New York City Center, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, is posting daily highlights from former Encores! and gala productions.
This week's offerings, curated by Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel, celebrate the songs of Harold Arlen and kicked off with Tony winners Brandon Victor Dixon and Nikki M. James performing the title song from the 2003 City Center Encores! production of House of Flowers, Helen Goldsby performing "I Had Myself a True Love" from the 1998 City Center Encores! production of St. Louis Woman, and Vanessa Williams singing Jamaica's "Push de Button" from the 2018 City Center Encores! production of Hey, Look Me Over!
Below, watch DeWitt Fleming Jr. and Kendrick Jones sing "Happy As the Day Is Long" from Duke Ellington's Cotton Club Parade, a celebration of Ellington's years at the famed Harlem nightclub in the 1920s and early '30s that debuted at City Center in 2011 before a return engagement in 2012. The production subsequently transferred to Broadway in 2013 as After Midnight.
Cotton Club transferred to Broadway as After Midnight, but here is footage from the City Center premiere. #EncoresArchives— New York City Center (@NYCityCenter) May 1, 2020
: DeWitt Fleming Jr. & Kendrick Jones "Happy As the Day is Long"
Gala Production - Cotton Club Parade 2011 pic.twitter.com/SOH68xjoXp
Says Viertel, "Back in 1990, in his historic survey, American Popular Song, Alec Wilder went way out on a limb and confessed that he preferred Harold Arlen’s music to George Gershwin’s. The comparison, whatever one thinks of it, wasn’t inapt. Both men were deeply influenced by African-American song traditions, jazz, and experimentalism. Arlen’s theatre songs have as much or more in common with Duke Ellington as they do with Richard Rodgers or Cole Porter, and while Gershwin has remained eternally the more popular, here at Encores! we’ve done everything possible to make sure Arlen’s endlessly seductive and inventive music is heard.
"He did not have a sterling career on Broadway. Standards like 'Over the Rainbow,' 'Blues in the Night,' and 'The Man That Got Away' were written for Hollywood. But he did write a great number of great songs for musicals that were, by and large, not as great as their scores. This week, we feature Arlen on Broadway."
The famed Manhattan venue launched the series March 22, Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday, with a week of videos from Sondheim musicals. Click here to watch all of the previously released performances.