Tony Award Winners, 1970, Applause

31 Mar


For whatever reason 1970 was the battle for the aging movie stars from the 40’s who cannot sing for best musical.   There were three real contenders:  Coco (with Katherine Hepburn who cannot sing), Applause (Lauren Bacall, who cannot sing either but does a decent facsimile of it), and Purlie (the odd man out.)     Applause won.

In a way I can see it.  Applause is a retelling of All About Eve, but incredibly stylishly–Lauren Bacall is perfect to play Margo Channing, and the show is just campy and fun–a true cocktail hour classic.   The problem is that the songs mostly have very little character–But Alive is the best of the bunch, the rest are all talking and posing.   What we’re listening to is the Laugh-in version of All About Eve, and while it can be a hoot, I don’t think it’s all that engaging.

The musical that should have won was Purlie,  Its mixture of gospel, blues, and rock is overflowing with energy.     While Applause is amusing, Purlie is damn good, handling Jim Crow America with a deft touch–using it as an excuse to make a wonderful sonic quilt, homey and wonderful.

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