Ray Bolger in Las Vegas…….1957
In 1939 Ray Bolger became a household name for his rendition of the timid scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz”; but, that wasn’t his only claim to fame. He was a song and dance man of star quality and his 1948 Broadway performance in the musical “Where’s Charley?” was proof of this. His soft-shoe rendition of “Once In Love With Amy” was the hit of that show and it became his theme song.
In 1957 I drove cross country with a friend from California to my home in Massachusetts. We made a brief stop in Las Vegas and when we saw that Ray Bolger was the featured performer at the Hotel Sahara we decided to attend.
The opening of the show was the typical girlie parade, but then the lights dimmed and Ray Bolger took the stage. We sat mesmerized as he performed ... he was so loose that you’d swear he didn’t have a bone in his entire body. Most of his routine was comical and fast-paced so we were completely unprepared for the finale.
Suddenly Ray stopped and stood as still as a statue in the spotlight. A hush came over the audience and when it was perfectly quiet the orchestra began to play “Once In Love With Amy.” Ray had not moved a muscle during this whole time but now he slipped into his soft-shoe routine while, very softly, singing the words to this lovely song.
Then he asked us, the audience, to join in and he continued to dance while tossing the lyrics to us one line at a time. We sang along as he danced and I doubt if there was a dry eye in the house…it was truly a magical moment.
I guess most people will remember Ray Bolger as traveling the Yellow Brick Road in search of a brain...but I will always cherish my memory of him in 1957, as the lovelorn Charley singing to his Amy on the stage at the Hotel Sahara in Las Vegas.