Art, architecture, history, travel

Las Meninas 1974

European Journal Ted Gast 1974

In the summer of 1974 a group of 30 students and 3 chaperones from Ladue High School in St. Louis went on a five-week study abroad program in Europe, visiting Madrid, Rome, Florence, Vienna, Moscow, Leningrad (former USSR) and London. Here is the appendix to the journal I kept on that tour. I was 17. As I recall the cost for the five-week trip was $1200.

Diego VELAZQUEZ

Las Meninas

1656

Oil on canvas this is a really big painting. Baroque court painter to king Felipe IV, during his reign the Spanish Empire would reach its zenith in Europe, Asia and Latin America,  including Mexico. The painting tells an important story. It is the story of the court painter preparing to paint the young infanta with her maids in waiting.  You can see him and the canvas as well as all of the attendants and the girl’s parents in the background.

10’5″ x 9’1″

The Watergate crisis reached its peak as the Committee voted on July 27, 1974, to recommend three articles of impeachment: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. By early August 1974, it was evident that President Nixon did not have the support of Congress to continue in office. A delegation of senior Republicans went to the White House to inform the president that he would not survive a vote on impeachment in the House of Representatives, or a subsequent trial in the Senate.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is exiled from the Soviet Union.  His book The Gulag Archipelago can be seen in the windows of bookshops in  all of the capitals of Europe, except Russia.


http://americanhistory.si.edu/maroon/hr_frm.htm

Movies Popular in 1974

MacKenna’s Gold loser movie showing in Moscow at the time as a supposed blockbuster. Actually it was a cheap Western starring Gregory Peck and Julie Newmar and was the only American film to pass tough Soviet censorship. When I was 9 years old every boy I knew had a crush on Julie Newmar as Catwoman from the TV Show “Batman”.  Other popular movies of 1974 and The Towering Inferno, Chinatown, Murder on the Orient Express, and the Godfather Part II.  The James Bond movie of the year was The Man with the Golden Gun and Blazing Saddles was also a very Popular film. Young Frankenstein all the rage in Puerto del Sol in Madrid.


http://www.culturalianet.com/imatges/articulos/2903-1.jpg
 

http://artchive.com/artchive/D/donatello/donatello_saint_george.jpg.html
http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/musei/uffizi/Default.asp?
http://www.museum.ru/gmii/

Julie Newmar

Roma

SISTINE CHAPEL

Detail Michelangelo

Deservedly one of the most famous places in the world, the Sistine Chapel is the site where the conclave for the election of the popes and other solemn pontifical ceremonies are held. Built to the design of Baccio Pontelli by Giovannino de Dolci between 1475 and 1481, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned it. It is a large rectangle with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and it is divided into two unequal parts by a marble screen. The screen and the transenna were built by Mino da Fiesole and other artists.

The frescoes on the long walls illustrate parallel events in the Lives of Moses and Christ and constitute a complex of extraordinary interest executed between 1481 and 1483 by Perugino, Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Domenico Ghirlandaio, with their respective groups of assistants, who included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and others; later Luca Signorelli also joined the group.
http://www.christusrex.org/www1/sistine/0s-Sistine.jpg

http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/ADAM.jpg

Swiss gaurd at Vatican

The barrel-vaulted ceiling is entirely covered by the famous frescoes which Michelangelo painted between 1508 and 1512 for Julius II. The original design was only to have represented the Apostles, but was modified at the artist’s insistence to encompass an enormously complex iconographic theme which may be synthesized as the representation of mankind waiting for the coming of the Messiah. More than twenty years later, Michelangelo was summoned back by Paul III (1534-49) to paint the Last Judgement on the wall behind the altar. He worked on it from 1536 to 1541.

http://www.roma2000.it/zmusvat.html

Interior Dome of Saint Peters

http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/time-zone/europe/european-union/vatican-city/photos.htm

http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/time-zone/europe/european-union/vatican-city/photos.htm

http://www.mrfs.net/trips/2004/Italy/Vatican_City/Vatican_City.html


Vienna

I sent a package of stuff home today. I tried and tried to get the Putzfrau (maid) to understand that I wanted a box. I couldn’t think of the word in German. I finally learned the word I wanted was Schachtel.

html Diese Idee kennt Ihr vielleicht schon von Karton & Co. Kerstin (6) hat sie aus der Schule mitgebracht: hübsche, bunte Papierschachteln mit und ohne Deckel, die man für viele Kleinigkeiten oder zum Verschenken prima gebrauchen kann.

