The Band Wagon Star Tony Sheldon Counts Down His Favorite All-Time MGM Musicals
October 30th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Tony nominee Tony Sheldon (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) returns to the New York Stage as the inept British director in Encores! production of The Band Wagon. Adapted from the classic MGM film by Comden and Green, the musical features a fresh new book by Douglas Carter Beane and familiar songs by Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz. The Encores! staging also stars Brian Stoke Mitchell as a washed up Hollywood actor hoping to make a comeback on Broadway, Laura Osnes as his leading lady, and Michael McKean & Tracey Ullman as the show’s composer and lyricist.
This starry Band Wagon plays New York City Center November 6 through November 16. And in honor of seeing this MGM gem on stage, BroadwayBox asked Sheldon to share with us his 10 favorite all-time MGM musicals.
10. Bells Are Ringing (1960)
The last musical produced by the Arthur Freed Unit, this stage to film transfer preserves the incandescent Judy Holliday’s Tony Award-winning Broadway performance along with others of the original cast (look closely for Hal Linden as a nightclub singer) and the evergreen Styne/Comden/Green score including “The Party’s Over” and “Just in Time.”
9. Gigi (1958)
It took me a while to grow into this film. As a child I didn’t appreciate the elegance of Cecil Beaton’s design, the sophistication of the story, the romantic and witty Lerner & Loewe score, nor the stylish performances of the entire cast led by Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier. Now that I’m an old fogey, I get it.
8. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
The film that introduced Judy Garland to Vincente Minnelli, so without this movie there would have been no Liza! It was producer Arthur Freed’s personal favorite, and has Judy ever looked more beautiful in glorious Technicolor? And the final moment is guaranteed to melt the coldest of hearts.
7. On the Town (1949)
Great liberties were taken adapting this Broadway hit because Arthur Freed didn’t like Leonard Bernstein’s score and threw most of it out, pairing Comden & Green with new composer Roger Edens, but we have Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra perfectly cast as Gabey and Chip, the great Betty Garrett and Ann Miller almost stealing the movie, Alice Pearce hilariously recreating her Broadway turn as Lucy Schmeeler and even future Tony winner Carol Haney making her film debut in the dream ballet.
6. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Considered to be one of the greatest Hollywood films ever made and another jewel in the Comden & Green crown, the title song and Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” are genuine classics of the genre. Also unforgettable for Jean Hagen’s Oscar-nominated performance as Lina Lamont, whose grating voice was honed when Hagen understudied Judy Holliday in “Born Yesterday.”
5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
No explanation needed. It simply stands alone and never gets old.
4. The Band Wagon (1953)
Comden & Green, anyone? This time they even wrote characters based on themselves: Lily and Lester Marton, played by the sensational Nanette Fabray and dry-as-dust Oscar Levant. Jack Buchanan, known as “The English Fred Astaire,” plays a character supposedly based on Jose Ferrer. But Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse dancing in the dark are one-offs, sublime originals.
3. The Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
A lavish revue utilizing the roster of MGM’s biggest contract stars. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire dance together for the first time; Fannie Brice, Red Skelton and Victor Moore recreate hoary old vaudeville sketches; Judy Garland creates a gay legend mimicking Kay Thompson as “Madame Crematon.” And my personal favorite, Astaire as a jewel thief falling in love with Lucille Bremer’s dancing Princess in “This Heart of Mine.”
2. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Although not a favorite among feminists, here we have Howard Keel and Jane Powell at their peak and the finest male dancers ever collected on the screen including Jacques D’Amboise, Tommy Rall, Matt Mattox and Marc Platt tearing up Michael Kidd’s sizzling choreography. Testosterone in Technicolor!
1. That’s Entertainment! (1974)
The first and best of the MGM compendiums, highlighting the best and brightest numbers from the vaults introduced by the original stars. The first time I saw this I was so excited I began to cry during the opening credits and didn’t let up until the lights came up at the end. So I had to stay for the next session to see what I’d missed.
See Tony nominee Tony Sheldon in Encores! ‘The Band Wagon!’ at New York City Center November 6-16