VAI also brings us a second abridged bit of Gilbert & Sullivan, Hallmark's The Yeomen of the Guard. This is decidedly lesser G & S, certainly; I don't suppose many readers have felt the urge to revisit it too frequently. As with The Mikado, this is cut-down and taken from a kinescope, with the color version lost. It's main interest lies in the cast. Alfred Drake plays the jester Jack Point and narrates; it's always good to see Drake in his prime, but he seems rather uncomfortable here. Far more successful are the two Ado Annies in attendance. Celeste Holm, who since opening in Oklahoma! had become an Oscar-winning movie star, plays Phoebe; Barbara Cook, midway between Candide and The Music Man, plays Elsie. Also on hand are Bill Hayes, Henry Calvin and Robert Wright. This one has Franz Allers, of My Fair Lady, leading the orchestra.
The first four seasons of Mad Men were rewarding and entertaining, but consistent; boys will be boys and ad men will be ad men, it seemed, even as the age of Kennedy turned into the age of Vietnam with myriad social changes. In the somewhat delayed-by-contract-negotations Season Five, though, creator Matthew Weiner seems to have realized that change is good — even if it started to upset the hedonistic apple cart he had created in his first four award-winning terms.
Thus, Don Draper matured and grew responsible, settling down like a dutiful husband — only to find that his young wife was from a new, liberated generation that he can't begin to understand. The other principals dealt with issues more severe than heretofore, highlighted by one of them trading sex for a partnership (with a signed contract in advance), and another committing suicide. "Mad Men" is, of course, fun to watch as it unfolds week to week, with tension mounting as they come to the climactic end (although Season Six won't be here till next spring). But continuity-wise, you get a richer dose by sitting still for 13 hours — in two or three stretches — over a weekend or holiday and watching it all unfold. The four-disc set from Lionsgate includes commentaries from cast and crew plus varied features, including one which accompanies composer David Carbonara and orchestrator Geoff Stradling as they score an episode.
Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser and John Slattery continue to entertain us, along with newcomer Jessica Paré, the now-departed Jared Harris, and the ever-rewarding Robert Morse. They have also continued to develop the character of Draper's young daughter Sally, played by Kiernan Shipka; this allows Weiner to bring back his own son Marten, who played the misfit neighbor boy in some eerie scenes during the first season. Now a misfit prep school boy, one expects and hopes that this intriguing storyline will develop into something suitably startling.
(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and On the Record columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)
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