Schachtel

Ihr braucht pro Schachtel oder Deckel ein quadratisches Stückchen Papier, am schönsten bunt oder bemalt. Dazu Klebstoff und Schere.

FaltanleitungSchachtelAus dem Papierchen faltet Ihr die “Tafel Schokolade” (s. Grundtechniken). Jetzt nehmt Ihr die Schere und schneidet an zwei gegenüberliegenden Seiten die beiden äußeren Faltknicke bis zum ersten Querknick ein. (Auf der Zeichnung sind das die blauen Linien.) Jetzt könnt Ihr jeweils die beiden Quadrate neben den Einschnitten übereinanderschieben und festkleben. Wenn Ihr das an allen vier Ecken getan habt, ist eine Eurer Schachteln schon fertig.

Den Deckel macht Ihr genauso. Weil Papier ja nachgiebig ist, macht es nichts, daß Deckel und Dose gleich groß sind, man kann sie trotzdem übereinanderschieben, und sie halten auch sehr gut zu.

You may already be familiar with this idea from your school.

For each box or lid you will need a squared piece of paper, also scissors and glue… Brightly colored or painted paper works best. Fold as in the diagram.

Now take the scissors and cut two sides across from one another to the first mark (shown on the drawing as blue lines.) Fold the square-cut sides under each other and glue them. After you have done that to each of the four sides, your box is done.

The lid is made in the same way. Because paper is so pliable it doesn’t matter that the lid and the box are the same size. One will be able to stretch them over one another and they stay together very well. (trans by author TCG)

http://www.grids-bastelecke.de/html/schachtel.

Schönbrunn

Visit Empress Sisi’s former summer residence. This baroque complex contains an enchanting park, the Palm House, the Gloriette and a zoo. Spend an entire day at Schönbrunn: visit the show rooms with a “Grand Tour with Audio Guide,” admire the splendid Bergl Rooms, and stroll through the “Labyrinth.”

Vienna Schoenbrunn Palace


Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in Europe. The Habsburgs resided here the better part of the year in numerous rooms for the large imperial family in addition to representational rooms. Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is considered one of the most beautiful its splendid furnishings

http://www.wien.info/article.asp?IDArticle=3047

http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/site/publicdir/

http://www.wien.info/article.asp?IDArticle=3098

Soviet Union

Moscow Kremlin Czar Bell

Here is something I remember about Moscow. We arrived in Moscow by plane from Vienna via Domodedovo airport Аэропорт Москва-Домодедово (DME). Our Hotel was a Sputnik Hotel very drab and dreary. With a very interesting shower system. Basically you just shut the door and turned on the water, with a drain in the floor, the whole bathroom became the shower no such thing as a shower stall or bathtub, and better not take anything in there with you like a towel it would just get soaking wet. Typical of other cities in Europe the wash basin was in the room. Sputnik caters to students and Eastern Europeans so not a class of luxury? that most people remember with Intourist. This was the SU as it really was. I remember the breakfasts at the hotel large and lavish including lots of yogurt and fermented mare’s milk from central Asia. No I did not try it. I couldn’t get Roger to try it either. I met many East Germans Cuban and other Soviet allies including a man from Baghdad. I Soon realized he was closer to Baghdad than I was to St. Louis. He gave me a Post card which I still have. They were either working in Moscow or on vacation.

I will now relate my trip to the Moscow Zoo. The Moscow Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world; it is the oldest in Russia. I went to the Zoo in search of the Pandas. Richard Nixon had recently returned from China with two Pandas for the National Zoo in Washington so Pandas were a big deal. I had heard about the Pandas at the Moscow Zoo and I wanted to find them the bad news was everyone else was doing other things, so I had to go by myself. I was just 17 at the time so this was a big deal.  I even had to get special permission. I got detailed instructions and memorized the subway line in cyrillic. I even found my way back. I wouldn’t be so lucky in Leningrad.

Three years later in Belgrade as Ted D. and I had to get to the Bulgarian Embassy in a hurry.  Ted was worried because he couldn’t read any of the street signs.  I said don’t worry I can read cyrillic.

