March 8, 1967

REVIEW: Rodgers & Hart Today (ABC Stage 67)

It seems beyond a doubt that the concept of this network musical special - giving ultra-modern interpretation to Rodgers and Hart's great catalog of legit musical standards - was the most original of the season. The show also was the best musical of the year in execution.

Producer Dick Lewine indeed backed his idea with three of the brightest acts on today's pop music scene -namely, Petula Clark, The Supremes and The Mamas and Papas. Even The Doodletown Pipers, a mixed choral group which has made several TV appearances this year without distinction made a marked impression with "Slaughter on Tenth Avenues under the musical direction of Quincy Jones and with the backing of Count Basie's big band.

But focus properly and finally went to Miss Clark, The Supremes and The Mamas and Papas as they lent their singular and fresh stylistics - and most notable musical gifts - to the rich and abundant R&H book. This was particularly a showcase for Miss Clark, whose vocal style and projection has a firm grasp on contemporary pops along with a subtle strain of Blighty music hall professionalism. The prismatic talents of the "Downtown" girl were psyched by a few summer viewers who caught her on the CBS Continental Showcase of European reruns (where she did, among other things, a dazzling rendition, in French, of the American country and western song "Movie' On").

Bobby Darin, decked out in soup and fish, hosted, but in song only. There was, appropriately, not a spoken word in this musical hour. Peter Gennaro supplied the dance turns and they were almost nostalgic, reflecting as they did the cultural lag that is video variety today against the hipness surrounding them. Bill Davis' direction was fluid in a workable and interesting set, and the many colorful costume changes by the performers topped off a well-dressed production.

One complaint could be that, considering the endless promotional trivia that pours out of the webs these days, the network didn't put out a promo LP on this one. It would have been a waxing of lasting value.