Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! This month, we’re paying tribute to Irving Berlin, who was born 135 years ago — on May 11, 1888! One of the most prolific contributors to the Great American Songbook, the mighty Berlin provided Broadway with some of its finest scores, including the classic Annie Get Your Gun (1946), written for the towering Ethel Merman.
Thanks to cast recordings and TV performances, we’ve all been able to hear the “Queen of Broadway” sing the terrific songs that Berlin wrote especially for her as Annie Oakley. But one of the finest depicters of this iconic sharpshooter — who stepped into the role as a replacement during the 1999 Broadway revival and thus didn’t get to record an album (only two singles) — is Reba McEntire, the “Queen of Country.” McEntire’s powerful twang and way around a comic line made her a natural for the part, and she earned glowing reviews. In fact, it’s a shame that no formal memento was issued of her performance… well, at least not officially. That is, for subscribers who comment below to alert me of their private, non-commercial interest, I’m offering access to a live 2001 audio of Reba McEntire as Annie Oakley, doing justice to Irving Berlin’s beautiful score. Here’s a sample — “Moonshine Lullaby.” Enjoy!
Come back next month for another musical treat! And stay tuned tomorrow for more Ellen!