The Playgoer: Broadway at the White House

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Broadway at the White House

In the words of emcee Nathan Lane, "We are here to sing show tunes for the president, and God help anyone who gets in our way."

And that they did.  Perhaps you heard about the free Live from the White House webcast last night (I didn't!) but if not you'll have to wait till October to watch it on PBS (probably with Elaine Stritch's, um, spontaneous rewriting of "I'm Still Here" touched up or edited out.)

Meanwhile, there's Nelson Pressley's colorful review in WaPo ("the East Room seemed to muffle dirty ol' Broadway") and the Prez's blah-blah opening remarks.  Nice of him at least to refer to musicals' historical "social consciousness."

And finally here's some related factoids:

a quick check of the White House Historical Assn. website yields the information that during the 1870s "President and Mrs. Rutherford Hayes inaugurated the musicale tradition that exists in the White House today." In addition, the site says, "during the four administrations of Franklin Roosevelt more than 300 concerts in the White House reached out to every corner of America," that the "Eisenhowers were the first to bring Broadway musical theater to the White House in an after-dinner program for Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1958," and, perhaps most on point, that "President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan joined composer Marvin Hamlisch, an alumni cast of `A Chorus Line,' entertainers Shirley Jones, Stubby Kaye, Lee Roy Reams, and the Marine Band at the taping of `In Performance at the White House,' August 10, 1988."

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