Just finished listening to KUNM’s “Happy ChallaDAY,” a fun parody of the classic film, “White Christmas”.
If you remember, in the original film, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney join Bing Crosby and the ever-delightful Danny Kaye, trying to save the Vermont inn run by Crosby and Kaye’s old major general.
Well, seeing as sunset brings the beginning of Hannukah, the eight-day Jewish holiday, KUNM offered an original musical audio drama, “Happy ChallaDAY!” If the pun isn’t clear, challa or challah is a delicious egg bread that is braided and served on the Jewish Sabbath and on special holidays.
Creator Charles Moster, who has produced three other audio drama musicals, was tickled by the fact that Irving Berlin, who was Jewish, had written “White Christmas,” and other standards commemorating Christian holidays (such as “Easter Parade”).
Some casual listeners are surprised to find out that Irving Berlin was Jewish, but then so was Jack Benny, whose Christmas radio specials were beloved by millions. And there was something else about Irving Berlin – beyond being a superlative songwriter, who could easily empathize with all walks of life through song…
When the song was first written for the film “Holiday Inn,” Berlin had been in an interfaith marriage for over fifteen years, marrying writer Ellin MacKay in 1926. MacKay was more than a decade younger and Roman Catholic. They were widely ostracized by society, as well as by kin – MacKay was disinherited by her father. As far as I understand, they still practiced their individual faiths … and they stayed happily married for another 62 years, until her death in 1988.
So, even if you don’t celebrate Hannukah, I suggest you take a leaf from Berlin’s book, and download the podcast of “Happy ChallaDAY” from the KUNM website. With some excellent singing and songs, and a story that parodies the 1954 film (the General here is named Waverlystein, and he’s opened a B&B on the Red Sea) it’s a light, fun, way to pass a chilly evening.
Superman – the musical?!? June 6th, 7th, 13th, 14th, the Boston revival is live on stage. (If you liked Ann-Margret in "Bye Bye Birdie"…read on!)
Wow, I was wondering why the theme song from Superman kept chunneling through my head today. I figured it was because of the Alamo Drafthouse’s plan to show the original 1978 movie outdoors, in one of those great free movies for the community events… I love it when cities and town provide this kind of chummy entertainment!
But speaking of chummy entertainment, if I were only closer to Boston, I’d be heading out to Arlington to see LokiArts’ staging of “Superman: The Musical”. That’s right!
“It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!” first debuted in 1966 – during the same period that pop art TV show Batman was POW! THWACK! BIFF!-ing its competitors. Its composer, Charles Strouse, was riding high on the success of “Bye Bye Birdie”, so the musical arrived at Alvin Theater, on Broadway. And no, it didn’t close after one night, either!
“It’s a Bird…” was later made into a panned television movie in the mid-1970s. Paddy Chayefsky’s Network suddenly begins to seem a lot more believable, heh? You can find snippets of this version – nowhere near as classy-looking as the Broadway production – on Youtube, but it has limited appeal – kind of like the Star Wars Holiday Special or the famous “ashcan” Fantastic Four movie made by Roger Corman. Mostly, it’s intriguing to consider the possibilities of Lesley-Ann Warren as Lois Lane and Loretta Swit as Lan… uh, “Sidney Carleton”? Not Lana Lang? Huh. If you’re a M*A*S*H aficionado you know Swit can pull off red hair believably, as did everyone else in the sitcom cast.
The Superman Homepage has a run down of all the songs and the original cast, with pictures. So if you’re in New England – what are you waiting for?
If you’re still not convinced – well, Charles Strouse was no one-trick pony, and the songs are excellent, catchy and surprisingly lyrical. He’s also known for writing the musical “Applause”, based on the flick All About Eve, a Best Musical Tony-winner which also earned Lauren Bacall a Tony of her own. Strouse’s biggest flop, the underrated “Nick and Nora”, has lately gained some cult status. Strangely enough, he’s also known for cowriting the theme song to All in the Family. Maybe not so strange. I hear Alan Thicke wrote a song or two.