Carol J. Oja had a helluva sendoff to launch her new book on
Broadway. With a huge cast of great singers & performers, an
insightful panel and Carol herself talked about the seminal
play “On the Town”, written by Adolf Green and Betty Comden,
with music by the legendary Leonard Bernstein.
Carol J. Oja is a professor of American Studies and History
at Harvard, that little known college Jeremy Lin played
basketball at … among notable presidents and greats.
The 1943-44 Broadway play was directed by Jerome Robbins and
was literally the FIRST play ever to star an integrated cast
with 6 blacks and an Asian.
On the panel was the fabulous and funny Billy Alan Henderson
who starred in the play. She said it was the first play to
ever have black and white dancers dancing side by side.
More amazing was the critic Bostic’s review: “On the Town
revels in their mixed cast and has loads of fun doing it.
Blacks were cast as New Yorkers, not as blacks. “How far
Billy Alan stated that her sense of humor got her over many
situations as he hailed from Richmond, Virginia, “The
Capital of the Confederacy”. When asked to leave a southern
diner as “they don’t serve blacks, she replied, “Don’t worry
I don’t eat them.”
The panel also had Adam Green, son of Adolf Green and
Phyllis Newman and Jamie Bernstein, daughter of Leonard
Many people think that Adolf Green and Betty Comden were
married. They never were. They were writing partners and
very successful ones. They were part of a comedy and song
act in the Village called, “The Revuers” and had Leonard
Bernstein and Billie Holliday to work with.
They made nonsense lyrics to classical music, which spawned
several Leonard Bernstein ideas of tying classical music to
Broadway. Hence History and double hence – the Carol Oja
Billy Henderson said that the growth of an era was the
epiphany of classical music tied to song and dance on
The musical numbers were magical and kudos to the unpaid
performers ( ESSENTIAL
& others) who rocked the house. Literally. They were so
powerful, I almost fell off my chair.
The numbers opened with , “Sleep in your Lady’s Arms,” and
followed by “New York, New York a helluva Town, “ “Fancy
Free”, Lonely Town”, (“Unless there’s love, the world’s an
empty place”) and “I Can Cook Too”, a lively feminist song
by Diane Rose Beckert. She can sing – but can she really
Jamie Bernstein said the REVIVAL of On the Town is in weeks
and will have the biggest pit orchestra (28 pieces),
marrying fine music & Broadway. Producer: Kagan; Conducter:
Judith Clurman and Pianist: Kirk Crowley.
Barnes & Noble could have sold out a 500 seat theater last
night. The place was jammed and everyone there loved the
show. Hey guys – Do it again and soon.