Today we are shifting our focus from the stages of Broadway and beyond to the stages of the previous 84 Academy Awards telecasts that have transpired to date, in anticipation of Sunday night's big, big, big show - Hollywood's hugest night. After all, this year's Academy Awards is of particular interest and excitement to theatre fans around the globe, especially because super-producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are behind it - the men responsible for the hit stage-to-screen adaptations of CHICAGO and HAIRSPRAY, as well as the small-screen successes GYPSY, LIFE WITH JUDY GARLAND: ME & MY SHADOWS, ANNIE, and, most recently, NBC's musical series SMASH, to name but a few of their many marvelous musical-friendly credits. They told me themselves earlier this week that this year's telecast would be the most music-packed Academy Awards show to date, and, just judging from the announced tributes, performers and presenters thus far it is clear to see that they were not kidding - reunions of the casts of the film versions of CHICAGO and LES MISERABLES live onstage, singing their films' most famous songs to Jennifer Hudson leading a DREAMGIRLS homage all the way to a James Bond 50th anniversary celebration featuring Adele and Shirley Bassey on some famous Bond themes, as well as EGOT (more on that later) recipient Barbra Streisand herself singing "The Way We Were" in memory of friend and collaborator, three-time Oscar-winner Marvin Hamlisch.
Plus, host Seth MacFarlane - an all-around affable personality well-known for his affection for and adeptness at musical comedy performing - shall be lending dulcet tones to a few tunes, too, including a highly-touted post-Best Picture grand finale duet with Broadway baby Kristin Chenoweth.
2012 was an especially kind year to theatre fans thanks to the worldwide smash hit status of a full-fledged movie musical like LES MISERABLES - lest we forget we also had some other movie musicals like ROCK OF AGES and THE SAPPHIRES fill our screens, as well - so we certainly have a horse to root for in this race for the only time besides 2002 and 2008, when CHICAGO and SWEENEY TODD competed for prizes previously (though only CHICAGO has scored a Best Picture nomination out of all the movie musicals this century so far; and, it won).
Yes, the 2013 Oscars will be all about the music, the stars and the glamour, so today let's take a look back at some of the most marvelous, magical and momentous Academy Awards opening numbers and performances of all time - the triumphs, the thrills, the divas, the disasters, the comedians and everything else - while we anticipate tomorrow's awards ceremony to beat the band on any coast, whether on Broadway, in Hollywood or anywhere else, for that matter.
The 85th Annual Academy Awards airs Sunday, February 24, at 7 PM on ABC.
Also, don't miss my extensive InDepth InterView with 2013 Academy Awards producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, available here.
Snow White and Rob Lowe to Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway; James Franco and Anne Hathaway (again) to Beyonce, Liza, Diana (Ross), Angela (Lansbury) and Barbra; Bob Hope to Johnny Carson to Whoopi Goldberg to, now, Seth MacFarlane - the heavenly highs and hellish lows showcased on Oscar telecasts over the last several decades, which have had more than their fair share of fine musical fare and fiery bombs, but, no matter what, the Academy Awards are always exciting - sometimes much more. And, they are always the ideal place to witness Hollywood's best on their utmost behavior, no matter what the quality of the show being seen onstage may be. In recent years, we have seen Hugh Jackman soar and James Franco flounder, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin zing and sting with aplomb and Billy Crystal remind us why we love him, while also getting a glimpse of the hosting skills of some celebrated comedians who more or less effortlessly carried the night (Johnny Carson and Bob Hope would be proud of their legacy living on through Chris Rock, Ellen Degeneres, Jon Stewart and some of the very finest among the recent comedian hosts, no doubt). Seth MacFarlane has proven he can do it all in the past - look no further than his voice work on FAMILY GUY and his solo album MUSIC IS BETTER THAN WORDS; to say nothing of his marvelous work at the BBC Proms in the last couple of years - but hosting the Academy Awards is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in all of show business. Never the less, all eyes will be on the controversial performer Sunday night to not only see if he will push the envelope and warrant the intercession of the almighty censors, but also if he can carry it all off with his trademark cool brow intact. Given his resounding success performing somewhat similar duties on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in the past, we can certainly hold onto a whole lot of hope for MacFarlane.
Now, let's turn back the clock and view some of Oscar's proudest and most "Proud Mary"-esque moments to date over the course of his 85 years.
First up, LES MISERABLES stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway create a dazzling memory to treasure with their stupendous opening number at the 81st annual awards show.
Broadway/Hollywood crossover star Neil Patrick Harris reminds us all of his fierce triple-threat abilities with his instantly classic Oscar opening number from when he amiably and ably hosted the show in 2010. Wow!
No Academy Awards performance retrospective would be complete without the most bizarre and outright ludicrous opening number to date, the infamous 1989 Snow White-led opening produced by legendary GREASE and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES producer Allan Carr. Merv Griffin singing, Cyd Charisse dancing, Snow White and Rob Lowe covering a John Fogerty anthem, with poor Marvin Hamlisch stuck arranging and conducting it all, this clip goes from weird to ridiculous to jaw-droppingly bad enough times to make one's head spin - with or without an exorcist. It doesn't get any more infamous than this as far as Oscar moments go!
Pat Cerasaro is a playwright and screenwriter currently in pre-production on his first feature film.|