own her head piece worn in the show. A wonderful collectible of a wonderful lady. She was also in the musical "Goldilocks" with Elaine Stritch and Don Ameche.

David Maxine said...

Fun! I have the GOLDILOCKS recording. I'll have to pull it out and see is he is on the cast album!

Nasal Noteworthy said...

She does a number with a few others called "Bad Companions" and she has a solo in that one, and is also part of the ensemble, with a solo singing line, in the finale, "Ten years in the Making." The music was by Leroy Anderson, famous for "Sleigh Ride." A great album. I also have the script for that show.

She was also in "Come Summer" with Ray Bolger, but I don't believe there was a cast album released. She also appeared in regional productions of "Meet Me In St. Louis," "Oklahoma," and "Show Boat." I saw here in Milwaukee in "Show Boat" in 1979 and though I was in the "nose-bleed" seats, still the experience of seeing her was thrilling. Sadly, unlike so many others, that is the closest I ever came to meeting her.

Sam said...

I actually do remember seeing a LITTLE bit of "Gigi" when I was little . . . !