The Ed Sullivan Birthday Show

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The Ed Sullivan Birthday Show

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, September 28, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Ed Sullivan

What a great idea—celebrating Ed Sullivan’s 116th birthday along with fellow impresario Scott Siegel’s (September 29). Sullivan’s variety show, on the CBS television network, dominated Sunday evenings from 1948 to 1971.
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The show was so popular the 1960 Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie (Charles Strouse/Lee Adams), featured a a tribute to Sullivan entitled “Hymm for a Sunday Evening.” The number was sung reverently by the Broadway by the Year Chorus (Sarah Burke, Emma Camp, Renee Gagner, Megan Lione, Liesel Nickmans, Sophie Rapiejko, Clara Regula, Shauna Topian, Sarah Treanor). The chorus also delivered “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) from Carousel, repping Sullivan’s fierce support of the Broadway stage. Sullivan was notable for showcasing entertainers from the worlds of rock, pop, country, opera, popular and classical music, dance and more.
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Like Sullivan, Siegel has discovered talent, championed it, and presented performers from many genres. A recent discovery, the exciting baritone Pepe Nufrio, representing the classics, sang an ode to his native Spain, “Granada” (Agustin Lara), with one-man orchestra—music director, Ross Patterson demonstrating a superb mastery of classical playing.

Siegel has probably never employed puppets, acrobats or dog acts, but he did have National Whistling Award winner Steve “The Whistler” Herbst on hand to whistle a familiar but untitled background staple for novelty acts. For comedy, Jillian Louis revealed an exquisite ability for timing and interpretation with Francesca Blumenthal’s hilarious “Queens.” Dancer Jimmy James Sutherland tapped to “Sing, Sing, Sing” (Louis Prima) on behalf of decades of Sullivan hoofers, while Scott Coulter, a master of storytelling, delivered songs by ratings toppers, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles, with “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (Lou Handman/Roy Turk) and “Yesterday” (Paul McCartney), respectively. Mellifluous baritone Douglas Ladnier and power singer Farah Alvin presented an intense, sultry duet with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (Phil Spector/Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil), and Petula Clark, a Sullivan favorite was invoked by the extraordinary Maxine Linehan with “This Is My Song” (Charlie Chaplin), from her own Petula Clark show. Of course, the only possible way to end such a marvelous tribute was with accolades, and all in the room voicing a booming “Happy Birthday” to Scott Siegel.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.