Rock the Oscars 2019: Carol Channing

On January 31, 1921, future “Little Girl from Little Rock” and Oscar nominee Carol Channing was born. Alas it was in Seattle.

After gaining the notice of New York critics and audiences in the musical revue, Lend an Ear, Channing achieved Broadway stardom playing fictional Little Rock native Lorelei Lee (the creation of Anita Loos) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  In this show, which opened in December 1949, she introduced the Leo Robin-Jule Styne songs “Little Girl from Little Rock” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

In 1964, she won the Actress in a Musical Tony for her second signature role playing the title character in Hello, Dolly!  Channing also earned a special Tony in 1968 for Dolly when it became the longest-running Broadway musical.

On November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium.  She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.  She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.

While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties.  She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.  But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost.  Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”

In 1993, she spent her birthday in Washington DC at a White House dinner for the National Governors’ Association.  This was the Clintons’ first official White House dinner after moving in to the residence eleven days prior.  President Bill Clinton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.  She remarked to the President that she was Christian Scientist and didn’t celebrate birthdays, which meant she didn’t get any older.  He replied that it meant the night was her first birthday (it was her 72nd in actuality).

She died earlier this month just two weeks shy of her 98th birthday.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: Leo Robin and Jule Styne

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Perhaps the most famous song about Little Rock is “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Written by Leo Robin and Jule Styne, it first appeared on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where it was sung by Carol Channing.  When the title was made into a movie, it was sung by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

Because it was not written for the screen, the song was not eligible for an Oscar.  However, the duo who wrote it had their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins.

Robin, earned ten nominations between 1934 and 1953.  As a lyricist, he collaborated with seven different composers in earning these nominations. His one Oscar came for “Thanks for the Memory” from The Big Broadcast of 1938.  In the film it was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  It would be associated with Hope the rest of his life.

Styne also earned ten nominations; his were between 1940 and 1968.  Seven of the nominations were for collaborations with Sammy Cahn.  (There were three other partners with whom he shared nominations, too.)  His win came for “Three Coins in the Fountain” from the film of the same name.  In the movie it was sung by an uncredited Frank Sinatra during the opening title sequence. During the closing credits, an unnamed chorus repeated the song.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes received no Oscar nominations, though Charles Lederer did receive a Writers Guild of America nomination for screenplay of an American Musical.  Though Jane Russell introduced an Oscar winning Best Song in Paleface (“Buttons and Bows”) and Oscar nominated Best Song in Son of Paleface (“Am I in Love”) she never received an Oscar nomination.  Monroe never received one either.  Only co-star Charles Coburn had any luck with Oscar.  He received three nominations, winning once.

Home for the Holidays with the ASO and Maestro Philip Mann this weekend

Maestro Philip Mann and the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra welcome singers Maria Fasciano and Vernon Di Carlo, Arkansas Chamber Singers, and the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band to take the Robinson Center Performance Hall stage on December 14-16.

Kids aged one to one hundred will enjoy fun holiday favorites like “Silver Bells,” “O Holy Night,” and “White Christmas,” fun selections from The Nutcracker featuring steel drums, brassy Henry Mancini arrangements and winter-themed orchestral music.

Concerts are tonight at 7:30, Saturday, December 15 at 7:30 and Sunday, December 16 at 3:00.  Because Sunday’s show is nearly sold out, the Entergy Kids’ Ticket program has been extended to tonight’s concert.

ANDERSON – Sleigh Ride
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV – Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden Suite
LIVINGSTON/EVANS arr. Holcombe – Silver Bells (Vernon Di Carlo, vocal)
MANCINI – Joy
ADAMS/Ryden – O Holy Night (Maria Fasciano, vocal)
BERLIN/Moss – White Christmas (Vernon Di Carlo, vocal)
BIZET – IV. Farandole from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2
TYZIK – Twelve Gifts of Christmas (Maria Fasciano, vocal)

~INTERMISSION~

MANCINI/Hayes – Christmas Rhapsody
TCHAIKOVSKY – Selections from The Nutracker (with the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band)
RICHMAN – Hanukkah Festival Overture
STYNE/Hayes – The Christmas Waltz (with chorus)
COURTNEY – Festival Gloria (with chorus)
HERMAN/Hayes – We Need a Little Christmas (with chorus)
FINNEGAN – Singalong

Extras!
Pre-concert happenings in the marble lobby:

  • Friday: Concertmaster Andrew Irvin’s violin caroling ensemble
  • Saturday: Brent Shires (ASO horn) leads his Hornaments ensemble
  • Sunday: Annual Children’s Fair (begins at 2 p.m.)

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: GYPSY in 2003

In June 2003, the Arkansas Rep went back to the dying days of vaudeville when it presented Gypsy.  Written by Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, this musical fable looks at the end of vaudeville and the rise of Gypsy Rose Lee.  It was directed by Rep founder Cliff Fannin Baker.

Baker said he had long wanted to do the show, but credited Bob Hupp (his successor as the Rep’s Producing Artistic Director) with figuring out a way to make it happen.

Mary Robin Roth took on the role of Mama Rose. She had previously played Miss Hannigan in Annie at the Rep.  Broadway vets Trista Moldovan and Joyce Chittick played Rose’s daughters Louise and June. In real life those grew up to be Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc.  Others in the cast of approximately 30 included John Kudan, Nicholas Dromard, and Steve Wilkerson.

