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 and Helen Goldsby performing "I Had Myself a True Love" from the 1998 City Center Encores! production of St. Louis Woman.
Below, watch Vanessa Williams sing from the 2018 City Center Encores! production of Hey, Look Me Over!, a collection of excerpts from shows that had, at that time, not yet been seen on the City Center stage: All American, George M!, Greenwillow, Jamaica, Mack & Mabel, Milk and Honey, Sail Away, and Wildcat. Here, stage and screen star Williams performs Jamaica's "Push de Button."
Vanessa Williams, who’d created such a storm in St. Louis Woman, returned to City Center to take on the role that Lena Horne had done in the original and delivered Harburg’s clever ode to modernity, “Push de Button.” #EncoresArchives pic.twitter.com/HB5X7LBsR2— New York City Center (@NYCityCenter) April 30, 2020
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.