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Remember the Tap Dance Kid on Broadway?

In New Jersey in the eighties they ran a lot of commercials for Broadway musicals. I remembered this one for “The Tap Dance Kid” because it featured Alfonso Ribeiro who I had seen on TV. The show opened in 1983 and would run for 669 performances before closing in 1985. Ribeiro left the show in 1984 and was replaced by his 10-year-old understudy, Savion Glovere. This commercial probably came out after the replacement (you can see a disclaimer at the start of the ad), but it still features Ribeoro in all his mid-eighties glory.

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Enjoy the Original Commercial for Sweeney Todd on Broadway in 1979

This commercial brings back memories of growing up right outside of New York City. Almost daily I would be his by commercials for Broadway musicals like Cats or Annie and it piqued my interest in a attending a music. When I finally did get to see one I was not disappointed.

This Sweeney Todd commercial is kind of creepy, which makes a lot of sense and would have been a lot for my young brain to process. Although I would not have known Angela Lansbury from her work in “Murder, She Wrote”, which is still years away, I would have known her from the Disney classic, “Bednobs and Broomsticks”.

This commercial is from the original run of Sweeney Todd, which has gone on to be a powerhouse — Playing around the world pretty much non-stop since its debut.

Ellen Greene

Little Shop of Horrors at the 50th New York Film Festival

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The first proper musical that I watched in my early years was Little Shop of Horrors and it will forever remain as my favourite filmed musical. For the younger me, Ellen Greene was glorious – sure, she had a very strange singing voice, and her love of dentists made her weak, but, WOW, she was really something.

Fast forward to my much older, married self and I’m still in awe of this lady and here’s why – singing after a viewing of the directors cut of the film at the 50th New York Film Festival in 2012, this is Ellen Greene singing emotionally to “Somewhere that’s Green”.

Thanks to Youtube, we can also see composer Alan Menken perform a medley of tracks, though he isn’t quite as alluring!

If you’re as much of a fan of the movie as I am, you’ll probably want to watch the full 37 minute Q&A session that has Frank Oz, Ellen Greene, Alan Menken and Kurt Galvoa talking about the film and its recent restoration. At the end of this video is a recording of Howard Ashman singing a song that wasn’t used in the final film.

Be sure to check out my previous post about the animated Little Shop series too!

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This is Probably the Best Musical Short Film from the 1960s extolling the Virtues of Karo Syrup that you are going to see Today

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This gem from 1962 is a surprisingly long and entertaining advertisement for Karo Syrup. In it, a newly married housewife, who is not thrilled with the idea of cooking, gets a lesson about how easy and imaginative cooking can be from an enchanted pot. Of course, food is just a matter of throwing together whatever two things you want and finishing it off with Karo Syrup!

We had a bottle of Karo in my family’s kitchen when I was growing up that must have been up there for a decade. I can only imagine my Mother ran out and bought it after some strange hallucination involving talking crockery inspired her to want to cook delicious shiny foods. This enthusiasm was quickly dampened by her families lack of appreciation for nice-looking hot dogs served with apple slices.

Abandon your dreams lady. All your kids want is pizza and chicken served from a bucket.

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The other Back to the Future musical

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2015 will see the debut of a Back to the Future musical at London’s West End. Bob Gale, co-writer on the stage adaptation says that he and Robert Zemeckis “…can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the film.”.

I agree, except I was sure I’d seen a BTTF musical elsewhere. A quick search later and I was right, a theatre in Hertford, England staged an “amazing new musical production featuring a real Delorean car and dazzling special effects!”.

I’m sure the West End show will be a good one, but just in case they need any help, perhaps they should take cues from these fine folk:

For more about the new ‘Future musical, take a look this recent Retroist post: 5 big questions about the Back to the Future Musical

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5 Big Questions about Back to the Future: The Musical

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Great Scott! With 2015 fast upon us, it was announced this week that Back to the Future, the 1985 megahit that led to one of the most successful film trilogies of all time, will be hitting London’s West End in time for the film’s thirtieth anniversary next year. While there are lots of screen-to-stage adaptations that flop at the theatrical box office, Back to the Future seems uniquely suited for success.

Film director Robert Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale, the original creators of the series and co-writers of the films, will be working on the book for this adaptation along with British theater director Jamie Lloyd. As for the songs, original composer Alan Silvestri will be working on the music with Glen Ballard, co-writer and producer of Alanis Morissette’s brilliant Jagged Little Pill album. But there’s even better news fans of the movie, as all the memorable songs from the film like Huey Lewis & The News’ “The Power of Love,” as well as “Earth Angel,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Mr. Sandman,” will also be worked into the production.

However, there are still a lot of things Back to the Future fans have been left wondering about the production. Here are the five big questions we can’t wait to see answered!

Who will play Marty McFly?

The fish-out-of-water role made famous by Michael J. Fox is the heart and soul of the film and so integral that the filmmakers replaced actor Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast in the film, after five weeks of filming when the movie wasn’t gelling. Fox’s role is iconic, and filling his puffy vest and Calvin Klein underwear might prove to be a tall order, but the musical’s creative team is certain to devote their energies to getting it right. We’re hoping actor AJ LoCascio, who voiced Marty in Telltale’s Back to the Future video game series, is on the short list. Not only does he sound virtually identical to Fox, but he also can play guitar!

Will the show still be set in America?

The answer to this is probably “yes,” but who can be sure? The film is incredibly popular internationally and, with the musical opening in the United Kingdom, the creative team might want to shake things up and set Hill Valley in England. Our main reason for hoping it remains set in America is mostly because it would be pretty hard to remember the speed the DeLorean has to hit to travel through time if 88 miles per hour becomes 142 kilometers per hour. But, to be honest, the idea of Biff Tannen with a cockney British accent does sound awesome.

Will there be any reference to the sequels?

The trilogy is arguably one of the best-written three-piece stories to be brought to the screen, but the first film also stands along excellently by itself. Back to the Future: The Musical is likely to be primarily based on the first film, but will there be any reference to the two successful and popular films in the franchise? The hoverboard sequences in Parts II and III make up some of the most suspenseful and fun moments in the series. While there may not seem like a lot of opportunities to bring them into the fold, there may be some opportunities for at least a passing mention. For example, when Doc Brown of 1955 is needling Marty about the future (“Ronald Reagan? The actor!”), it’d be easy to add a line like, “Let me guess, you also have portable boards that hover over the ground.”

Will Christopher Lloyd have a cameo?

If anyone from the original cast is to be involved in the musical, it should be Christopher Lloyd. Even if he isn’t playing Doc Brown, Lloyd is a veteran of the stage who has never before appeared on the West End. How brilliant would it be for him to have a cameo in this new venture for the Back to the Future franchise? Perhaps a featured role as Mr. Strickland, the school principal who labels Marty a slacker!

Will the DeLorean Fly?

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” The line is instantly recognizable as being from the film and was so influential that Reagan quoted it in the 1986 State of the Union. While there are certain to be unique challenges in recreating the effect of time travel in a performing space, we’re most interested in seeing if the film’s big finale, when the DeLorean takes off toward the audience, is reproduced on stage. Here’s hoping!

Caseen Gaines is a pop culture historian. He is currently working on a book about the Back to the Future trilogy that will be published next year by Plume. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at www.facebook.com/caseengaines and www.twitter.com/caseengaines.

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