Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two from Eubie!

Wherein cast album from 1978

update: Changed to 25 because I saw this on the Showtime broadcast -- same cast -- from 1981/82.

And a October 2, 1978 review from Time magazine, Hot Feet, Vamps and Ragmatazz:
Had the score been published when it was originally composed, people might first have gone wild about Eubie in 1899 when he wrote Charleston Rag. In that selfsame year Scott Joplin turned out Maple Leaf Rag. Eubie had an unlikely background for a composer. The son of ex-slaves, he had dropped out of school at 15. He was the only one of eleven children to live to maturity. Ragtime was regarded as indecent music; his mother never permitted him to play it in the house. Initially, Eubie toured the vaudeville circuit with Singer Noble Sissle. In 1921, with Sissle as lyricist, the pair scored a national breakthrough with Shuffle Along, the first Broadway musical ever to be produced, directed, composed and performed solely by blacks.

Through an interesting process of historical change, Eubie! probably owes its existence to the current vogue for all-black musicals. Ironically, where a Shuffle Along, a Blackbirds of 1930 or a Chocolate Dandies (two other shows for which Eubie wrote the music) were intended for all-white audiences, the current production courts black playgoers. As a measure of heightened self-esteem and possibly amused self-parody, blacks are now willing to admit that they can be superb singers and dancers — something that was regarded as a condescending racial stereotype in the '60s.

They are certainly singing and dancing with gut-lusty abandon in Eubie! If the twelve members of the cast were sent to Washington, they could undoubtedly resolve the energy crisis in two hours. Yet as a musical revue without a narrative line or cohesive theme, Eubie! ranks as a mini-clone of Ain 't Misbehavin '. That is not too difficult to understand, since Fats Waller's musical imagination was richer than Blake's in wit, satire and sophistication. Eubie! is thoroughly entertaining and unerringly professional, but it bubbles more often than it blazes.

The magnetic high spots of the show are provided by the brothers Gregory and Maurice Hines, whose feet are tap-dancing marvels of percussive precision.

Lonnie McNeill brings an urbane elegance and a honeyed tongue to In Honeysuckle Time. Sex becomes a four-letter word when musky-voiced Lynnie Godfrey smolders through such numbers as Daddy and I'm Craving for That Kind of Love. Looking like an iridescent flapper from the '20s, Ethel Beatty makes Memories of You a heartbreak blues. Just about the entire cast puts sizzling bawdy English into If You've Never Been Vamped by a Brownskin, You've Never Been Vamped at All. Miss Aggie apparently taught Eubie more than he could ever forget.


Blogger justkim said...

It sounds like you're really enjoying the album. I wish it were more easily available. Maybe one of the smaller labels will resurrect it someday.

9/20/2007 06:36:00 PM  

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