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Film and the Arts

Actor Turned Director Diego Luna Celebrates "Cesar Chavez"

Photo by B. Balfour

Born on December 29, 1979 in Mexico City, Diego Luna Alexander lost his mother in a car accident when he was only two. So Luna became immersed in his father's passion for entertainment as Mexico’s most acclaimed living theatre, cinema and opera set designer. From an early age Luna began acting in television, movies and theater. Once he achieved international recognition, he expanded his resume to include writing, producing and directing as well.

This producer-actor-director’s full bio includes such highlights as big budget sci-fi thriller Elysium (2013),  the Oscar-nominated Milk (2008), Tom Hanks starrer The Terminal (2004), and provocative Y Tu Mamá También (2001). But his most recent directorial effort Cesar Chavez not outlines a slice of the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer’s life (powerfully played by Michael Pena) but also chronicles the birth of a modern American labor movement. The film also tells the story of a man torn between family duties as a husband and father and his commitment to the fight for a living wage for farm workers. 

Passionate but soft-spoken, Chavez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in this struggle to bring dignity to his community and disenfranchised people in general. Chavez inspired millions of Americans who hadn’t worked on a farm or been to California to fight for social justice. His journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one person’s ability to change the world.

Buttressed by two incredibly strong women — wife Helen (America Ferrara) and Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson) — Chavez presciently foresaw the impact the Latino American community would have on this country as he drew attention to this long disenfranchised sector.

chavez posterQ: Once you got this idea, how long did it take you to do this film? 

DL: At the beginning I didn’t know I had to do it; I would’ve quit had I been told this was going take four years and a half of my life. When I started I thought, “Wow, it’s amazing that there’s no film about Cesar Chavez. But this is so powerful and comes in time for many reasons, and  since this community’s growing, everyone’s going to want to do this film.” 

I went out and started shopping as is done with films. You go to studios and sit down with executives and everyone gave us a chance to sit down which sounded like, “Okay it’s happening,” then they said, “Wow, this is great, we love that you’re doing this, we’re not going to join but once you have a film, come and show it to us and probably we’ll be part of it,” and we’re like, “No! We need the money to do it!” 

It’s not like I’m just going out and doing it. I heard things like, “Can you make it more sexy?” and I was like, “How can I make it more sexy? If it was sexier, farm workers would probably be living a different reality today.” 

They said, “What about A-List actors? Can you have Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem in it?” And I’m thinking, the man existed, there are pictures, there’s murals! You cannot just say, “Well now it’s just going to look like something else…” This is about a Mexican-American, a guy who was born in Arizona. Anyway, we found no support in this country. But by that point, I promised the family that I was going to deliver a film.

I promised that it was happening and then invested a year of my life into it at that point. We were working on the script with Keir Pearson, so I said to my partner Pablo Cruz, “Let’s go to Mexico and finance it the way we do in film.” 

We went to Mexico and in a week and a half we found the money. At least 70% that allows the comeback for the other 30%. Then we came back and found the perfect partners, Participant Media and Pantelion Films, two different kind of film [studios], but they’re both doing films that would be perfect for this market — one that we’re trying to prove exists. That’s how everything started in terms of putting it together. 

We wanted to come to the States and open a company and office here, so we said that we have to do a film that mattered on both sides of the border. It would allow us to work here but still do stories that connect us with where we come from and the community we belong to, to the point that my son who was born here, in the States, so he’s knows he’s a Mexican-American. In fact, he had an American passport before the Mexican one.

In a way, this was an attempt to tell a story that he would be able to use to find out where he comes from and what needed to happen for him to be where he is at the moment. That’s how everything started.

Q: Do you hope this film will change society’s perception of Latinos and the issues that concerns this community?

DL: There’s something that’s happened here before which is that all us Latinos, we have to learn from these guys that if we organize, if we’re united, we have the strength to change the world. That’s definitely a reality, because I don’t think we’ve been so well organized since then. Yes, there’s a lot of complaints that we have to this country, as a community, but I would start looking at ourselves in the mirror and [ask] why we haven’t done [anything]? 

We have a chance to send that message on the opening week, March 28th, which is, “We want these films to be out. We want our stories to be represented. We want our heroes to celebrated in film.” 

There’s two things that matter here. As Cesar said and showed us, one is that our strength is in our numbers, and they’re growing. So I don’t know why we, as a community, haven’t experienced that feeling of power [that] we actually have in hand. The other is that the film confronts you, not just us Latinos, but everyone in this country, with a reality that’s very uncomfortable, that today in the fields, the conditions still aren’t great. 

