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Classic Clip of the Week - Glynis Johns sings "Clowns&q 
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Post Classic Clip of the Week - Glynis Johns sings "Clowns&q
Classic Clip of the Week #1

Before there was Barbara...Before there was Judi...Before there was Catherine....there was Glynis Johns aka (for those of us who are a bit younger) Winnefred Banks from Mary Poppins. Johns was the original Desiree in Sondheim's "A Little Night Music", a role which won her the Best Actress in a Musical Tony in 1973. The song "Send in the Clowns" was written especially for her by Stephen Sondheim. The clip also features Len Cariou (the original Sweeney Todd) in his Tony nominated role of Frederick.

"Send in the Clowns" and "Send in the Clowns (Reprise)"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAl-EawVobY

"Send in the Clowns" is one of the most well known, beloved, performed, and recorded songs in all of musical theatre. Please discuss how you think other renditions compare to this original (or, indeed, how the original stands up to some of it's recarnations). Also, please discuss how a signature original performance of a song like this can forever shape the way a piece is performed or viewed by the public.

Please don't turn this into "I like Judi Dench better" or "Catherine Zeta-Jones was a terrible Desiree." We have threads for that on the Sondheim board. I'm looking for thoughtful discussion as to how they compare.

Let the discussions begin!

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:41 am
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Post Re: Classic Clip of the Week - Glynis Johns sings "Clow
Brock07 wrote:
"Send in the Clowns" is one of the most well known, beloved, performed, and recorded songs in all of musical theatre. Please discuss how you think other renditions compare to this original (or, indeed, how the original stands up to some of it's recarnations). Also, please discuss how a signature original performance of a song like this can forever shape the way a piece is performed or viewed by the public.


More than anythig, I think the song must never be performed out of context. Glynis Johns' rendition is as definitive as a rendition gets, and only Dench has managed to perform it in a way that can rival the original.

There are some other versions that are worth noticing, like the one of Angela Lansbury, of course.

Of course the novelty versions by Sondheim and Lloyd Webber and Krusty the Clown are worth listening to.

Most other versions are rather uninteresting, and have a tendency to reduce the song to a sappy pop tune with little regard for the text, or wrong emphasis.

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:52 am
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I disagree. I believe that there is ONE notable performance out of context that stays completely true to the song's intent while still working as a pop tune, and that is the Frank Sinatra rendition. They don't call the guy the greatest interpreter of popular song of all time for nothing.

And other than in concerts, it would be hard to say that Sinatra did this song without ANY context. Though it wasn't the "A Little Night Music" context, all of Sinatra's studio recordings were heavily conceptualized. Old Blue Eyes would plan the tone, the concept and the song choice down to an art with his team, so that every song felt essential, integral and whole. He didn't do filler or fluff albums. So if he sang "Send In The Clowns," you couldn't say "Well, this is about Desiree and her relationship with..." but you'd know it wasn't just some pretty words and a tune. You'd know the relationship, even if you didn't know the names or the location.

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:31 am
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Brock07: Are you sure that Cariou didn't win a Tony for Night Music? Because I heard diferent from one of my colleagues.

Hans: I totally agree that the song should never be sung out of context. To add to that thought, Sondheim has said that he dislikes pop versions of the song because all the context is sucked out.

Now on to my thoughts on the video. I'm not a big fan of Desiree sitting down during the song. I thought the blocking for CZJ's rendition for the song was a fluke, so imagine my surprise to see that it's always been like that (and was conceived by Hal Prince, no doubt!) Also, the little snippets of dialogue were expertly written! I've always looked down on Hugh Wheeler because of his cartoony book for Sweeney Todd, but I now view him in a new light.

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:55 am
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Apples2for10 wrote:
Brock07: Are you sure that Cariou didn't win a Tony for Night Music? Because I heard diferent from one of my colleagues.


I am 95% sure he did not win. I believe he only has one Tony, and that was for Sweeney Todd.

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:12 am
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I remember watching this clip sometime last year and being blown away! This is how you do it. Although when I saw the recent revival I was blown away by Catherin Zeta Jones' stage presence and thought she did a great job the whole way through with the direction she had been given. Granted, maybe her performance had something to with the fact that it was still early in the run and she had just come back from vacation.

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:18 am
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Apples2for10 wrote:
Brock07:

Now on to my thoughts on the video. I'm not a big fan of Desiree sitting down during the song. I thought the blocking for CZJ's rendition for the song was a fluke, so imagine my surprise to see that it's always been like that (and was conceived by Hal Prince, no doubt!) .


"me here at last on the ground
you in mid air"


also check out sally anne howes in the lincoln center broadcast. she is amzing.

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:35 am
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Barbara's version is the only one worth listening to IMO. It's the most vocally pleasing and hits all the same emotion as the other versions. Mind you, Glynnis' acting is wonderful, which is wonderful for the context of the song. But I actually have this on my mp3 player. I would never put Johns on there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghd5weu5 ... re=related

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:08 pm
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In god's name why?? I'd take Glynis,Jean and judi over barbra any day.

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Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:21 pm
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What I love about this song is that it's the iconic poster child for why acting is more important than singing in musical theatre. As theatre moves closer and closer to being completely enveloped in the kind of slick glitZ that would be more at home in a cruise ship revue, it's so valuable to hold up performances like these and remember what our priorities are in the Theatre.

Cariou is pretty painful for me to watch in this particular clip. I wouldn't want to be sharing the stage with Glynis Johns while I was having a weakish moment, that's for sure.

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Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:25 pm
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For listening purposes, I don't wanna listen to someone talk sing a song with a raspy, smoker voice. For watching purposes, maybe, for the acting choices (obviously) but I actually wanna listen to a singer sing the song, which she does marvelously. Even her phrasing is brilliant.

And I agree, Beagle. Acting is SO much more important. HOWEVER, for listening purposes, on my mp3 player/ipod, I would NEVER want to listen to Glynis. I'm NEVER in the mood to relax while listening to THAT voice.

And yes, I also agree that theatre needs to hold true to its intended purposes: to teach and please. Thank god "straight plays" are on the rise. Maybe people will start realizing the genius of true theatre.

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Jman383 wrote:
For listening purposes, I don't wanna listen to someone talk sing a song with a raspy, smoker voice. For watching purposes, maybe, for the acting choices (obviously) but I actually wanna listen to a singer sing the song, which she does marvelously. Even her phrasing is brilliant.

And I agree, Beagle. Acting is SO much more important. HOWEVER, for listening purposes, on my mp3 player/ipod, I would NEVER want to listen to Glynis. I'm NEVER in the mood to relax while listening to THAT voice.

And yes, I also agree that theatre needs to hold true to its intended purposes: to teach and please. Thank god "straight plays" are on the rise. Maybe people will start realizing the genius of true theatre.



I agree with this. Johns (and Dench, my personal favorite) act the hell out of the role and are incredibly moving in that way. To listen to it for the sake of listening to it and hearing the full voice I'd take Catherine Zeta-Jones or Ruthie Henshall's version (just not a fan of Barbara's...).

I've heard nothing but amazing things about Johns portrayal in the actual show itself, but this was the only clip I could find of her. Do you guys think she's been surpassed as the quintessential Desiree, or if not, will she ever be? (My personal answer to this is that if anyone so far has, it's been Dench, but again, I haven't seen/heard enough of Johns to make that call for sure).

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