New Jeanette/Nelson Tribute DVD
I wanted to tell you about a new DVD entitled: "A Scandalous Affair."
Over the years, many talented singers have put together musical shows featuring the songs we love most—those sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in their eight classic films together.
I personally have attended several of these performances, or listened to the CDs. We have had many singers perform “the songs” at club meetings around the country…and will continue to do so. Some of these singers are truly excellent and always, hearing our favorite songs sung live adds an extra dimension to a club event. One listens…and can become lost in the music and memories. Still, the comments I often hear after such events are along the lines of…”It was great but how can anyone compare to the real thing.”
True. But since we can’t have the Real Thing here again, live in front of us (for those of you who were lucky enough to see Nelson and/or Jeanette in person), we have new generations of singers to carry on the torch. To keep the songs and the stars who sang them alive and vital.
That’s what is so startling about “A Scandalous Affair.” This live performance, filmed on Nelson’s birthday in 2006 before a sold-out theater audience of 800 people, is not only beautifully sung but has a smart script that rivets the audience’s attention from beginning to end. In fact, the audience reactions—stunned silence, gasps, laughter, grief—attest to how powerfully affecting this performance was.
“A Scandalous Affair” stars Hallie Neill and Theodore Lambrinos. Both have extensive opera careers; Lambrinos sang with the Metropolitan Opera. Added to this, Neill wrote a script adapted (with permission) from my book “Sweethearts.” Now, others have utilized my book for “the plot” but Neill has truly done a remarkable job. She doesn’t cram the story down the audience’s throat yet the highlights are stated in a forthright manner. Some of the dialogue is taken directly from quotes from the book, from diary entries or letters. These are powerful on the printed page but even more so when spoken aloud on a stage. Most amazing to me personally was a quote that Jeanette made to the press in 1935 after the release of “Naughty Marietta,” about the qualities in Nelson that made him a star. Listening to Neill SPEAK those words packed a real punch! What movie star of that period ever praised a co-star in such an intimate, knowing manner?
Neill also did an excellent acting job, channeling Jeanette as a career-driven woman trying to juggle unwanted passions. The performance is done with humor, cleverly breaking up the poignant moments. My favorite Neill number was “Isn’t it Romantic” because she captured the spunky, flirtatious Jeanette from her Paramount days. Neill also played for comedy the fact that some people didn’t take Jeanette seriously as an opera singer; then she knocked ‘em dead (as Jeanette did) with an awesome rendition of “Sempre libera” from “La Traviata.” For Lambrinos, I loved “Dusty Road” from “Let Freedom Ring,” but my absolute favorite was his displaying the operatic side of Nelson with the aria “Nemico della Patria” from “Andrea Chenier.” Lambrinos’ voice was magnificent and full of emotion, and one can see why the Met signed him. Overall, the choice of music was excellent and moved the story along.
As the show came to a close, Neill wisely left the audience understanding that despite any personal heartbreak, their lives were truly about the music. The magnitude of what they had to overcome to keep performing was no doubt a shocker for some in the audience. But I’m certain that the majority of those 800 folks walked out of that show with a new appreciation for what Jeanette and Nelson achieved in their lives.
The technical aspects of this DVD are excellent. Theta Media Group did a great job filming the show, even utilizing some split screens that are very effective. Also, the audience participation was important to this performance, and the viewer has a sense of being there and experiencing it live. The accompanist, Sandra Rohr, was wonderful as well.
I highly recommend you get this DVD. I watched it three times in a row just to appreciate how and why it works on several levels.
Here is the link to the website where you can purchase it: www.jeanetteandnelson.com. There is an 8 minute demo video and sound clips. The sound fidelity on their website is fine if you have good computer speakers or headphones, but it’s excellent on the DVD itself.
Be sure to email me after you watch it; I’m interested in your feedback as well.