Saturday, January 1, 2022

Finding the Real Tulsa: chorus boys, lost and found

While we mourn the loss of some great stars of stage, TV and film,
 I’m thinking about an actor-dancer who was more forgotten than most, 

and undeservedly so.

Paul Wallace and Natalie Wood in Gypsy

2021 had some major celebrity deaths, including most prominently 

 Stephen Sondheim and Betty White, mostly because of the timing. 

Sondheim died just before a revival of his musical Company was 

hitting the stages on Broadway. And Betty White died on New Year's Eve 

at nearly 100 years old.

Another prominent death in the Broadway world was Harvey Evans

who was one of the Jets as a first replacement in the original stage production 

of West Side Story as well as the 1961 film version. By focusing on the two musicals 

that featured the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story and Gypsy

I found a loss, a surprising survivor, and another tragic death that happened long ago.

Harvey Evans recently died and was celebrated for his long career in many musicals 

including How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and a touring 

production of La Cage aux Folles, in which he played ZaZa. 

He even posed nude on the cover of After Dark magazine in a very sexy pose.

In the multiple times that I watched the original film West Side Story  

–on television as a kid, in theaters (including a 1988 screening in New York City 

where I had the pleasure of meeting director Robert Wise), and then on the 

50th anniversary DVD, I basically followed one dancer after another 

with each viewing. 

I'd be fascinated by every one of Russ Tamblyn's gymnastic tumbling moves. 

In another viewing (including three times at a Columbus repertory cinema 

while a Dance major at Ohio State University, one time bringing a few classmates), 

I would focus on the stunningly handsome Tucker Smith (Ice). 

Evans was another Crush as well, as was George Chakiris.