The struggle continues and consumers have also not been aware of what they’re part of when they buy a product since then. The amazing thing they did as a community, is that they connected with consumers, the rest of America, a community they didn’t think they had a connection with. They found a way to say, “Our story matters to you.” 

When you buy a grape, you’re supporting child labor. Moms listened to that, when a mother was in a store in Chicago, she found a farm worker saying, “When you’re buying that product, you have to remember that behind that product is the work of my six year-old. ” 

Mothers stopped buying grapes. So it’s about connecting, finding out what connects us, not what separates us. I think that’s a beautiful message about the film, and that applies not just for America, but for the world. It’s a nonviolent movement that said it’s about the responsibility of knowing we’re not here alone. The work of many has to happen so we can experience the life we have. It’s just being aware of that — that’s what matters. 

Q: Was it tough for actor Michael Peña to have this on his shoulders?

DL: I was walking coming with Rosario from having lunch, and she told me, ”It’s unbelievable how much Michael changed for this role. He’s just nothing close to what he portrayed here.” 

I always told him, “Michael, we have to be aware. We cannot do the Hollywood way, you know? We cannot say suddenly that Cesar was a great speaker, and the Martin Luther King kind of leader.” 

But he wasn’t. He was very humble and timid. As a result of the amount of urge he had for change to happen, he had to become the leader. If he would’ve had a chance to stand back and stay behind, he would have done it. He was a great listener. 

That’s why he could organize these people, because he came and took the time to listen to everyone’s story. This is a community that has been ignored for so long, that suddenly someone arrived that cared about their story and said, “Your story matters.” 

In fact, Mark Grossman, who traveled a lot through rallies and was Cesar’s PR person — he wrote the speeches for him — was very close to him and we worked a lot with him. He told me [that] the rallies were painful because he would stay until nine, 10 pm, and people left, and he was still talking to a woman in the back. He had time, he nothing else to do but this, and everyone realized he was giving his life. We have to remember, this is a man that got out of living in the city. He changed his life, he was wearing a suit, he had a job. But he said, “No, we have to go back to the fields, we have to change things from the inside. It’s not going to come from the outside.” 

He went back and sacrificed not just his reality but the reality of his family. I love when Fernando asks, “Who plays in Delano? You’re not taking me to a place that doesn’t have a major league baseball team, right?” And [Cesar] goes, “Yeah, we’re all going to sacrifice here, and we’re all going to go back to where we come from.” 

Q: You showed how he sacrificed his relationship with his older son. You spent more than four years working on this movie. How much did it affect your relationship with your own children?

DL: It does, it does. I’ve never had to go so far as he did. I was in Chicago on Friday, took the red eye, spent Saturday and Sunday with my kids, and I’m here on Monday. I would never give away the weekend, and stay for another interview. I think that’s what makes him heroic. I don’t know if I would be able to go that far. 

Q: How old are your kids now?

DL: Five and three. I don’t know if I would be able to go that far. These guys left for months. Besides everything we’ve talked about, the film is about a father and a son. To me, the reflection I’m making here is [that] there’s a sacrifice we fathers do. I did not understand until I had a baby. It changed the way I looked to my father. When I had a baby, I went back and said, “Damn, dad. You’ve done all of this?” 

My mother died when I was two, so my father had to play both roles and work and it’s that very unfair part of life where you know you have to do it. I do film because of my kids, I think about them every moment of my life. Every decision I make, they’re involved. Probably, they won’t know this until they have their own. 

That’s the gap that sometimes... Hopefully in life you have the time to bring it back together, but not many times it happens. For these characters, it took a long a long time. They had eight kids. Dolores Huerta had 11 kids. Imagine that and they managed to do all this as well. 

Q: Was it a conscious choice that you avoided his childhood? 

DL: The first script I got, [went] from the day he was born until the day he died. You can do that in a fictional film, it doesn’t matter, but with the life of someone I think that’s very unfair. It’s impossible in an hour and 45 minutes to tell of someone’s 64-year journey. I thought, “I’m going to concentrate in one achievement.” 

That’s the boycott was to me. I said, “If I can explain how the boycott happened, and why the boycott happened, and what [it brought] to the community, I’ll be sending the right message.” 

I didn’t want to do a film just about this community. I wanted to do a film about how this community managed to connect with the rest of the country. Because to me, the powerful message here is that if change ever comes, it’s because we get involved and we people connect with others. 

We find those who are out there and what connects us with them. So to me, that was the thing I wanted to focus on -- the personal struggle of a father. It’s the first film done about Cesar and the movement, so it’s unfair to ask one film to fill the gap of so many years where there was no film talking about it. Because if I was here, and there were another three films, I could focus in on a specific thing that none of the other films [did], but you cannot ask a film to tell everything that hasn’t been told. Hopefully this will [stimulate] curiosity and awareness so that people will go and investigate a little more about who they are and what’s behind them. 

Q: Why was the movie shot in Mexico instead of where the events happened? Did that have to do with where you found the money? Being a movie about a syndicated movement, with the actors’ unions very strong here, don’t know how it is in Mexico, but how much of the actors and the crew were unionized?

DL: We shot in Mexico because of two reasons. One, the film was financed in Mexico, so a lot of the financing came as support. We first went to California, but even if we would have shot in the States, we would not have shot in California, because the actual places have changed dramatically since the ’60s. So you cannot shoot there, you’d have to recreate the [conditions]. 

We found in Sonora that the fields there have that immensity. Sonora is the state that produces 80% of the table grape of Mexico. Mexico is a huge country, so the feeling when you’re there, it’s the same feeling you have in the valley in California. You really are a dot in the middle of nowhere. There’s this immensity, the feeling that those fields are feeding a world, 

In terms of the union, there’s no way to do a film this big non-union in Mexico. Every actor was paid through SAG; we also have a union in Mexico of actors and technicians. It would be very stupid to do a film about a union without the support of unions [laughs]. But you know what happened…? There was a whole debate on the extras. 

The extras are farm workers. That doesn’t mean they didn’t get paid. The point is, I wanted to work with real farm workers. You know those faces? There’s no way to put makeup on a face and make it look like they’ve been under the sun for so many years, under that condition of dust and wind. Those faces tell you the story. Just by looking at the face, you get many things that can’t be said in dialogue. 

Q: Were these farm workers from the area where you shot?

DL: Many farm workers joined. By the third day they realized that film isn’t glamorous and that the experience was as miserable as working in the fields [laughs]. Because we were in the fields, we put every penny we had in front of the camera, so the conditions we were shooting under were rough compared to the cliché of how Hollywood filmmaking is. 

Q: Did the workers themselves teach you anything, something that you never knew?

DL: The only thing is that they reminded me every day of why the film needed to be done. It just still makes no sense to me that those who are feeding this country can barely feed their families. And by listening to their stories, I got the necessary energy to keep going. No matter what our issues were, they don’t matter. I am lucky to be able to choose where I work, who I’m around, what I do, what stories I tell, I can’t complain. It was a great reminder on why this needs to be out. 

Q: The film deals with social issues. Is that also part of the marketing?

DL: Definitely, and we’re focusing a lot in kids. Before the proper promotion started, we did two weeks of going to high schools and universities. We went to Harvard, Berkeley, Irvine, UCLA, then we did a screening in the RFK High School. It was like a system. We did a screening where they taped it and then that’s going to be shown to kids around California. 

We’re pushing to do tons of little videos in social media and everything to raise awareness about Cesar Chavez and what the movement [stood] for. That’s where Participant comes in. They have an amazing reach in terms of a call-to-action. 

As part of our film, we are also making a petition to President Obama about making a Cesar Chavez National Day of Service. As the campaign goes, if you guys participate, it’d be great. There’s a page called takepart.com/cesarchavez and you can sign. If you sign the petition, we need a hundred thousand signatures to go to Obama. 

Film should be the beginning of something bigger. This film should trigger, hopefully, the curiosity of people to find out exactly what this movement was about. It’s difficult to inform in an hour and 45 minutes about everything they did and still entertain but it is pertinent to talk about this because the issues today in the field are even more complicated [than ever]. 

We thought also about a day of celebration... A few states today celebrate Cesar Chavez day, but we thought that a national day of service would be the way he would like to be remembered, a day where you work and give something back to your community, which is what they did from beginning to end. 

There [are] so many things happening at the same time, and there are so many things happening in Latin America. Because if few people know here the story of Cesar Chavez, you’ll go to Latin America and everyone thinks he’s a boxer. No one knows, and it’s something that hopefully the film, and everything happening around the film, might be able to change. Also, the foundation is working really close. 

Dolores Huerta has been promoting the film with us, and every time she grabs the microphone, she talks about it and the 10 other things that matter to her. If film can work for that to happen, if film can bring attention to the work of those that are still in the struggle, still out there, I’ll be very proud. But it’s definitely about kids.

