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spotlight


THE SOUL OF RICHARD RODGERS PRESENTS:


REVEALING CLASSIC BROADWAY’S HUMANITY by joel martens


Most of you know Richard Rodgers, even if you aren’t familiar with his name, you certainly have heard at least one or two pieces of his


music. Say you’re not a fan of musical theatre? That’s okay (though it casts some serious doubts about your character), I’m betting you’ve heard Ella Fitzgerald sing “My Funny Valentine, sweet comic valentine...” or “Bewitched, bothered and bewildered...” at least once. Rodgers was more prolific than most, in his own right. But, as part of the musical powerhouse that was Rodgers & Hammerstein, they inhabited the stratosphere, giving the world classic musicals such as South Pacific, Carousel, The Sound of Music andThe King and I. Old school you say? I’d challenge you to go beyond the perceived naïveté and dig a little deeper into the soul of each before you write them off. If you look and listen carefully, you’ll see that just below the surface, there’s some pretty powerful stuff. Music that covers topics such as sexism, domestic abuse and racism, cleverly disguised by a beautiful melodic line. Songs like, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” with lyrics such as, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught...” Surprisingly relevant for some of the things we’re currently facing, wouldn’t you agree? Billy Porter has become a beloved Broadway fixture himself, at this point. A Tony and Grammy Award-winner, he has dedicated his life to


the stage and all the beauty—and power—it offers. Music is his platform and with his latest album, Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers, you will come to know what a master he is. Classic “showtunes” turned on their ear and laid bare, revealing their deeper meaning. Truth be told, the soul of Rodgers was always there, we just needed to hear it in a new and different way. Porter has a deep appreciation for his chosen platform and a mind and voice that he is prepared to use to create conversation that for some,


may challenge. In the end though, isn’t that what art is really all about? Making you feel something and maybe changing your perspective? Get ready to be enlightened.


I’m curious to know why you chose Richard Rodgers? Why not Richard Rodgers? (Laughs) Really, he was from the golden age and in the golden age, pop music was his kind of music. It was the music that was on the radio and he was one of the most prolific song writers, and the most successful. He was the Beyoncé, the Kanye West, the Drake, the Adele of his time, that’s what his music represented. That unfortunately has fallen by the wayside, so I chose him because his music was so ubiquitous and still is in many ways. Everybody knows a Richard Rodgers song, even if you don’t know that you know one, most people usually do. “My Funny Valentine,” most people in the world know that one. As a result, when you deconstruct it and take it from the classic to the contemporary and change it, people who know the original have a different reaction to the fresh arrangement and those who have never heard it before,


receive it like it’s something completely new. That’s why I chose Rodgers. How you managed to remake Rodger’s classics so contemporary is in large part due to your skill as a musician, but it was such an education to re-hear the worlds he wrote and how relevant they remain. Yes. They’ve never really stopped being timely, that’s the sad part.


They were pushing the envelope too, when you think about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, they make you fall in love with the beautiful, white, blond lady, who in the end turns out to be a racist. That’s why he sang the song “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” he was calling out the racism. We forget that, because it is so popular and we do it in high schools, though they suck the politics out of it. We manage to forget thatCarousel is about domestic abuse and the fact that the woman in the show stays with him.


34


RAGE monthly | MAY 2017 RAGE monthly


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