Sunday, May 06, 2012

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Richard Burton

Artist:Richard Burton
Album:Camelot: Original Broadway Cast

When Richard Burton was cast as King Arthur in the 1960 Broadway musical Camelot, no one knew if he could sing. But I guess he figured if Rex Harrison could sing, so could he. And Camelot was written by My Fair Lady composers Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Leowe. Burton was born Richard Jenkins Nov. 10, 1925 in Pontrhydyfen, Wales to a drunken coal miner. His mom died when he was very young and he was raised by her sister and her husband. Burton was a good rugby player as a teen. But he also performed in school productions and after serving in the RAF during WWII, he moved to London to begin his acting career. Of course he became very successful in films in the 50s. But he continued to perform on the stage. He first appeared on Broadway in Time Remembered in 1958 and was nominated for a Tony. Lerner and Leowe had a big success with My Fair Lady and Lerner wanted to write a musical based on TH White's book The Once and Future King. Leowe wasn't crazy about the idea but agreed to write the music. Moss Hart was hired to direct. The biggest asset Camelot had was the cast of Burton, Julie Andrews, Roddy McDowall and Robert Goulet. The show itself was a little shaky at first. First Lerner had personal problems. Then when the show previewed in Toronto in 1960, Hart suffered a heart attack and Lerner was forced to direct. The show was way too long at five hours. It had been cut considerably by the time it played Boston. Bur they were still having problems because Hart was not there. Lerner has credited Burton with keeping the cast calm and assisting with cuts. Then when Hart returned, there was more editing. When the show premiered on Broadway in Dec. 1960, reviews were mixed but a Burton and Andrews performance on The Ed Sullivan Show made the show a hit. It ran for over two years and won four Tonys including one for Burton. There was a London production and also a US touring production. The Original Broadway Cast recording is available as a budget CD. By the time Warner Bros. produced the 1967 film version of Camelot, Burton and Andrews were too expensive and the film starred Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. Burton also appeared in a 1980 revival of Camelot at Lincoln Center in New York. Of course we all know about Richard Burton's tumultuous personal life including his long running relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. After Camelot, Burton concentrated mostly on film but occasionally appeared on stage proving that he never lost that love of live performing. Richard Burton was a heavy smoker and had an alcohol problem. His health declined and he died on Aug. 5, 1984 at age 58. Here's Richard Burton performing Camelot on the 1978 TV special The People's Command Performance.

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