Anyway I soon got to the zoo and found many animals including tigers, monkeys and fish, but I soon found out that Chi-Chi the panda had died in 1969. I found an interesting was of communicating I drew a caricature of a panda in my notebook and showed it to a man with a little boy on his shoulders.  He drew a line across his neck made a clicking sound and said Morte!–DEAD. It was much more difficult getting information back then before the internet, especially about a closed society like the Soviet Union. There were almost no tour books and even a simple map was hard to come by.Getting our visas was also an ordeal, we filled out all our forms in triplicate and sent them in and just hoped everything was alright and that they came back before we had to leave. Susie had problems because she had relatives in the Soviet Union and she wanted to visit them in Leningrad.  She did get to have lunch with her Aunt and cousin at the hotel Astoria and it all turned out alright.

I also remember a night-time boat cruise on the Moscow River I had a nice discussion with a man from Poland, also an Eastern bloc country. This was a formative moment in my love of languages as I realized that each country had its own language.  This man spoke several languages himself including Polish, Russian, German and English.

and an Opera Boris Gudinov at the modern Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin. We visited the Hotel Rossiya downtown the largest in the world at that time, it has since been torn down. We were looking for something to eat the best we could do was some cold salami and cheese with rolls. The restaurant situation in Moscow was definitely for people in the know. We were not in the know.

I first saw the Mona Lisa at the Pushkin art Museum in Moscow. The Pushkin is the grand Art Museum of Moscow. It has copies of many of the famous works of art of the world such as Michelangelo’s David. I had the feeling that the Soviet’s were trying to pass off these copies as the original. The Mona Lisa was on special tour from the Louvre in Paris. It was on a special world tour which included New York and Tokyo. It was one of the few times the Mona Lisa has ever left Paris.

The VDNKh is the Exhibition of economic achievements it is a large fair ground in Moscow. It still exists today. We spent a morning here visiting the various exhibits on agriculture and such things. We were constantly being extolled on the great achievements of the USSR and other propaganda. I remember a huge golden fountain depicting the 15 republics in the Soviet Union. We had a wonderful guide during our stay named Alla. I corresponded with here for many years even into college. She eventually married a Englishman named Tony and moved to London. I never heard from her again. She was very interested in American literature such as Mark Twain and Edie sent her many paperback books.

The Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon

Czar Cannon Just outside Cathedral Square, you find the stunning cannon. The Czar Cannon, built in 1586. It’s considered the largest cannon in the world, sixteen feet long, weighing 85,000 pounds. It was Czar Fyodor I, Ivan the Terrible’s son, who commissioned master craftsman Andrei Chekov to cast the giant bronze weapon to better protect the Kremlin.

Czar Bell At the foot of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, rests a monument to the grand days of the Romanov Dynasty. The Czar’s Bell. It was Czarina Anna I, who commissioned the bell in 1734, a fulfillment of the dream of her grandfather, Czar Alexei. The huge bronze bell was to be the biggest and clearest sounding bell in the world. Unfortunately, before the bell was raised, it cracked in a fire in 1737. Two hundred tons of silence are all that remain.

Tsar Cannon Kremlin

Beryozka

Andrei Rublev Trinity Icon

Mind you, there was one place in Moscow where you could always find something worth buying. The "beryozka", the "silver birch" store. It was such a beautiful name, but what a shameful shop.
Stocked to the hilt with the kind of Western goods ordinary Soviet stores could only dream of, it was designed for foreigners with dollars and deutschmarks, as well as members of the communist elite.

There were guards on the door to keep ordinary Muscovites out. Tinted windows concealed the Aladdin’s cave of French cheese and Swiss chocolate, video recorders and fur coats. And all that was just 15 years ago.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/4404646.stmhttp://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~powellm/tsar.html

Moscow State Tretyakov Gallery of Art

http://www.russianartgallery.org/famous/index.htm

http://www.spiritone.com/~darren/graphics/julie140.jpg

http://www.abcgallery.com/R/repin/repin.html

http://www.russianartgallery.org/famous/ivan.htm

http://arthistory.heindorffhus.dk/frame-Repin.htm

http://www.abcgallery.com/G/gay/gay45.html

http://lucicom.tripod.com/cemetery/DSC0101.jpg

We went to the unveiling of the Khrushchev grave and tombstone in Moscow. We were among the first groups to see it. He had recently been rehabilitated and his body moved from Mongolia where he died in disgrace.

