Monday, July 25, 2011

Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here: A Celebration of Barbara Harris and Beth Glover!

"The reward for success in St. Paul is eviction."
-Barbara Harris

Happy Monday!

It's a new day, a new week, a new era, and the last week of July! Where has this year gone? Time is fleeting, Life is fleeting, and careers are a fleeting thing. Today is the birthday of one of my favorite actresses. I also feel that she is one of the most under rated actresses. I still don't understand why she left the business. I know that I'm not alone in my love for her. I would venture to say that if you were to conduct a poll on your favorite Broadway stars that Barbara Harris' name would not come up. Not because she doesn't deserve to, but rather, because people may not remember her. Well today, Barbara, I'm changing that! I'm here to say I LOVE YOU...and today, I am celebrating YOU!
Barbara Harris is 76 today.

I found another blog celebrating Barbara Harris.

Barbara Harris (born July 25, 1935) is an American actress who was a Broadway stage star and later became a film actress. She appeared in such films as A Thousand Clowns, Plaza Suite*, Nashville, Family Plot, Freaky Friday, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Grosse Pointe Blank. Harris has won a Tony Award and has been nominated for an Academy Award and received four Golden Globe Award nominations.

*Neil Simon adapted his play for a 1971 film starring Walter Matthau, Stapleton, Barbara Harris, and Lee Grant, but he was unhappy with the outcome. He felt the conceit of one actor playing the lead role in all three acts worked on stage but not on screen, especially if the actor was Matthau, whom he felt was the right choice only for the beleaguered father-of-the-bride, Roy Hubley.

Generally, Barbara Harris, along with Elaine May, are acknowledged as the pioneering women in the field of improvisational theatre.

Harris was born in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of Oscar Harris, an arborist who later became a businessman, and Natalie Densmoor, an accomplished pianist. She began her stage career as a teenager at the Playwrights Theatre in Chicago. Her fellow players included Edward Asner, Elaine May and Mike Nichols.
(Elaine May pictured here with Walter Matthau in A NEW LEAF)

Barbara Harris was also a member of the Compass Players, the first ongoing improvisational theatre troupe in the United States, directed by Paul Sills, to whom she was married at this time.Though the Compass Players closed in disarray, a second theatre opened by Sills called The Second City opened in Chicago in 1959 and attracted national attention. Despite Sills and Harris having divorced by this time, Sills cast her in this company and brought her to New York to play in a Broadway edition at the Royale Theater, opening on September 26, 1961. For her performance in this, she received her first Tony Award nomination.
She earned a nomination for the 1966 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965), a Broadway musical created for her by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane. She starred as "Daisy Gamble", a New Yorker who seeks out the help of a psychiatrist to stop smoking. Under hypnosis, the apparently kooky, brash, and quirky character reveals unexpected hidden depths. During her hypnotic trances, she becomes fascinating to the psychiatrist as she reveals herself as a woman who has lived many past lives, one of them ending tragically. While critics were divided over the merits of the show, they praised Harris' performance. The show opened on October 14, 1965 at the Mark Hellinger Theater and ran for 280 performances, earning a total of three Tony nominations. Harris performed numbers from the show with John Cullum on The Bell Telephone Hour - The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, broadcast on February 27, 1966 (Seen above)

As these things go, when it was made into a motion picture, it was a different Barbara, this time with a missing "a", who got the movie!

Another Big Hit for Barbara was THE APPLE TREE

Another Broadway musical created for her, this time by the team of composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick*, known best for Fiddler On the Roof. The show, in which Harris co-starred with Alan Alda and Larry Blyden was directed by Mike Nichols, opened at the Shubert Theater on October 5, 1966 and closed on November 25, 1967.
The show was based on three tales by Mark Twain, Frank R. Stockton, and Jules Feiffer and Harris starred in all three. She played Eve in Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve, a melodramatically campy temptress in The Lady and the Tiger, and two roles in Jules Feiffer's Passionella. She was the adorably forlorn, soot-stained nasal-congested chimney-sweep who wants only to be "a beautiful glamorous movie star, for its own sake", and, by virtue of an instantaneous costume-change, the huge-bosomed, gold-gowned, blonde bombshell of a movie star she always dreamed she'd be.[citation needed] Richard Watts Jr. of the New York Post wrote "[t]here are many high triumphs of the imagination in the vastly original musical comedy ... but it is Miss Harris who provides it with the extra touch of magic". Walter Kerr called her "the square root of noisy sex" and "sweetness carried well into infinity".
Harris captured the 1967 Tony for Best Actress in a Musical as well as Cue Magazine's "Entertainer of the Year" award. Of her friend and colleague Mike Nichols, she said in 2002, "Mike Nichols was a toughie. He could be very kind, but if you weren't first-rate, watch out. He'd let you know."

*Harnick began his career writing words and music to comic songs in musical revues. One of these, "The Merry Minuet", was popularized by the Kingston Trio. It is in the caustic style usually associated with Tom Lehrer and is sometimes incorrectly attributed to him.

