More Than Mr. C - Macleans.ca

More Than Mr. C

by

First June Cleaver dies, then Howard Cunningham, Tom Bosley. Not a good time for TV parents.

I first knew Bosley not from TV but from the cast album of Fiorello!, a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical where he didn’t have that much to sing (not that he was really a singer) despite playing the lead role. The songs don’t always do Fiorello! justice — good though they are — because it’s a musical where the book scenes are often more important than the musical scenes, and the title role is more of an acting than singing challenge (many of the songs are sung about him by other characters). But though its very New York-centric subject makes it hard to revive out of that city, it is in my opinion one of the ten greatest musicals ever written, the perfect “serious musical comedy” that uses the tools of the Broadway musical to deal with an ambitious and seemingly dry subject matter, municipal politics, and make it gripping.

Here’s Bosley in 1971, before he achieved TV stardom, re-creating a scene from Fiorello! on the Tony Awards. It’s the scene where Fiorello LaGuardia launches his underdog campaign for Congress, taking on the Tammany Hall machine that dominates New York, and we see how how he manages to win: by delivering the same messages in different languages to different ethnic audiences (playing on his mix of Italian and Jewish ancestry). Obviously it works better in the actual stage production, with the full sets and a full chorus, but this at least gives an idea of it.

Also, he nailed the final speech from the surprisingly strong Happy Days finale, even selling the brief fourth-wall break. Though I wish I could find the legendary (apocryphal?) outtake from the scene where he supposedly mentions “raising two kids,” does a double-take, and adds: “Hey, what happened to Chuck?!”

Filed under: