The Band Wagon: Minnelli’s musical is perfect curtain-raiser to theatre’s return

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, standout song and dance numbers, a clever fusion of stage and cinema … that’s entertainment!The stage on screen: more films about theatreVincente Minnelli’s MGM musical The Band Wagon (1953) has terrific songs, including the celebratory That’s Entertainment!, and boasts some joyous choreography but one of my favourite scenes is downright funereal. An ashen-faced man staggers dazed from an auditorium, along with sombre ushers and horror-stricken theatregoers. They have just seen – and will never be able to unsee – the first tryout of an overblown Faust musical mangled by megalomaniac star and producer Jeffrey Cordova. The opening night party is a ghost town. Minnelli gives us a huge closeup of an egg to make it clear: this company has just laid one.The travesty comes about because the show’s original writers, Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray), have essentially made their own Faustian pact with Cordova (Jack Buchanan) by acquiescing to his ridiculous suggestions. The duo’s original vision was a lighthearted vehicle for their pal, seasoned song-and-dance man Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire), to play a children’s author who dabbles in murder mysteries. Continue reading...

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, standout song and dance numbers, a clever fusion of stage and cinema … that’s entertainment!

Vincente Minnelli’s MGM musical The Band Wagon (1953) has terrific songs, including the celebratory That’s Entertainment!, and boasts some joyous choreography but one of my favourite scenes is downright funereal. An ashen-faced man staggers dazed from an auditorium, along with sombre ushers and horror-stricken theatregoers. They have just seen – and will never be able to unsee – the first tryout of an overblown Faust musical mangled by megalomaniac star and producer Jeffrey Cordova. The opening night party is a ghost town. Minnelli gives us a huge closeup of an egg to make it clear: this company has just laid one.

The travesty comes about because the show’s original writers, Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray), have essentially made their own Faustian pact with Cordova (Jack Buchanan) by acquiescing to his ridiculous suggestions. The duo’s original vision was a lighthearted vehicle for their pal, seasoned song-and-dance man Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire), to play a children’s author who dabbles in murder mysteries.

Continue reading...

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