In the autumn of 1970, I showered, brushed my teeth and hair, and put on just a smidge of bronzer to deepen my rapidly fading summer tan. Dressed up in my toniest suit, I walked across the hall and rang Joe Manganello’s doorbell. We walked to West End Avenue, hailed a cab, and headed to the Shuberts‘ Winter Garden Theatre to see Melba Moore in Purlie.
Purlie was one hot ticket. Cleavon Little as Purlie and Melba Moore as Lutiebelle—with C. David Colson, Sherman Hemsley, Linda Hopkins, Novella Nelson and Helen Martin—were taking Broadway by storm. Moore’s brilliant rendition of I Got Love received a standing ovation performance after performance after performance.
The show is one of my all-time favorite musicals. The Broadway cast recording—with a bit of gospel, a bit of belting, and more than a bit of love and humor—is outstanding in every way.
Over the past 48 years, I’ve surely listened to the recording more than a hundred times. Yet, until I saw Seth Rudetsky deconstruct I’ve Got Love, I had no idea of just why Moore’s performance was so ear-catching, so very special. Watch Seth in this video and you’ll never again question if education can be entertaining.
As a side note, Sherman Hemsley and I became friends several years after he’d left Purlie and I’d left New York.