The creative team included Mike Nichols (scenery), Margaret A. McKowen (costumes), David Neville (lighting) and M. Jason Pruzin (sound). Ron Hutchins choreographed, and Eric Alsford was the musical director.

Even before opening night, the production was extended a week and ended on July 6 instead of June 29.

Rock the Oscars: Carol Channing

On January 31, 1921, future “Little Girl from Little Rock” and Oscar nominee Carol Channing was born. Alas it was in Seattle.

After gaining the notice of New York critics and audiences in the musical revue, Lend an Ear, Channing achieved Broadway stardom playing fictional Little Rock native Lorelei Lee (the creation of Anita Loos) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  In this show, which opened in December 1949, she introduced the Leo Robin-Jule Styne songs “Little Girl from Little Rock” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”   In 1964, she won the Actress in a Musical Tony for her second signature role playing the title character in Hello, Dolly!  Channing also earned a special Tony in 1968 for Dolly when it became the longest-running Broadway musical.

On November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium.  She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.  She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.

While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties.  She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.  But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost.  Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”

In 1993, she spent her birthday in Washington DC at a White House dinner for the National Governors’ Association.  This was the Clintons’ first official White House dinner after moving in to the residence eleven days prior.  President Bill Clinton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.  She remarked to the President that she was Christian Scientist and didn’t celebrate birthdays, which meant she didn’t get any older.  He replied that it meant the night was her first birthday (it was her 72nd in actuality).

Rock the Oscars: Leo Robin and Jule Styne

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Perhaps the most famous song about Little Rock is “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Written by Leo Robin and Jule Styne, it first appeared on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where it was sung by Carol Channing.  When the title was made into a movie, it was sung by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

Because it was not written for the screen, the song was not eligible for an Oscar.  However, the duo who wrote it had their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins.

Robin, earned ten nominations between 1934 and 1953.  As a lyricist, he collaborated with seven different composers in earning these nominations. His one Oscar came for “Thanks for the Memory” from The Big Broadcast of 1938.  In the film it was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  It would be associated with Hope the rest of his life.

Styne also earned ten nominations; his were between 1940 and 1968.  Seven of the nominations were for collaborations with Sammy Cahn.  (There were three other partners with whom he shared nominations, too.)  His win came for “Three Coins in the Fountain” from the film of the same name.  In the movie it was sung by an uncredited Frank Sinatra during the opening title sequence. During the closing credits, an unnamed chorus repeated the song.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes received no Oscar nominations, though Charles Lederer did receive a Writers Guild of America nomination for screenplay of an American Musical.  Though Jane Russell introduced an Oscar winning Best Song in Paleface (“Buttons and Bows”) and Oscar nominated Best Song in Son of Paleface (“Am I in Love”) she never received an Oscar nomination.  Monroe never received one either.  Only co-star Charles Coburn had any luck with Oscar.  He received three nominations, winning once.

Arkansas Heritage Month – “Little Rock” Songs

Monroe RussellThe Capital City has popped up in a variety of songs in different genres over the years.  Today we look at five notable instances.

Collin Raye’s 1994 song “Little Rock” peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Country charts and was Number 14 for the entire year.  Found on Raye’s album Extremes, it was written by Tom Douglas.  The song centers on a man who is trying to rebuild his life after battles with alcohol have affected his marriage.

Notable lyric: “I think I’m on a roll here in Little Rock.”

 

Hayes Carll’s take on Arkansas’ capital is also known as “Little Rock.” It was his title track from the 2005 album.  It tells the tale of a man who has traveled all over the US and is excited to make it back to Little Rock. With a driving country-rock beat, it typifies Carll’s style of music which has one foot squarely in both camps as a singer-songwriter.

Notable lyric: “All of my life I’ve tried to find/ “a piece of this earth for my peace of mind.”

 

Leo Robin and Jule Styne wrote the 1949 song “Little Girl from Little Rock” for their Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Introduced by Carol Channing, it told of quintessential 1920s vamp Lorelei Lee’s rise from “the wrong side of the tracks” to Manhattan’s elite neighborhoods.  It has remained part of Channing’s repertoire in nightclubs and concerts.  In 1953, it was retooled with sanitized lyrics and made into a duet for Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the film version of the musical.

Notable lyric: “Then someone broke my heart in Little Rock/and I up and left old Arkansas.”

 

Little Rock has also appeared in several “List songs” including “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Originally written with Australian place names in 1959, it was adapted to North American places in 1962 by Hank Snow. Arkansan Johnny Cash recorded it in 1996.

Little Rock appears in the second verse: “Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,”

 

Billy Joel’s 1989 “We Didn’t Start the Fire” contains three references to Little Rock. In the first section’s look at 1949, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific is mentioned.  With a heroine from Little Rock, this musical was the most popular show on Broadway during the 1948-1949 and 1949-1950 Broadway seasons.  The second comes in the 1953 portion with “Rockefeller” which referenced playboy Winthrop Rockefeller’s abandonment of New York City for Arkansas. He had residences in both Little Rock and on Petit Jean Mountain. The final entry came in 1957, when Joel references the Central High integration crisis with the lyric “Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac, Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge on the River Kwai.”