He’s back! On Friday, March 6th, Fred Barton will be back, yet again, with his 14 piece orchestra and cast of Broadway singers and dancers to present the cannon of another show stopping composer. On this occasion Fred will welcome Tony winning star, Karen Ziemba (2000, Contact) to the stage along with Broadway favorites, Brent Barrett and Lee Roy Reams to celebrate the work of that, “Father of Tin Pan Ally,” Irving Berlin. To celebrate, we are counting down some of the greatest show-stopping numbers from the composer’s career. Below are Berlin’s 10 greatest songs according to this blogger.
10 “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”
Berlin’s first hit song will always be one of his greatest! Written in 1911 to revive the Ragtime movement, the tune hit the the top of the charts during several of its incarnations. Legend has it that the song was played on the Titanic the fateful night it sank in 1912. It was revived several times by the likes of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Mercer and Bing Crosby. Here Alice Faye sings the song in the 1938 Fox picture of the same name.
9 “Blue Skies“
Written in celebration of his daughter’s birth in 1927, Berlin used this song to express his feelings about being a husband and father. It has been covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Judy Garland. Here, Bing Crosby sings the tune from the 1946 movie of the same name.
8 “Easter Parade”
First Introduced in the Broadway musical revue, As Thousands Cheer, Berlin’s classic Easter number has had several lives. No stranger to the silver screen the song has been covered by Bing Crosby in the 1942 Holiday Inn and was also featured on the small screen in the Rankin and Bass Easter special, The First Easter Bunny. The number is perhaps most fondly remembered in the 1948 MGM classic of the same name starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Here is their version.
7 “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”
With a winter like we’ve been having there isn’t another song that could hit closer to home for us in New York. Often replayed around Christmas time, this song has also enjoyed plenty of recordings. Here the incomparable Judy Garland sings it on her 1960′s “Judy Garland Hour” with the Count Basie Orchestra!
6 “Anything You Cand Do (I Can Do Better)”
Written as part of perhaps Berlin’s most famous book musical, Annie Get Your Gun, “Anything You Can Do…” is one of Berlin’s most notable tunes. As one of the greatest odes to showmanship, the song has sprung up nearly everywhere. In one of my favorite reincarnations, Fran Drescher sings the song upside down on her 1990′s sitcom, “The Nanny.”
5 “White Christmas”
One of the greatest Christmas songs of all time! Many remember Bing Crosby singing the song in the 1954 movie of the same title. Crosby actually debuted the song 12 years earlier in the 1942 classic, Holiday Inn. Here Michael Buble sings the song for his NBC Christmas special as a posthumous duet with a hologram of Bing Crosby.
4 “Puttin’ On the Ritz”
Few remember Harry Richman’s debut of the famous tune in the 1930 movie of the same name. More remember Fred Astaire’s show stopping version in the 1946 film, Blue Skies. However, most remember the song best as a duet between a man and his monster. Gene Wilder had to convince Mel Brooks that the song was the perfect fit for his 1974 classic, Young Frankenstein. Thanks to Peter Boyle’s brilliant delivery of the song’s title, we will never forget this incredible number.
3 “Cheek to Cheek”
One of his most romantic up-tempo songs, “Cheek to Cheek” debuted in the 1935 film Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The song has recently had a revival courtesy of a new Grammy Award winning album of the same name by Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa.
2 “God Bless America”
Written by Berlin twenty years earlier, he filed it away until 1938, when Kate Smith’s manager asked Berlin if he had a patriotic song Smith might sing to mark the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I. it quickly became the second National Anthem after America entered World War II a few years later. Over the decades it has earned millions for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to whom Berlin assigned all royalties. Here is Kate Smith’s original version.
1 “There’s No Business Like Show Business”
Originally debuting in the 1946 musical, Annie Get Your Gun, leave it to Berlin to write the quintessential show business anthem. The song has been recorded many times, spawning its own movie in 1954 featuring the woman who made it famous, Ethel Merman. This song sings for itself!
American Showstoppers: An Evening with Irving Berlin; Friday, March 6th at 7:30pm; Ticket Prices $49 | $39 | $29; Schimmel Center at Pace University, 3 Spruce St, New York, NY, 10038; (212) 346-1715 https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938583