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A CurtainUp feature
Busker Alley
From one night benefit to gala CD launch
. . .and on to Broadway


There's a whole lot of strife
On the river of life,
But the one thing that carries you
through is to
Be your own person
Dream your own dreams
And paddle your own canoe.
.— from Charlie's big self-acceptance song, "Paddle Your Own Canoe."
Like Charley, its hero, the musical Busker Alley has had an up and down history. In 1969 the Sherman Brothers (best known for their Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang score) and theater and movie writer A J Carothers adapted it from a 1938 British motion picture St. Martin's Lane (released in America as The Sidewalks of London) and starring Charles Laughton, Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison. That film was actually a new version for MarleneDietrich's starmaking film, The Blue Angel, an adaptation of an early 20th Century novel. In St. Martin's Lane the professor who was smitten with a much younger nightclub performer, was transformed into a charming street entertainer, or busker. The Shermans and Carothers called their musical Picadilly. Are you still with me?

At any rate, Picadilly just lay there without a producing suitor in sight. Until 1982, when it drew some interest and was renamed Blow Us A Kiss. But it took another dozen years for the show to come closer to hitting the stage. that's when Tommy Tune became attached to the show and it was launched under yet another name, Busker Alley. With a Broadway opening set for 1995, the show went on a pre-Broadway tour of 16 cities. Alas and alack, six weeks prior to the scheduled opening night Tommy Tune broke his foot and Busker alley never made it to New York.

Jim Dale in the full dress benefit at the York theater, reproduced in the liner note for Jay Production's CD)
Tune's broken foot not only brought new meaning to the theatrical phrase "break a leg" but seemed to mark the end of Busker Alley. Until last year,! That's when the show was put on as a star-studded stage concert directed and staged by Tony Walton and starring the man for whom the role of Charley was made to order, Jim Dale. The cast included Glenn Close. But one night with Dale's Charley clearly wasn't enough and fortunately, Jay Records, a company dedicated to recording and preserving musical theater works and scores, came along to give a larger audience a chance to hear the Shermans' terrific score and Carother's emotionally strong book.

The Busker Alley CD cover
The Busker Alley CD cover
That CD is now available, complete with beautifully illustrated (from the York concert) liner notes. (Busker Alley CD ). And to add great news to good news, the CD's official launch turned out to be a double celebratory event for, with Jim Dale committed to the role, the musical will at long last make it to Broadway some time next year.



cd launch
The CD is launched with a big welcoming party on the Queen Mary (Photo: Elyse Sommer)
I was one of the lucky recipients of an invitation to that wonderful launch party on the Queen Mary. The chance to board that grand, ship and see Dale and an excellent support cast present the songs from the CD was a not to be missed opportunity. The presentation was in one of the Queen Mary's state of the art theaters and while the performance was condensed yet quite complete and thoroughly satisfying. Gregg Sherman, half of the show's musical team, not only sat down at the piano to "warmed up" the audience with a medley of Sherman hits, but joined the performers. Except for a bowler hat here and there, everyone was in street clothes and with script in hand and two screens at either side of the stage, showed images from the staged benefit concert. All I can say is that Dale was indeed born to play this part! I can't wait for the full production to finally arrive on the Great White Way.

The Queen Mary's Captain Christopher Rynd and the York gala, Cd's and Cd party's director and designer, Tony Walton, welcome the invited guests to a concert performance of the Busker Alley score. (Photo: Elyse Sommer)
Jim Dale
With Jim Dale as Charley the busker, no costumes or sets are needed to enchant the audience. (Photo: Elyse Sommer)


























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©Copyright 2007, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from esommer@curtainup.com