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Showing 1-10 of 18 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 19 reviews
HALL OF FAMEon April 25, 2006
I saw "Mark Twain Tonight!" with the "original cast," as Hal Holbrook is still doing his quintessential one-man show. That would be well over 2,000 times since he first essayed the role of Mark Twain in 1959. That was also the year that the first of three record albums capturing his performance was released. Now, what you have to understand is that Holbrook has sixty-six separate selections that he can work into a given performance. When you see him perform, you can expect a third of them to show up. If you had all three records then you would have the equivalent of a full performance of "Mark Twain Tonight!" but that would still not be even half of what is out there.

In case you were wondering, here is what was on those original albums. "Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!" (1959): "Introduction," "On Smoking," "Journalism on Horseback," "My Encounter With An Interviewer," "Huck Battles His Conscience," and "How To Be Seventy." "More of Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!" (1961): "Introduction," "Slow Train And Low Dog," "Dangers Of Abstinence," "Problems Of Missionarying," "Accident Insurance," "Requesting A Hymn Book," "Huck And The Lynching Bee," "My Ancestor Satan," and "Encore." "Highlights From the CBS-TV Special, Mark Twain Tonight!" (1967): "Chaucer-Sailor-Tennessee Girl," "Congress," His Grandfathers Old Ram," "Lower the Angels," "A Helluva Heaven," "The Creators Pet," "Sunrise on The Mississippi," "The Dreams of Our Youth," and "The Mary Ann."

Consequently, on "The Best of Hal Holbrook in 'Mark Twain Tonight!'" you tracks 1, 2, 6 and 10 come from the first album, track 3 from the second, and tracks 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 from the third. Of these ten tracks, Holbrook did eight of them (different introduction and "Problems of Missionarying" was omitted from the evening's performance). I can therefore put forth the idea that what is represented here is not just the best of Holbrook as Twain, but also the core elements of the show. However, the same people who put together this Columbia Broadway Masterworks CD can go back into the vault and put out those three orignal albums on CDs. They should be able to get them all on just two and they can just do the albums in their original order or they can contact Holbrook and have him tell them what order they should all go in to make for an appropriate performance (and if he wants to go into the studio and record what bits in his repertoire were not recorded in that first decade that would be just fine with me as well).

It really is not fair to call this a one-man show for two reasons. First, as many have noted, Holbrook does not impersonate Mark Twain, he becomes Twain on stage. The fact that he no longer needs an aging makeup to play the 70-year-old Twain is beside the point. Second, unlike other one-man shows (e.g., Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow), there is no need for any artificiality. Twain spent a large part of his career standing on stage talking to an audience, and that is precisely what Holbrook does. The only difference is that Holbrook takes advantage of everything that Twain ever wrote (or said and that was taken done). So tonight we heard bits from "Roughing It," "Innocents Abroad," "Letters From the Earth," "Life On the Mississippi," and Twain's "Autobiography." It is not surprising that only one fictional work makes its way into the performance, because when you are talking the great American novel everything else pales in comparison (just think about how Tom Sawyer whitewashing his fence stacks up against Huck's immortal declaration, "All right, then, I'll go to hell"; it is not even close).

The two big set pieces here are "His Grandfather's Ram," culled from "Mark Twain's Notebook," and "Huck Battles His Conscience" from "Huckleberry Finn," which together take up 33 minutes right there. There is a clear contrast between the two pieces, one comic and the other dead serious, but they are united by the fact that in them Twain performs as Jim Blaine telling a story (a fact we forget after 5, 10, 15 minutes...) and as the characters in a pivotal scene from his great American novel (we were so enthralled we forgot to applaud). If you are expecting a lot of political humor that is not forthcoming as the bit on "Congress" is the briefest track, barely a minute long, and is really just an introduction to the show's political section, where Holbrook can have Twain go off in whatever directions the news of the day requires (tonight it was the whole idea of Congress as "The Grand Old Asylum" where Republicans and Democrats are both clearly insane). The humor and social commentary of Mark Twain are as true and timely today as they were when he was alive or when Holbrook first began essaying his signature role. What is here is but a taste and it is not surprising that several members of the audience leaving the show tonight were talking about brushing up on their Twain.
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on June 26, 2012
The CD 'The Best of Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!' is a listener's delight. It's at once a triumph of characterization and interpretation by Mr. Holbrook, and a lovely introduction to the playful humor of one Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Portraying the author at age seventy, Holbrook ranges across the whole broad body of Twain's work, making the audience aware (possibly for the first time) of just how influential this fabulous writer was. He's also about as obsolete as this hour's news updates, which always seems to surprise the uninitiated. That's Holbrook's triumph as a performer and editor---he can quote the most trenchant of Twain's writing and observations, and the result can be as startling as it always is entertaining. Highly recommended.
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on January 12, 2002
Hal Holbrook's one-man show "Mark Twain Tonight" took Broadway by storm in 1959. Eventually, three records were issued of the material Holbrook alternated in his performances. I bought all three, and have been waiting many years for a CD version. Finally, Columbia/Sony/Legacy (whatever they want to call themselves) have issued one CD with material from each of the original LP's represented. People who like this kind of performance will argue as to whether the selections on this disc are really the best choices, because we each have our favorites. Some monlogues are laugh-out-loud funny, some philosophical, some sad, some even bitter. Holbrook knows his Twain, and Clemens/Twain was all of those things mentioned above at various stages of his long and complex literary and lecturing career. "Mark Twain Tonight" may not have been the first "one-man-show" created, but it became clearly the most successful...Holbrook is still doing it about 20 times a year, more than 40 years later. I saw him in 1964 and it remains the most enthralling single evening of theater I have ever seen. If you like Twain, or good acting, or Broadway history, buy this disc. I just did.
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on July 7, 2016
If you like well constructed humorous thought delivered by a master, this CD is for you.
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on January 23, 2016
Not one of my favorites. Could have edited out most of the long pauses. Too bad. I love Mark Twain.
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on April 26, 2015
I saw Mr. Holbrook do this live back in 1960. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it now. Highly recommended for any Mark Twain fan.
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on May 15, 2014
I like Hal Holbrook portraying Mark Twain and this dvd of him is good but it would be better as a dvd. There are a lot of visual elements that can't be expressed in a sound only medium.
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on March 19, 2014
This collection of scenes from Holbrook's Mark Twain show is precious. I have seen him do these scenes live
and the album is every bit as entertaining. I highly recommend this to everyone.
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on September 6, 2011
I originally listened to this album almost 50 years ago, when I was in high school. What enjoyment I had, listening to it again, after all these years. Hal Holbrook did a character portrayal like no other; he *was* Mark Twain. Fabulous recording. And very glad to find it still available, and at a great price, too. Thanks much.
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on August 28, 2011
Captures Mark Twain as I imagine him from reading his magnificent works. I saw this performance live, years ago. I was magic. Excellent Recording. It was just like seeing him again - captured the magic. This should be required listening (or viewing DVD) in all schools. This is the American ideal.
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