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Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me

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Album Review

Why is Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me not, as its opening song, "Another Curtain Goes Up," puts it, "another one-man show," like the name-checked single-person Broadway productions starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dame Edna, Billy Crystal, Jackie Mason, Elaine Stritch, Chita Rivera, and others? Well, for one thing, it's got a cast of six! And for another, its heartfelt and amusing revelations about the life of the star are almost, if not entirely, fictional. But for the purposes of a consideration of the cast album, the most significant difference between Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and other "one-man" Broadway shows is that this one has a full-scale, newly written score by the Tony Award-winning team of composer/lyricist Marc Shaiman (who also is a member of the cast) and lyricist Scott Wittman. Their Tonys were for Hairspray, and just as they were able to evoke the sound of early-'60s pop/rock in that score, Shaiman and Wittman successfully attempt a whole range of styles here. In fact, for a good part of its running time, the music for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me provides a mini-history of popular and, in particular, show music. Short admits up-front that he will be telling lies and adds, "But let's start with the truth, shall we? 1976...I am born." (That's only off by 26 years.) This begins an odyssey of musical parody in which Dusty (played by Mary Birdsong) makes like Judy Garland in "The Salesman That Got Away," to be joined by Short as Shim (supposedly, his father) sounding like Jack Haley playing the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz in "Sittin' on a Fence." "The Jackie Rogers Jr. Show" brings things into the '50s à la Sammy Davis, Jr., or Bobby Darin. And when Short and the cast reach "Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba Broadway," the songwriters really go to town, even managing to make fun of Jesus Christ Superstar ("The Strumpet of Samaria") and Godspell ("Step Brother to Jesus") separately, which is no small accomplishment.

Inevitably, Stephen Sondheim comes in for his lumps on the tongue-twister "Married to Marty," while "A Dry Martin, Straight Up... with a Twist" sounds like an outtake from A Chorus Line. The Broadway parodies give way to other priorities, with "More, More, More" drawing on Ike & Tina Turner, but they are brought nearly up to date with "A Wicked Memorial," a send-up of Wicked, which also marks the death of Martin Short. That's right, the star of the show dies off midway, which necessitates a set change to "Heaven, Heaven." That takes things back to the '40s for an Andrews Sisters parody, and then Irving Cohen (Short), serving as pearly gatekeeper, sounds a lot like Jimmy Durante in "Up Here in Heaven." The musical climax returns to Broadway satire as Capathia Jenkins sings "A Big Black Lady Stops the Show," which she does by making fun of The Wiz and Dreamgirls. In between all these musical shenanigans, there is also room for impersonations of a range of celebrities from Joan Rivers and Ellen DeGeneres to Britney Spears and Celine Dion, none of them by Short, although he does, inevitably, turn up in his Jiminy Glick persona to sing to his own dying self in "I Came Just as Soon as I Heard." So, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me is not just another one-man show. It's actually a very funny full-fledged Broadway musical, well preserved on this cast recording in which the star is only one of several talented performers.


Genre: Comedy

Comic actor Martin Short has become famous for his ability to disappear within his characters -- so much so that several of them (über-geek Ed Grimley, unctuous chat show host Jiminy Glick, second-string celebrity Jackie Rodgers, Jr., heavily accented wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer) are probably more easily recognized than the actor who portrayed them. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1950, Short attended nearby McMaster University, where he received a degree in social work in 1972. However,...
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