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Stage-to-Film Week on WRTI's Flix@5 with Host Kevin Gordon

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Alfie film poster featuring Michael Caine, 1966

Classical Host Kevin Gordon brings you Flix@5 every weekday at 5:05 PM on WRTI 90.1. The week of August 10th Flix@5 treads the boards with music from hit Broadway musicals that became hit Hollywood films. It’s “Stage to Film Week” and we’re featuring tunes that will bring back memories and, we hope, will have you singing along! 

Monday: Oklahoma! - "The Surrey With A Fringe On Top"
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein had to start somewhere, and they started with Oklahoma! The 1943 musical was an immediate hit, ran for over 2,200 performances, won a truckload of awards, and was back on Broadway as recently as last year with music reimagined for a small bluegrass band.

Oklahoma! won a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, and an Olivier Award. In 1955, the film version starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones enjoyed similar success, winning two Oscars for scoring and sound, and was inducted into the National Film Registry. Hit after hit came out of Oklahoma! including the title song, “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’," “People Will Say We’re in Love," "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and others, which have been covered by popular and jazz artists from Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan.

Hear Frank Sinatra sing “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” during a studio rehearsal:

Tuesday: Alfie - Main Theme
Sometimes a movie’s success doesn’t depend on how big a hit the original play was. Take the case of Alfie. Bill Naughton’s 1963 play, about a British ladies man, adapted from his novel had a short run in London before it opened on Broadway. It closed there in a month, after 21 performances. But it’s not the play that most people remember. It’s the 1966 film starring Michael Caine and Shelley Winters, which was nominated for five Academy Awards.

Notable was the music, featuring jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The title song, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and sung by Cher in the American release, (the British release featured Millicent Martin asking Alfie what’s it all about.) went on to have a life of its own. Dionne Warwick’s version of it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame after reaching number 5 on the Billboard R&B singles chart and number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.

Hear Dionne Warwick sing the song Burt Bacharach wrote for her to sing:

Wednesday: Amadeus - Confutatis from “Requiem”
Everyone knows that Antonio Salieri murdered Mozart. Everyone who saw Amadeus, that is. Although there may have been some professional rivalry between the two men in real life, it was Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play that brought the idea, first raised in Pushkin’s 1830 play Mozart and Salieri, to full-blown scandal on stage.

Amadeus premiered at the Royal National Theater in London before coming to Broadway, where it won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play. Shaffer adapted his work for the 1984 film starring F. Murray Abraham as Salieri and Tom Hulce (of Animal House fame) as Mozart.

Abraham won an Oscar for his work. The film score was pure Mozart, featuring music from two symphonies, several operas, piano concertos, and the mighty Requiem. While not getting equal time, Salieri was represented with the "March of Welcome" and other little snippets, which highlight the differences between the two men. By the way, not only did Salieri perform Mozart’s work, he also taught Mozart’s son Franz Xaver after his death.

Watch the Salieri “March of Welcome” scene from Amadeus that conveys (fictionally) the source of jealousy and frustration between Salieri and Mozart:


Thursday: Chicago - "All That Jazz"
Talk about a play going through metamorphosis! The musical Chicago started out as a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. She had covered a series of crimes and criminals and wrote Chicago as a satire on corruption and the idea of “celebrity criminals."

John Kander and Fred Ebb based their 1975 Broadway hit musical on the play, and with choreography by Bob Fosse, it ran for 936 performances. It was revived in 1996 and broke the record for the longest-running revival of a musical. With a success like that, it wasn’t long before Hollywood jumped on the band wagon with the 2002 film starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

It won six Academy Awards including Best Picture, the first musical to do so since 1968. “All That Jazz” became the hit of the show, and popped up in popular culture in cover versions by Liza Minelli and Shirley Bassey, and on television in such diverse shows as “The X-Factor”, “Riverdale, and “Glee”. 

Watch Shirley Bassey sing “All That Jazz” from the 1998 television special Viva Diva:

Friday: West Side Story - "America"
It’s a little bit Shakespeare, a little bit opera and a lot of cooly-cool, Daddio. It’s West Side Story, arguably Leonard Bernstein’s most Bernsteiny composition. The 1950s version of Romeo and Juliet premiered in Washington, DC in August 1957 before moving on to Broadway a month later. It ran for 732 performances and probably would have won a Tony Award if it hadn’t been for The Music Man.

The music combines jazz, Latin rhythms, and good old-fashioned romantic melodies. When it hit the silver screen in 1961, it was as big a hit there as it was on Broadway. It grabbed 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.

In December, 2020, Steven Spielberg puts his spin on the musical with a new adaptation starring a cast of fresh faces, and one familiar one; 88-year old Rita Moreno, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in the original film, returns to West Side Story. She’ll play Valentina, a re-imagining of the role of Doc, a wise old man in the original stage and film versions.

Watch Debbie Allen’s performance of “America” from the 1980 Tony Awards:

A veteran broadcaster, Kevin garnered a wealth of experience in radio before taking the weekday classical host position from 2 to 6 PM at WRTI, where he was on the air until his retirement in March 2023.