Entertainment » Music

The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Music of Harold Arlen

by Sugi  Salazar
Contributor
Monday Jan 28, 2013
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Website for this i ’The Wonderful Wizard of Song’ Salutes Composer Harold Arlen
Website for this i ’The Wonderful Wizard of Song’ Salutes Composer Harold Arlen  

Even if you didn’t live through the 1930’s, The Three Crooners have no problem with walking down the yellow brick road back in time with you.

Yellow Brick Productions in association with Shea Arender, Steven Colucci and Jerry Rosenberg present "The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Music of Harold Arlen," making its debut in New York City at the St. Luke’s Theatre.

This jukebox musical of a play features some of Arlen’s best-known works sung by a trio dubbed The Three Crooners -- George Bugatti, Marcus Goldhaber and Joe Shepherd -- and performing in addition with them is a passionate, soul-filled Antoinette Henry. Together the four take us on a journey through the heydays of The Cotton Club in Harlem, New York to Hollywood with some behind the scenes footage from the classic, "The Wizard of Oz" recorded by Arlen himself.

The Three Crooners is led by creator George Bugatti, an American singer, pianist and songwriter. If you’ve never heard Bugatti sing before you are in for a quite the delight, my friend. Once you hear the words leave his mouth and sail through the airwaves, you will be taking away by how much his luscious, smooth baritone voice mimics that of Frank Sinatra.

In fact, Bugatti’s most recent CD, "A Night for Romance," features a song entitled, "Two Shots of Happy" that originally happened to be written for the legend Sinatra himself. "The Wonderful Wizard of Song" has been directed, written and performed by Bugatti in numerous versions of the show all over the US. He is also the co-founder, along with Arlen’s son, Sam Arlen, of The Harold Arlen Foundation/American Songbook Foundation.

The show breaks into song right away starting off with "Get Happy." Written in 1929, this was Arlen’s first well-known song. The moment you hear this infamous, feel-good number, only one lady immediately comes to mind: Judy Garland.

The show breaks into song right away starting off with "Get Happy." Written in 1929 (with lyrics by Ted Koehler), this was Arlen’s first well-known song. The moment you hear this infamous, feel-good number, only one lady immediately comes to mind: Judy Garland. She performed this unforgettable dance sequence in the 1950 movie, "Summer Stock," which happened to be her last Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film.

Another song you’ll get to hear is, "Come Rain or Come Shine." This number was written up in just one evening with the help of Arlen’s songwriter partner, Johnny Mercer in 1945. The show’s lineup, in no particular order that are sure to make your ears ring with excitement include, "Stormy Weather," "Accentuate the Positive," "One for My Baby," The Wizard of Oz medleys such as, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "If I only Had a Brain," "Off to See the Wizard," and or course, the one and only, "Over the Rainbow."

Harold Arlen was born Hyman Arluck on February 15, 1905 in Buffalo, NY. As a child, Hyman loved to sing. His mother, Celia Arluck, dreamed of him to one day become a music teacher. By the age of nine, Mrs. Arluck presented Hyman with a piano and he soon began taking lessons. A fast learner, Hyman began practicing and developing a love for ragtime and jazz -- unconventionally melodic tunes that allowed for him to put his creative mind to work.

At the age of 12, Hymen composed his first popular piece called, "Indianola." At 21, Hymen changed his name to Harold Arlen and by 22 he moved to New York City to start a life pursuing a career as a singer and actor. It is where he met Koehler and the two began making it big for The Cotton Club. Arlen was becoming increasingly well-known and moved to Hollywood in the late 1930’s. He composed a bunch of songs for many insignificant films.

It wasn’t long until he was given the job of scoring L. Frank Baum’s timeless children’s classic, "The Wizard of Oz." "Over the Rainbow" won for Best Song at the 12th Academy Awards in 1940. In 2000, it was voted as the number one song of the century by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Garland once described the song as, "Symbolic of everyone’s dreams," and we have a wonderful wizard to thank for that.

"The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Music of Harold Arlen" is now enjoying an extended run at at St Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th St. For tickets or info, call 212-239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com

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