You know an amazing thing that has been happening is that today there’s many Latinos in key positions and many have the chance to actually choose what they want to do in life. They have businesses and so many of these people are buying out theaters and giving them away to schools. 

For the first weekend, someone said, “I would like to share this film with every high school kid of the community I come from” which is an amazing thing. The distribution company Pantelion is getting these calls and managing to actually make it happen, where you basically buy out a theater and fill it with kids that normally wouldn’t go watch it, or will probably watch it two years later on their phone while doing another 20 things, which is how kids now watch films... so that’s also happening. People like Henry Moreno — he was the first one. 

Q: Is he one of the producers?

DL: No, no, no! He’s just a guy that cares about this. I was at an event in Washington, and Moreno talked about this, he was doing a show and he told me, “I’m buying out theaters to share with the kids, and this is happening, people are starting to react.” 

That’s fantastic. I did this film because I think I have some distance to the story. Generationally, I wasn’t around when this happened, so also that gives me some objectivity, I guess. But the angle which I’m telling this, it’s the perfect angle for people who don’t know the story, to listen [to] it for the first time.

Q: What did it teach you about yourself as a father, as a director, as an actor? 

DL: You know, I found a connection. It was through telling personal stories that they managed to bring the attention to something bigger. It was about a mother going out, as I said, a mother going out of a grocery store and telling another mother, “Behind that grape, there’s the work of my kid. Are you sure you want to be part of that?” 

Then that mother got hit so badly and so profoundly, that she’s gonna turn into an advocate for the movement. But it’s by telling personal stories that you can trigger that, and I think film has that power. Today, if I was sitting in a board meeting of this movement, I would say, “Let’s do short documentaries about each other’s experiences and get them out, because that’s the way to get people’s attention.” 

We do the same thing, in a way. At least film is capable of doing what these guys did. That was a connection that I found on the way. When I was out and everyone was like, “Oh, you’re doing the film about Cesar Chavez! I gotta tell you something. My grandfather, one day, he grew up and blah blah blah…” 

If I do a documentary where I tell you, “More than a 100,000 have been killed in the last eight years in my country because of the war on drugs that our president started, our former president started…” You’re going to go, “Oh, that’s a big number.” 

But if I tell you the story of a kid who lost his father and now has to work and had to get out of school to support his mother, and how the life these four people changed dramatically, not just his but his brother and his sister... The next day you’re going to care about the war we’re living there. So by telling personal stories you can trigger that attention and that’s something they were doing that was way ahead of us. 

 

"The Girls in the Band" Honors Music's Unsung Heroines

How many female jazz musicians can you name? Judy Chaikin's new documentary The Girls in the Band can help. By the time the credits roll, you will have met three generations of distaff players, composers, arrangers and GreatDayinHarlemconductors reaching back to the 1920s. Names like saxophonists Roz Cron and Peggy Gilbert, trumpeters Clora Bryant and Billie Rogers and drummer Viola Smith will roll off the tongue as readily as those of Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

Read more: "The Girls in the Band" Honors...

December '22 Digital Week I

4K/UHD Releases of the Week 
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 
(Warner Bros)
Despite its pedigree—a screenplay by John Hughes and a cast of reliable comic actors—this 1989 sequel to Vacation and European Vacation is as bumpy a ride as the first two entries, with similar ratios of satisfying to cheap laughs as the Griswolds attempt to have a happy holiday gathering despite seemingly everything going wrong.
 
 
Chevy Chase does his usual sometimes funny, sometimes not shtick, and there are good moments from Beverly D’Angelo, Brian Doyle Murray, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Diane Ladd and the otherwise forgotten Nicolette Scorsese. The 4K image look solid; lone extra is a commentary by D’Angelo, director Jeremiah S. Chechik, Randy Quaid, Johnny Galecki, Miriam Flynn, and producer Matty Simmons.
 
 
 
Westworld—Complete 4th Season 
(Warner Bros)
Fans of Westworld think the series went off the rails during its fourth season, and to an extent, they’re right—jumping forward several years (twice!) and setting much of the plot in a recognizable Manhattan (with the High Line in evidence) is a detour from previous seasons.
 
 
On the other hand, since it has always taken sharp narrative curves, season four could be considered par for the course. The always humanizing presence of both Thandiwe Newton and Evan Rachel Wood keep things grounded, along with the dazzling-looking settings, which mesmerize even more in 4K. All eight episodes are included on both three UHD discs and three Blu-rays; hours of extras comprise making-of featurettes and interviews.
 