Our group would also be honored by a special party at the Lenin Library.

Khrushchev

1974 Ernst Neizvestny creates tombstone for Nikita Khrushchev at Novodevechiy Monastery in Moscow, the 970-meter decorative relief for Institute of Electronics and Technology in Moscow, and a sculptural monument “Wings” for Institute of Light Alloys in Moscow. Takes part in “Progressive Currents” exhibition at Bochum Museum in West Germany. Great Crucifixion acquired by Vatican Museum permanent collection.

Novodiechy Cemetary

http://www.enstudio.com/about_artist/

Peter the Great Confronts his Son


Russian Orthodox Church

Canonizes Last Tsar

On the eve of the Orthodox Feast, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Russian Orthodox Church officially decided to canonize Tsar Nicholas II, his wife the Tsarina Alexandra and their five Royal Imperial children, the young Grand Duchess’ Olga, Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia and the young Prince the Tsarevitch Alexei. This debate began over 80 years ago, after the family’s brutal execution at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Nicholas II and his family
Th last Czar of Russia

A little over two years ago, on July 17, 1998, Friday, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children were finally buried in the Tsar’s Tomb at Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg.

The vote, taken by the Council of Bishops during their recent meeting, for canonization was unanimous. Most of the 853 individuals the Council has canonized in the past century have been martyrs who died at the hands of the Soviets.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexy II, and roughly 150 bishops debated, once and for all, the issue of the Tsar’s spiritual life and qualifications for sainthood. Supporters of this action have long insisted that the Tsar was anointed by God and was incapable of stopping the communist takeover of Russia. Those who have opposed the Tsar’s canonization insist that he was weak, aloof and unconcerned about the suffering of his people.://www.holy-transfiguration.org/index.html

http://www.basecamp.cnchost.com/saint.htm

MADRID

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

b. 1696 Venice, d. 1770 Madrid I saw this painting at the royal palace in Madrid and fell in love with Tiepolo immediately. Below see his crucifixion from the St. Louis art museum. It has recently been removed from public view.

Painter; Draftsman

Italian

Born into a wealthy and noble family in Venice, Giambattista Tiepolo was recognized by contemporaries throughout Europe as the greatest painter of large-scale decorative frescoes in the 1700s. He was admired for having brought fresco painting to new heights of technical virtuosity, illumination, and dramatic effect. Tiepolo possessed an imagination characterized by one of his contemporaries as “all spirit and fire.”

A gifted storyteller, Tiepolo painted walls and ceilings with large, expansive scenes of intoxicating enchantment. In breath-taking visions of mythology and religion, the gods and saints inhabit light-filled skies. His ability to assimilate his predecessor and compatriot Paolo Veronese’s use of color was so profound that his contemporaries named him Veronese redivio (a new Veronese).

Tiepollo Crucifiction Saint Louis Art Museum

SLAM

Tiepolo’s commissions came from the old-established families of Italy, religious orders, and the royal houses of Spain, Germany, Sweden, and Russia. His frescoes adorn palaces, churches, and villas, and his artistic legacy consists of some eight hundred paintings, 2,400 drawings, two sets of etchings, and acres of fresco. When Tiepolo died at the age of seventy-four, a Venetian diarist noted the “bitter loss” of “the most famous Venetian painter, truly the most renowned…well known in Europe and the most highly praised in his native land.”

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%B6bling

http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=16f06j5jjb65e?dsid=2222&dekey=Giovanni+Battista+Tiepolo&sbid=lc04a&linktext=Tiepolo
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artMakerDetails?maker=787&page=1
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4508873.stm

London

When we reached London we finally found out what was happening to President Nixon, no word of his troubles reached us while in Russia all word of his troubles had been blocked out the 11 days we were in the Soviet Union. He would resign in shame the day after I got back.

Also saw an interesting protest of Cypriots on the way to our Hotel in London. The problem still exists to this day July 2008.

BBC NEWS

China’s panda ambassadors

By Kate McGeown

BBC News

World leaders might once have felt slighted if they returned from China without at least one panda.

During the Cold War the animals were given as goodwill gestures, to such an extent that the term “panda diplomacy” was coined to describe the exchange of these furry ambassadors.

