Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden | "The Party's Over" (from Bells Are Ringing) My Favorite Musical Theater Songs


“The Party’s Over”

Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Judy Holliday
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing,1956
Performer: Doris Day, 1956
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Nat King Cole
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Johnny Matthis, 1960
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Judy Garland, 1962
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performers: Mel Torme and July Garland from her 1963 TV show
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Sammy Davis, Jr.
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Shirley Bassey, 1976
Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, Bells Are Ringing, 1956
Performer: Peggy Lee

I’ve always been somewhat frustrated when people today call the Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green 1956 musical, “old fashioned” and “out of date,” terms abundantly used to describe its 2001 revival with Faith Prince and Marc Kurdisch. Certainly this charmer of a work, about the great new technology of the day, the telephone and answering services, might be easily be transformed into a piece about meeting through cellphone or Facebook encounters! People still want to find their mysterious callers or on-line admirers, that is at the heart of Bells Are Ringing.

     This musical was also about international celebrity fashion and behavior, which seems to me as current today as it was back in 1956. So, what’s the problem? Somebody simply needs to imagine an marvelously updated version, that re-contexualizes its wonderful songs. Maybe not “bells,” but “ring signals” and “emojis.”

      Certainly songs such as “It’s a Perfect Relationship” is even more appropriate to today’s on-line Facebook and Instagram relationships; and “Drop That Name” just needs a little dusting off.

Image result for Bell's Are Ringing original musical      But nothing needs to be done to the heart-breaking song, when Ella Petersen believes that her magical relationship with the man of her dreams has ended because of the fibs she has told to help him in his career, needs no alteration whatsoever. “The Party’s Over,” stunningly expresses it all; it’s a song that even Cinderella could have sung after running off from Prince Charming. For the “end of the affair,” a theme is so many musicals that it’s a wonder that the stage genre has ever survived (after all, it’s at the heart of Show Boat, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, Gypsy, Follies and so many musical theater works that it’s almost become a standard trope). Love generally falls apart on the Broadway stage.

      Judy Holliday’s plaintive plea should become a standard of the musical theater genre itself—even though her relationship with pretty-boy Sydney Chaplin does end happily; he wants her all to himself!

The party's over
It's time to call it a day
They've burst your
Pretty balloon
And taken the moon away

It's time to wind up
The masquerade
Just make your mind up
The piper must be paid

The party's over
The candles flicker and dim
You danced and dreamed
Through the night
It seemed to be right
Just being with him

Now you must wake up
All dreams must end
Take off your makeup
The party's over
It's all over
My friend

 

      Holliday sings the song, sung to herself, so brilliantly that she might have, metaphorically speaking, “owned it,” until hundreds of other brilliant interpreters came along, including several male ones. What I find utterly fascinating is that Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis sang it as it was originally written, keeping the male “him” and talking about taking off “your makeup.” Singing with Garland, Mel Tormé (on matching motorcycles) pretended they were at the end of an all-night spree on New Year’s. Eve, in which the “he” became “we.” Sammy Davis, Jr., on the other hand, determined, given his macho “Rat Pack” identification, to turn the male designation to “her” and muttered over the “makeup” line.

       So many brilliant women singers, including Doris Day, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, and Peggy Lee, reinterpreted the work to fit their own vocalist stylings. And who might blame them given the simple beauty of its music and lyrics.

       Old-fashioned? Well, if such great songs are out of fashion, I’m terrified for the fact.

Los Angeles, August 30, 2017

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