Monday, November 29, 2010

The Many Faces of Eileen

Earlier this month, I talked about She Loves Me, a musical based on a play that has been re-adapted many times, most of which I love.

Today's featured musical has a similar adaptation record. It was originally a set of short stories, then a book, then a play, and then a 1942 movie starring Rosalind Russell, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Rosalind Russell was so amazing in the role of aspiring writer Ruth Sherwood, who is overshadowed by her beautiful sister Eileen (an aspiring actress), that some other amazing people (see: Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Leonard Bernstein, among others) decided to adapt the play-turned-movie into a Broadway musical called "Wonderful Town," just so Roz could reprise her role. Which she did, although she wasn't much of a singer beforehand. She apparently learned to sing just fine, though, because she won the Tony award for her performance.

The musical was revived in 2003 with Donna Murphy as Ruth, and I adore this particular cast recording. I know there used to be a video on YouTube of Donna Murphy (who was also nominated for a Tony) singing my favorite song from the musical, "One Hundred Easy Ways," but I couldn't find it. So I'll give you this version instead:

Other great songs include "Ohio" (I've not caught up on this season of "Glee" but I hear that this was sung as a duet with Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett), "Conversation Piece" (especially the bit about re-reading Moby Dick), "Conga," "My Darlin' Eileen," and "It's Love."

The great thing about this story, though, is that it's actually a two-for-one musical deal. In 1955 the story was again revisited, this time as a movie musical called "My Sister Eileen," but with different songs than "Wonderful Town" and a slightly tweaked plot. It featured the wonderful Betty Garrett as Ruth, Janet Leigh as Ruth, and Jack Lemmon (who sings!!!), Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse all as suitors for the sisters. Bob Fosse choreographed, which lead to this amazing dance number (dancing starts around 3:00):

I have to say that I like the 1955 version of the story best (Eileen comes off as less flaky, in my opinion, plus who doesn't love Betty Garrett? Plus Jack Lemmon in love is so sweet and adorable), but all of the versions are worth checking out, both movie and soundtrack.

(I think it was also a TV series in the 1960's—you've got to love stories that get so much mileage. Kind of like this 29-day blogging streak I'm on.)

1 comment:

Katie E. said...

Hey they're doing the Conga! This ranks among the top five things you've ever shared with me. I love it. "Which I can easily show you using a very simple chaaaart!"