Taiwan is the latest potential recipient, after China offered to send two giant pandas to the island to mark a ground-breaking visit to Beijing by Taiwan’s opposition leader Lien Chan.

But for the Chinese, the giant panda is the ultimate gift.

“The panda is China’s key cultural icon,” said Phil Dean at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“It’s a symbol of friendship and peace. It’s cute and cuddly, and sends all the right messages of goodwill,” he said.

Pandering to demand

Panda diplomacy began in earnest in the 1960s and 70s. One of the most famous examples was Chairman Mao’s gift of Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling to US President Richard Nixon in 1972.

Two years later, UK Prime Minister Edward Heath returned from China with two additions for London Zoo, Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia. Some pandas proved less diplomatic than their donors had originally intended. Ming-Ming, a female panda sent to mate with London Zoo’s resident male Bao Bao, was recalled to China in disgrace after the two fought each other and failed to produce any cubs. But despite their occasional refusal to comply with official demands, Chinese pandas have proved important political tools.

In 1964, British diplomats were so concerned about the diplomatic ramifications of sending a panda named Chi-Chi from London to Moscow that one foreign office mandarin was quoted as saying: “It may have important results in exacerbating the Sino-Soviet dispute. I can see no political objection, but you may wish to warn the Secretary of State.”

Panda fever

Eventually, so many pandas were leaving China that conservationists began to complain about the exodus.

Giant pandas are an endangered species, threatened by continued loss of habitat and a very low birth-rate, especially in captivity.

Only 1,600 are believed to survive in the wild, 1,000 of which are in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Nowadays almost all pandas exported abroad are on loan rather than donated – and often their rates are pricey.

When Washington was given Tian Tian and Mei Xiang in 2000, as replacements for its original pandas, they were on a 10 year loan and private donors paid $18m for the privilege, according to the Washington Post.

But the US was lucky – in recent years few pandas have been sent outside China, especially if they are not required for research purposes.

Of course, in China’s eyes, donating pandas to Taiwan does not amount to sending them abroad at all.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, though Taiwan’s government does not agree.

According to Phil Dean, the panda offer may work in China’s favour.

Taiwan does not have any pandas of its own, and Mr Dean predicted that their addition to the island might cause “panda fever” to set in, as excited Taiwanese flock to see the animals.

He drew similarities with the intense American interest in Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling when Richard Nixon brought them back to Washington in 1972.

Pro-independence groups on the island, he warned, would be less keen on the plan.

“It will increase Taiwan’s cultural links with China. It’s a way for Beijing to say it cares about the people of Taiwan, and at the same time remind them that they are also Chinese,” he said.

The pandas themselves are unlikely to be aware of the political fanfare surrounding their visit. Pawns in a political game, they will be merely swapping one zoo for another.

The Lindley Players present Billy

A Musical based on ‘Billy Liar’ by Keith Waterhouse and Willie Hall. Book by  Dick Clement and Ian La Francis, Music by John Barry, Lyrics by Don Black. This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd

This riotous musical comedy, based on Keith Waterhouse’s all-time classic play ‘Billy Liar’, is bound to have you splitting your sides with laughter and tapping your toes to its tunes this summer.

Set against the grim background of 1960s Yorkshire life, it tells of the dreams and lies of Billy as he seeks to escape his humdrum job, his overbearing family and his two fiancées in the search for the bright lights of London in the believe that some of us ‘belong to the stars’

http://www.theplayhousewhitstable.co.uk/events.phtml?mls.fhtml?return=&sitecode=mls

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/4508873.stm

Published: 2005/05/03 13:24:35 GMT

© BBC MMVI

BILLY (Sony Music)

Like My Sister Eileen and Auntie Mame, Billy Liar is one of those properties that has succeeded in multiple incarnations. The story of a young undertaker’s assistant who escapes his dreary Yorkshire existence through elaborate daydreams, Billy Liar was first a 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse. The following year, it became a well-received West End play by Waterhouse and Willis Hall, originally starring Albert Finney, who was succeeded by Tom Courtenay.

Story continues below

In between the TV series and the sequel book, Billy Liar became Billy, an elaborate West End musical that opened at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (where The Producers is now playing) on May 1, 1974. (This is not to be confused with the Broadway musical Billy, based on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, which ran one performance in 1969.) Ian La Fresnais and Dick Clement based their libretto for Billy on the Waterhouse-Hall play.

