Monday, February 11, 2013

A shimmering star

Dear Muse,

Certain pop idols spring into stardom with one big hit song, and just as suddenly fade from public awareness. They're like fireworks - flaring up in one glorious burst of beauty, and then falling into oblivion. Or "shimmering, glowing stars in the firmament," to paraphrase Lina Lamont (Singin' in the Rain).

I'm not the only one to notice this: Internet music critic Todd in the Shadows has already commented on several "One-Hit Wonders" that I'd never even heard of before. But I wish to comment on a star he hasn't analyzed, whom I greatly admire: Alice Playten.

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

In case you've never heard of this actress/singer (many people haven't), let me provide some background info:

Back in 1967, there was a musical called "Henry, Sweet Henry" (for info on the film that inspired the musical, click on this link). Basically, a musical about two rich teenage girls who stalk an older guy.

Yeah, doesn't sound very appealing, does it? Theater critic Clive Barnes thought so too; it was probably his review that caused the show's premature death. Still, one thing about it stood out: Alice Playten's performance as Kafritz. In Henry, Sweet Henry, she played the two female leads' arch-nemesis. But with her electrifying "Poor Little Person," Playten stole the show and was considered more of a sensation than either of her female counterparts or even the male lead. (as written in CD booklet for Front Row Center: The Broadway Gold Box 1935-1988 [Box Set, Cast Recording])

Afterwards, the only other thing she was best known for was her appearance in a classic 1970s Alka-Seltzer commercial. (When I first saw this, I couldn't believe it was the same person who did "Poor Little Person." Her voice is so squeaky!)

Besides being in a few other Broadway musicals and voicing several characters in the TV show Doug, there's not much else to say about Playten. Except that I kind of familiarize with her because we're both singers with Type 1 Diabetes. Of course, she's dead now (due to complications of said diabetes), but the work she did when she was alive gives me hope for my musical future.

So, here's to Alice Playten: a celebrity who shot out in a blaze of glory and who remains, somewhere out there, a "shimmering, glowing star in the firmament."


P.S. The attachments below are two variations of "Poor Little Person." The video is a recording of her performing the song on the Ed Sullivan show - the only part of the show ever recorded. While the video recording is facetious, the MP3 recording sounds much more impassioned & personal. (I suggest you listen to the latter first.)

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