“You’re the Negro-est white man I done ever met,” Ethel Waters said to composer Harold Arlen, according to a revue I just saw called The Wonderful Wizard of Song–The Music of Harold Arlen.
Arlen created indelible hits for stars like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland (whom he controversially dated when she was 18 and he was married), but he also worked wonders on material for black performers, spinning fiery music for songs like “Stormy Weather” and “Blues in the Night.”
The show is a slick and pleasant tribute to Arlen’s hits–like those, plus “The Man That Got Away,” “Get Happy,” and so on–performed by The 3 Crooners (a Rat Pack type, a Marc Kudisch type, and a male ingenue), as well as the very appealing Antoinette Henry, jazzing it up as Waters, Pearl Bailey, and herself.
It ends with a sweet medley of songs from The Wizard of Oz, sung against cut footage and costume tests.
We’re reminded that “Over The Rainbow” was cut from the movie three times, the studio feeling it slowed down the picture and Judy didn’t have the depth to make it soar!
And you thought Hollywood was dumb now???