The lyrics were by Don Black (Bombay Dreams, Dracula, Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, Sunset Boulevard), the music by John Barry, who had already composed the scores for the London musical Passion Flower Hotel and the American road-closer Lolita, My Love. Barry was the winner of several Oscars for his work in films; he and Black had collaborated on the Academy Award-winning song “Born Free” and on the title song for Thunderball, one of several James Bond films Barry scored. In 1982, Barry and Black would reunite to write the score for one more musical, Broadway’s The Little Prince and the Aviator, which closed in previews.

Billy was a brassy, Broadway-style musical, and it took advantage of the services of top-notch American choreographer Onna White. But its trump card was its star, Michael Crawford, who had done the film versions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Hello, Dolly! but was making his musical stage debut. At the time of Billy, Crawford was a household name owing to his role on a recent BBC TV comedy series, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.”

Following the opening night of Billy, The Daily Mail wrote, “There is no magic quite like being right there when a star is born,” and that was typical of the raves Crawford received. But his vehicle was equally acclaimed: The Daily Express called Billy “the most successful British musical since Oliver!,” while The Sunday People called it “the brightest British musical for years…it’s going to hoist brilliant Michael Crawford into the ranks of the superstars.”

The success of Billy was a striking achievement for the time. While Andrew Lloyd Webber was already on the scene with Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph…, those were new-style, through-sung pieces. Most conventional British musicals of the time were short-lived, sometimes charming mediocrities, and Billy was the rare home-grown show to win strong acclaim.

Some felt that Billy Liar had found its happiest form as a musical, and that’s because Billy’s active fantasy life, which revolves around his own private kingdom called Ambrosia, was embodied in dream sequences that became production numbers, not unlike the way protagonists’ dreams were embodied in the musicals Lady in the Dark or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In the number “Aren’t You Billy Fisher?,” Billy was transformed into a Fred Astaire-style song-and-dance star from Hollywood. Later, Billy dreams he’s a pop teen idol as he leads the number “The Lady from L.A.”

Notable among the featured players was a young actress with a big voice who had already toiled in the London productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and Grease. Playing one of the women to whom Billy is engaged, the hard-boiled Rita, was Elaine Paige, who would get her big break four years later with Evita.

Billy played 904 performances, a very healthy run considering the vast size of the theatre. In 1976, the musical Billy had its German-language premiere at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. In 1991, a major stage revival starring Jonathon Morris (El Gallo in the film of The Fantasticks) was advertised but fell apart prior to rehearsal.

CBS’s London cast recording of Billy was briefly available on a Sony West End CD that quickly disappeared. With Crawford back on the London musical stage in The Woman in White, Billy is now back on CD, this time on the Sony Music label.

Circle Triangle square after Kandinsky by Ted Gast

Loaves and Fishes Original Artwork by Ted Gast

The best number is Crawford’s first solo, the song of a dreamer, “Some of Us Belong to the Stars.” There’s a strong duet for two of Billy’s girlfriends, a soprano (Gay Soper) and a belter (Paige), both awaiting the man they believe to be their fiance. It’s called “Any Minute Now,” and it allows Paige to display the enormous voice that would soon make her a star.

Paige is also heard in the pretty title trio, which adds another of Billy’s ladies to the mix. A production number, “Happy to Be Themselves,” has Billy’s friend explaining to the hero that some folk are content with their commonplace existence. When Billy thinks he may be able to escape his drab surroundings, he has the bright “Is This Where I Wake Up?”

Listeners will note that Crawford was still singing in the light, small, pleasant voice he used before pumping it up for Phantom. Billy doesn’t possess one of the better London scores, and probably falls into the mediocre-but-pleasant category. But as Crawford’s first musical, it’s worth hearing.

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13 responses

  1. JoshWink

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    August 13, 2008 at 6:17 pm

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    August 31, 2008 at 4:53 pm

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    February 3, 2009 at 4:15 am

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    February 3, 2009 at 11:13 am

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    February 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

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    February 5, 2009 at 4:15 am

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    March 5, 2009 at 3:43 am

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  12. очень занимательно было почитать

    March 27, 2009 at 6:49 am

  13. Огромное вам человеческое спасибо, очень актуальная заметка.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm

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