On this day in classical music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840. Although trained as a civil servant, Tchaikovsky would become the first Russian composer whose music had an international impact. His extensive catalogue includes 10 operas, six symphonies, three ballets, four concertos (three for piano, one for violin), four orchestral suites and many works for piano. In 1891, he was invited to the United States to be part of the inaugural concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
On this day in the musical theatre: “Grand Hotel,” a musical based on the popular 1932 screenplay, closed on Broadway after a run of 1,018 performances. Its score was a patchwork affair that featured music by Robert Wright and George Forrest (for a failed 1958 version titled “At the Grand”) and Maury Yeston (“Nine,” “Titanic”). Legal issues delayed the recording of the original cast recording, one that wasn’t released until three years after the show opened. For many, it was worth the wait, although original cast member David Carroll, who was cast as the Baron, died before the cast went into the recording studio. A bonus track, taken from one of Carroll’s cabaret shows, was a reminder of the singer’s great talent. Watch Brent Barrett (Carroll’s replacement as the Baron) and Michael Jeter (the clerk Otto Kringelein) perform the joyous “We’ll Take a Glass Together.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDc9ul70kyY
Theatrical musings: Like so many shows now, “Grand Hotel” made do with a unit set. This time the design was an eye-filler. Tony Walton placed the orchestra atop the playing area (as he had done for “Chicago”), creating the hotel out of four columns supporting the orchestra level, three glorious chandeliers, the revolving front door, and four rows of eight chairs each. The chairs were constantly moved to outline subsidiary playing areas — various principals’ rooms, the hotel bar, the conference room, the roof — even, at one point, six locations simultaneously. For in recutting the show, so to say, (Tommy) Tune used a split-screen technique throughout. – From The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen, by Ethan Mordden.