 
 
In-Theater/Streaming Release of the Week 
In the Court of the Crimson King—King Crimson at 50 
(DGM)
For a half century, guitarist Robert Fripp has created his own niche in rock music annals with prog giant King Crimson, which has gone through many iterations over the decades; yet, no matter who else is in the group, Fripp is the constant, focused on the music even at the expense of his relationship with other members.
 
 
Toby Amies’ candid documentary tactfully explores that delicate balance, as we hear from Fripp and current and former band members like Ian MacDonald (who died earlier this year), Adrian Belew, Bob Bruford and Tony Levin to present a compelling warts-and-all look at the creative process, with great musical moments both onstage and in rehearsal.
 
 
 
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
Christmas Eve 
(Naxos)
Although this opera by Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov isn’t among his most well-known, Germany’s Frankfurt Opera has given it a high-wire production by director Christof Loy, which was filmed last winter.
 
 
The fantastical plot is business as usual for Rimsky, whose music often sounds ravishing, especially when sung by Julia Muzychenko as the heroine Oksana. Conductor Sebastian Weigle leads the orchestra and chorus in a focused and sumptuous performance. As always, there’s excellent hi-def video and audio.
 
 
 
Christmas Concerts 
(SWR Classic)
These two holiday concerts by the SWR Vocal Ensemble, “Silent Night” and “Christmas Carols,” were respectively recorded in 2017 and 2018 at the properly solemn confines of the Gaisburg Church in Stuttgart, Germany.
 
 
Led by conductor Marcus Creed, the vocal ensemble—with its soloists often splendidly taking the lead—beautifully sings such perennials as “The Holly and the Ivy” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” along with other seasonal music by such composers as Britten, Howells, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Mahler and Schumann. The Blu-ray video and audio look and sound sumptuous.
 
 
 
The Night of the Iguana 
(Warner Archive)
In John Huston’s spirited 1964 adaptation of a rambunctious Tennessee Williams play, Richard Burton chews the scenery as T. Lawrence Shannon, a former priest turned tourist guide leading a group to Puerto Vallarta; he’s being harangued by stern Judith Fellowes (Oscar-nominated Grayson Hall), who believes he’s trying to seduce her 16-year-old niece, Charlotte Goodall (a very Lolita-like Sue Lyon).
 
 
Along for the ride are a gleefully effervescent Ava Gardner as Maxine Faulk, an old friend who might become a new flame, and a properly dowdy Deborah Kerr as spinster Hannah Jelkes. The hi-def transfer makes Huston’s B&W images really pop; extras are on-set and retrospective featurettes.
 
 
 
Star Trek Discovery—Complete 4th Season 
(CBS/Paramount)
In the fourth season of the latest Star Trek spinoff series, USS Discovery captain Michael Burnham heads the crew that tries, in a post-cataclysm environment, to help rebuild the United Federation of Planets.
 
 
These 13 episodes provide enough of the familiar space drama to satiate even the most finicky Trekkie, while the performances of Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Anthony Rapp as scientist Paul Stamets can be recommended to all viewers. There’s a very good hi-def transfer; extras include on-set featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentary and gag reel.
 
 
 
DVD Releases of the Week
Blonde—The Marilyn Stories 
(Film Chest)
With the release of Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, in which Ana de Armas makes a heartbreaking Marilyn, Monroe is once again getting media attention, hence this three-disc set that brings together documentary and fictional accounts of her life, career and untimely death. Of the features centering each disc—2001’s biopic Blonde with Poppy Montgomery, 1991’s Marilyn and Me with Susan Griffiths and 1976’s Goodbye Norma Jean with Misty Rowe—the most interesting is the latter, exploitative but anchored by Rowe’s quite sympathetic portrayal.
 
 
Extras are a 1986 documentary; Marilyn’s first TV appearance, on The Jack Benny Show in 1953; and a short doc, 1967’s The Legend of Marilyn Monroe, narrated by John Huston, who directed Marilyn at the beginning and end of her career, in both The Asphalt Jungle and The Misfits; but beware, the video quality is pitched somewhere between VHS and DVD.
 
 
 
Amazing Grace—Country Stars Sing Songs of Faith and Hope 
(Time/Life)
Time-Life’s latest massive boxed set is this behemoth, which is made up of 10 discs of  more than 150 performances of spirituals and other gospel songs by some of country music’s biggest stars, from George Jones and Loretta Lynn to Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
 
 
Among the classic tunes they perform are “Amazing Grace,” sung by both Jones and by Josh Turner; “Coat of Many Colors,” sung by Parton; and “How Great Thou Art” by McEntire. In addition to the memorable live performances, many enticing extras include two DVDs of Opry Gospel Classics, including rare archival performances by Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Charley Pride, Porter Wagoner, and more; interviews with the likes of Vince Gill, the Oak Ridge Boys and Statler Brothers; bonus performances; and a 36-page collector’s booklet.
 