Having made several TV appearances, Barbara Harris was in episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock" and "The Middle Ages".

Years later, she would work with Hitchcock again in "Family Plot".

Read more about Barbara Harris on Wikipedia.

Barbara, I LOVE YOU and I miss seeing you! Come back to me!

I want to acknowledge another wonderful blonde's birthday that I had the pleasure of doing stock with several years ago, Beth Glover!
I consider Beth one of the greatest actresses I have ever worked with or seen. She's always working. I worked with Beth in a Burlesque Show at The Hampton Playhouse in 1998.
She also wrote her own one woman show years ago called "Impaled On A Magnolia" BRILLIANT! Touching and funny about her southern pageant days. I wish she would bring this show back. I was also lucky enough to see her as Mona Kent in DAMES IN SEA years later at the now defunct Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack. She is a great actress and I love Happy Birthday, Beth Glover!

Originally from Mississippi, feels she is now a New Yorker (reached the 20 yr mark!). You can take the girl outa the South, but you cain't take all the South outa the girl. Beth still gets all school-girl excited when she stops and takes in New York City for all it is. Don't want to ever stop learning. Want to stay curious 'til the day she dies. Beth is the mother in this trailer!

On Saturday, my blog was about Summer Stock Theatre memories. Well, Beth happens to be appearing at a summer stock theatre now and a review of the show that she is appearing in came out today!

Living Together is running at the Depot Theatre in Westport through August 7. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

Alan Ayckbourn’s romantic comedy LIVING TOGETHER is part of his trilogy of plays, THE NORMAN CONQUESTS.
Two seasons ago the Depot mounted ROUND AND ROUND THE GARDEN, actually the sequel to this production. Set in an English country home in 1974, the plot centers around Norman and his escapades with both Annie, who lives there caring for her mother and Sarah, who’s married to Annie’s brother Reg and finally with his wife Ruth, Annie’s sister. Then there’s Tom, a socially inept veterinarian who is smitten with Annie. This family is not so much dysfunctional as it is overactive, especially when Norman’s around.

Those of you who saw the 2009 production will recognize the actors, as they’re back playing the same roles, with the exception of Norman. You may also recognize Jean Brookman’s fun 70s costumes. How could you forget Norman’s toque? Miss Brookman has also designed the comfortable living room set with a very significant rug and French doors leading into the garden. Gary Burlew has done a nice job with the lighting.

What separates the men from the boys in playwrighting is Mr. Ayckbourn’s ability to write a very funny sex farce that also features three-dimensional characters. As Sarah, Sandy York is so tightly wound she’s like a walking fingernail on a blackboard. Caroline Treadwell’s Annie has an air of vulnerability but also a contrasting air of strength, combined with occasional dithering. In other words, she’s human.

As the near-sighted Ruth who refuses to wear her glasses, Beth Glover holds attention by simply reading a magazine.

Her scenes with Norman reveal her quick tongue and cynicism, but also her vulnerability.

Marshall York’s Reg, all elbows and knees, is very funny and oddly touching explaining his game, while Scott Shafer’s Tom is the very model of someone who can’t ever quite catch on or up. Their knock-knock joke scene together is hilarious.

James Patrick Nelson gives us a charming and manic Norman. He’s very good in the drunk scene and has a terrifically believable and infectious stage laugh. He says he wants to make everybody happy and has a joyously lustful way of going about it.

John Christopher Jones has done a fine job of directing. He’s an expert at staging Norman’s grappling and I loved the struggle to get Norman into a chair. He’s also helped his actors keep the characters believable. I’m not going to quote funny lines, since it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. It’s amazing how much comic mileage the actors get from “Mmm” and “Ahhh.”

LIVING TOGETHER, like all Ayckbourn’s plays, is characterized by interesting characters and good writing, on top of which it’s very funny. Chortling your way through it is a delightful way to spend a summer evening. If you’re lucky a train will go through and give Norman a chance for an ad lib.

As we left I asked my companion if she thought it was a five. I got an immediate and emphatic “Yes!” I happen to agree so, on a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of LIVING TOGETHER gets five boxcars. -
Connie Meng.

The Depot Theatre's historic building is a functioning train station built in 1876, so journeys with The Depot Theatre are both literal and figurative. Our theatrical journeys require no passport or baggage, just your willingness to sit in a comfortable seat in an air conditioned room while their professional artists dazzle you with story, dance and song. If you are in the area, go see Beth Glover and wish her a happy birthday for me!

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  1. This is most timely as I am in The Apple Tree at the moment. Many of our performers don't know Miss Harris and her work so I have been filling in the bits and pieces as I get them. She never really liked performing. She liked the process of it but doing the same thing every night bored her. John Cullum said that during performances of "On A Clear Day...", he was terrified because he never knew from night to night what she was going to do. It certainly kept him on his toes. I understand that now she is teaching both acting and improve.