8 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, February 9, 1995
Polanski's 'Baby' is lots better than bathwater
By Brian T. Armbrust
For the Daily
"Pray for 'Rosemary's Baby,"'
read newspaper advertisements in
They heralded a film destined to
become a cinematic landmark, one
that ushered entirely new elements of
evil and suspense into motion pic-
tures. Nearly three decades later, Ro-
man Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby"
still contains a tremendous emotional
impact, especially in considering sev-
eral real-life incidents that occurred
after the movie's initial release.
The story, based on Ira Levin's
novel, concerns a young couple mov-
ing into a new apartment inside The
Branford, a building with a decidedly
macabre history. Rosemary
Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) finds her
initial joy with her new home tem-
pered by husband Guy's (John
Cassavetes) increasing inattentive-
She conceives, but soon encoun-
ters the reality that the circumstances
surrounding her pregnancy are in-
deed most sinister. Nosy neighbors
Minnie and Roman Castevete (Ruth
Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) add to
Rosemary's tension, while her obste-
trician, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph
Bellamy) fails to offer any comfort.
As her delivery date nears, and as she
begins to realize the significance of
her unborn child's actual parentage,
Rosemary finds herself surrounded
by increasingly hostile company.
This is the film our baby-sitters
whispered about. "Rosemary's Baby"
allowed the horror film to transcend a
whole new level, from drive-in camp
to sophisticated drama. "Rosemary"
underscored a new curiosity in the
supernatural as 1960s America began
to gain an awareness of the occult and
hear fantastic tales of Satanic prac-
Polanski's masterful direction fos-
ters a suspension of reality, with mys-
tical events and references becoming
terrifyingly convincing. His use ofpac-
ing, camera angles, and especially
sound further contribute aspects ofcom-
pelling apprehension. Even a slightly
botched ending cannot mar the overall
effect of this film. "Rosemary's Baby"
delivers captivating and skillfully
Strong performances from Farrow
and Gordon also make this film work.
Farrow, in the role that first gained
her national attention, believably
transforms Rosemary from shy young
wife to distressed expectant mother
to lucidly intelligent fighter. She
readily persuades the audience of
Rosemary's desperate predicament of
isolation within her formerly com-
Gordon, in the role that won her a
Best Supporting Actress Oscar, com-
bines feisty chutzpah with chilling
steel. Literature and films are full of
little old ladies who hide monstrous
secrets behind eccentricity, but Gor-
don ensures that Minnie remains both
fresh and unique.
Polanski is a director who often
delves into darker themes, as is evi-
dencedby anumberof his other works,
including "Repulsion" (1965),
"Chinatown" (1974), and "Tess"
(1979). His newest film "Death And
The Maiden" stars Sigourney Weaver
as a former political prisoner con-
ducting a brutal interrogation of her
While this film in and of itself
proves its unyielding ability to shock
and enrapture an audience, two real-
life tragedies sealed the legendary
status of "Rosemary's Baby".
Barely a year after its release,
Polanski's wife, actress Sharon Tate,
herself eight months pregnant, was
found stabbed to death in Bel Air. She
was one of seven people slain by mem-
bers of the Family, Charles Manson's
cult. Tate apparently died a random
victim, although investigators initially
focused on the death threats Polanski
received following the release of
Eleven years later, the film again
made headlines, when John Lennon
died at an assassins hand outside the
Dakota, his posh Manhattan apart-
ment building. In another eerie occur-
rence, Polanski had used the Dakota
for the exterior shots of the Branford
when filming "Rosemary's Baby".
Even as students rush about Ann
Arbor, caught up in the process of
Mia Farrow, seen In "Radio Days", isthe evil's mom In "Rosemary's Baby."
finding housing for next year, they
might heed one of the lessons of
Notes the landlord of The Branford:
"Awful things happen in every apart-
Varese Sarabande breaks into Broadway
By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Daily Theater Editor
When one thinks of Broadway cast
recordings, one does not necessarily
think of Varese Sarabande Records.
But lately the label is making quite a
name for itself.
Just a few of Varese's accom-
plishments include the recent "She
Loves Me" revival recording, the Los
"Unsung Sondheim" and "Unsung
Musicals," and solo albums by lead-
ing ladies Judy Kaye, Sally Mayes,
Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, Liz
Callaway and Judy Kuhn.
These two new releases should
give Varese a big push in the show
music business, the 1994 Tony-nomi-
nated "It's a Grand Night for Sing-
ing" and the 1994 cast recording of
Since the 1994 Tony Awards, the-
ater buffs have been haunted with one
question regarding "It's a Grand Night
for Singing": Why did this thing get a
Best Musical nomination? This record-
ing is sure to sell if only as an attempt to
find the answer to that question.