 
 
CD Release of the Week
Aram Khachaturian—
Piano Concerto/Concerto-Rhapsody/Masquerade 
(BIS)
Known for his engaging ballets Spartacus and Gayane (the latter featured so prominently in Kubrick’s classic 2001), Russian composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-78) was an endless reservoir of glorious tunes, so it shouldn’t surprise anybody that this disc of his piano music, especially the D-flat major Piano Concerto and Concerto-Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, is crammed with one exquisite melody after another.
 
On the two orchestral works, conductor Andrew Litton leads the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in lovely accompaniment to the excellent soloist Iyad Sughayer, who shows in the solo Masquerade Suite that he can easily alternate between delicacy and bombast whenever it’s needed. 

A Sentimental Evening With Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald on stage, photo by Chris Lee

At Carnegie Hall, on the evening of Saturday, December 3rd, I had the enormous privilege to attend a terrific concert—entitled “Feeling Sentimental”—featuring the fabulous Broadway musical star, Audra McDonald—who first performed at this venue in 1998—looking glamorous in a stunning red gown. She was accompanied by a full orchestra under the admirable direction of Andy Einhorn—in his conducting debut at this hall—along with pianist Jeremy Jordan, drummer Gene Lewin, and Mark Vanderpoel on bass.

McDonald opened the program with Jerry Herman’s "I Am What I Am" from his 1983 show La Cage aux Folles, in honor of the victims of the recent mass shooting in Colorado. She followed this with another lovely song, “Pure Imagination,” by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, from the 1971 film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, where it was unforgettably delivered by Gene Wilder. Her next song was one of the highlights of the evening, the glorious "(When I Marry) Mister Snow" from Carousel, the classic musical from 1945 by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II—she appeared as Carrie Pipperidge to great acclaim in Nicholas Hytner’s highly regarded Lincoln Center production of 1994. She then performed “Cornet Man,” a lesser-known song by Jules Styne—with lyrics by Bob Merrill—from 1964’s Funny Girl. As a tribute to the wonderful Diahann Carroll, she sang “A Sleepin' Bee” by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Truman Capote, from their 1954 show, House of Flowers. Her next item, “Moonshine Lullaby” from Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun of 1964, is also less commonly heard. Another summit in the proceedings was attained with the next two songs: first, as a tribute to the incomparable Barbara Cook, the magnificent “Will He Like Me?" by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick from their extraordinary 1963 musical She Loves Me and, second, “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s 1935 opera, Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by DuBose Heyward. She closed the first half of the event with the famous “Rose’s Turn” from Styne’s Gypsy of 1959, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

After intermission, McDonald returned to the stage to perform “Gorgeous’’ from Bock and Harnick’s 1966 The Apple Tree. Her rendition of Duke Ellington’s(In My) Solitude” from 1934 ensued, followed by a tribute to Leslie Uggams: “Being Good Isn't Good Enough” from Styne’s 1967 musical, Hallelujah, Baby!, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and a book by Arthur Laurents. She then sang “Bein' Green”—from 1970—by Joe Raposo, which was memorably recorded by Frank Sinatra. After this she did a mashup of “You've Got to Be Carefully Taught” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 South Pacific and “Children Will Listen” from Sondheim’s 1987 Into the Woods. This was succeeded by “Can’t stop talkin’” by Frank Loesser from the 1950 film, Let’s Dance. Herman’s exquisite "Before the Parade Passes By" from his 1964 Hello, Dolly! followed, and she then excellently performed another fine song, Sondheim’s “With So Little to Be Sure Of “ from his 1964 musical, Anyone Can Whistle, also with a book by Laurents. She ended her set with another classic—“Cabaret” from the 1966 show of the same name by John Kander and Fred Ebb—which she originally sung for a benefit at the behest of Vogue editor, Anna Wintour. As a response to the ardent applause, she delighted her audience with two encores. She first performed “Home” from the 1972 musical, The Wiz, after which Einhorn joined her to reproduce the marvelous duet between Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland from the 1960s on the latter’s weekly television show on which they sang “Happy Days Are Here Again” and the Arlen “Get Happy,” introduced by Ruth Etting in 1930.

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