Sunday, April 19, 2009
"Your Mother Should Know" Phyllis Newman
Your mother should know Phyllis Newman. Or your grandmother. Phyllis Newman is best known to those who were active theatergoers in the 50's and 60's. They would've seen her in "The Apple Tree," "On the Town," and "Prisoner of Second Avenue." Granny might tell you, "Oh, yes, Phyllis Newman was married to Adolph Green. People thought Betty Comden his writing partner was, but it was Phyllis."
Kids growing up in the 60's or 70's saw Phyllis on quiz shows, her ebullient presence perking up slow-moving programs like "To Tell the Truth" and "What's My Line." Since those shows were shot in New York, it was easy for her to drop by and promote her latest Broadway production.
Did you know Phyllis Newman beat Barbra Streisand for a Tony Award? Do you care? Well, it's true. Newman's star turn in "I Can Get it For You Wholesale" was hot stuff way back when...back when the radio played songs your mother (or grandmother) would know.
She turned up on TV once in a while, too, singing satiric songs on "That Was the Week That Was," playing a Russian spy on "Amos Burke Secret Agent," etc. She capped the 70's with a one-woman show, "Madwoman of Central Park West," and still turns up on soap operas and in films, though her main interest is theater charity work, notably "The Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative." Talk about women's health...Newman's autobiography mainly chronicles the harrowing physical and emotional problems that came with cancer treatment and a double mastectomy. Unlike some "uplifting" tomes, this one's frank, factual, and pretty depressing, even if the "happy ending" is that she did come back and return to performing.
Like many actresses in Broadway musicals of her era, including Chita Rivera, Georgia Brown and Angela Lansbury, Phyllis Newman was on original cast album vinyl but rarely given a real shot at solo recordings. That field was dominated by the likes of Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and the rest of the nightclub professionals. Still, when she did get a chance in front of a studio microphone to make an album or single, she didn't disappoint. Songs such as "Clouds" or "Those Were the Days" or "Your Mother Should Know" were easily within her range of both key and credibility. Belated Happy Birthday (March 19, 1933) to Phyllis Newman.
PHYLLIS NEWMAN Your Mother Should Know