And after a few listenings, I can
give a pretty sure answer: There was
nothing else to nominate.
This is not to slight the show. For
what it is, the Rodgers-and-
Hammerstein revue is quite good. But
what it is is a cabaret show - not a
Broadway musical. The show was
originally intended as a tribute to the
famed composer and lyricist in honor
of their 50th anniversary. It became a
Tony-eligible musical when it moved
to the Roundabout in the fall of '93.
The show is to Rodgers and
Hammerstein & H what"And the World
Goes Round" was to John Kander and
Fred Ebb: a plotless evening of song,
both standards and lesser-knowns. This
one isn't as fluid as the latter, but Kander
and Ebb write a different kind of song;
their songs work better out of context
than R & H's do.
Packed in are 36 songs from "Okla-
homa!," "Carousel," "State Fair," "Al-
legro," "The King and I," "South Pa-
cific," "Me and Juliet," "Pipe Dream,"
"Cinderella," "FlowerDrum Song" and
"The Sound of Music." If you know
your basic R & H, you'll know about a
quarter of the songs featured here.
Creator and director Walter Bobbie
(Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the "Guys
and Dolls" revival) deserves muchcredit
for tinkering with these classics.
"Maria," originally the musings of four
sic," here becomes the plea of a love-
lorn man. "I'm Gonna Wash that Man
Right Outta My Hair" has been trans-
formed into a jazzy trio.
The performers are all adequate,
consistently enjoyable and sometimes
quite remarkable. Each has his/her"mo-
ment": Victoria Clark delivers an amus-
ingly frantic "I Cain't Say No," Jason
Graae makes "Maria" truly his own,
Alyson Reed has fun with "It's Me,"
Gregg Edelman has a gorgeous "We
Kiss in a Shadow" and Lynne
Wintersteller sings a heartbreaking
"Something Wonderful." Edelman is
the only non-original cast member; he
replaced Martin Vidovnic on the Tony
Awards telecast and for this recording.
Nothing about this recording is
particularly outstanding, except per-
haps Hammerstein's lyrics. They are
usually so consistently rendered with
mediocrity by high schools and com-
munity theaters that it is easy to over-
look their complexity and depth. In
my book, Hammerstein's name is now
written alongside Sheldon Harnick's
and Stephen Sondheim's under the
heading, "the most gifted lyricists in
musical theater history."
That is perhaps the greatest virtue
of "A Grand Night for Singing."
If this recording doesn't bring tears
to your eyes, the letter in the CD jacket
will. Reprinted is a "love letter" from
composer-lyricist Jerry Herman to his
legendary leading lady Carol Channing,
gushing about the show in all its incar-
nations, ending with "I revere you, I
respect you and I love you!"
While Herman's adulation may
seem a bit much, consider the fact that
Channing's performance turned a hit
RECO D ' V.W 4 CWJJ OR*
OR ORDER DIRECT! CALL 1-800-709-9991 P
Carol Channing is in "Hello, Dolly."
show into a landmark in musical the-
ater history. And consider the fact
that at over 70, Channing is on a
national tour with a new revival of
"Dolly!." And that's why you'll want
this 1994 cast album.
This is the most complete "Dolly!"
ever recorded, featuring a 27-piece
orchestra and lots of bells and whistles
you won't find on the original record-
ing: the overture, "The Waiters' Gal-
lop," and full-length versions of" 1
Put My Hand In," "Put on Your Su-
day Clothes" and "Dancing," which
include all the dance music.
Channing is still herself - which,
is a good thing - in the title role. It's
interesting to compare her perfor-
mance here with the original; in addi-
tion to her singing, there are changes
in inflection and phrasing which
"Dolly!" followers will have fun pick-*
ing out. Channing's singing voice has
deteriorated through the years, but
she still has her unique sound and
Dolly's songs aren't about musicality
anyway (which is why Barbra
Streisand sounds so wrong in the role).
I echo the sentiments of many:
other musical theater critics when I
ask this question referring to
Channing's performance: Why no
dialogue? If you're going to immor-
talize Channing with this recording,
why not put in some of her speeches?
Dolly isn't a singing role, it's a comic
role, andit's Channing'sgift forcom-
edy which made her and this role so
famous. There are at least a few of her
classic lines on the original record-
ing, which makes the one fault of this
recording all the more unforgivable.
The supporting cast is quite good:*
Jay Garner is cute as Horace
Vandergelder, Michael DeVries is an
energetic young Cornelius, and Flo-
rence Lacey (reprising her role in the
'78 revival) is an exciting Mrs.
Molloy, though the fullness of her
live performance doesn't really come
through on the recording. The whole
recording has a very '90s sound --
fast, energetic and fun.
This is a classic recording, if only
because it's a testament to Channing's
greatness in this show.