In the heat of a dramatic moment, the male lead breaks out into song. His female companion joins him in a duet. This may sound like the feature film La La Land or perhaps NBC’s primetime hit Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, but this was The Young and the Restless — and in the 1970s, it was commonplace.
The Young and The Restless — Burst Into Song
Although YR wasn’t the first to utilize the singing talents of its stars, the show went above and beyond in order to enhance and romanticize its stories. The glorious movie musicals of the 1950s may have been long gone, but on the CBS soap in the 1970s, their spirit lived on.
Music was an integral part of the storytelling during the show’s first decade. What longtime fan doesn’t remember Leslie Brooks Elliott’s triumphant return to the stage after her nervous breakdown? When the viewers heard Leslie singing an inspirational song to herself, they knew that she would be able to successfully face her demons.
YR was fortunate to have Janice Lynde playing Leslie. She was a lovely actor as well as a talented singer. And when the show cast John McCook, it was no-holds-barred on the singing.
Prior to joining The Bold and The Beautiful as Eric Forrester, McCook was best known to soap opera fans as the dashing wealthy playboy Lance Prentiss on The Young and the Restless. McCook was featured in many of the musical numbers.
His background in musical theater made him the perfect candidate for the role. Ironically, he didn’t know about this aspect of the role until he was asked if he could sing when he was hired. “I had no idea that anybody ever sang on soap operas unless it was in a nightclub. I thought it was crazy,” admits McCook.
One of McCook’s first experiences singing on the show involved a dancing scene with Lynde. While dancing with her, he was supposed to sing a song. He assumed he was to sing it in her ear just a little bit, but soon learned that he was wrong; it was to be a full-fledged production number. Still, the idea seemed foreign to him.
“So I said ‘We’re going to suspend belief here?’ And they said ‘Yeah. We’re going to start this by making it seem very real, by you singing it to her under your breath while you’re dancing. But we want you to start getting into it and into the lyric.'” What McCook at first found “truly mortifying” soon became the norm for his character.
Making Beautiful Music
Mortifying or not, fans of YR were treated to some wonderful musical performances by McCook, Janice Lynde, Victoria Mallory (the second actress to play Leslie), Beau Kazer (Brock Reynolds), and many other members of the cast.
Although the musical numbers might come off a bit corny, there was no denying the uniqueness of those scenes. Some memorable ones include Kazer singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic when a character needed guidance and inspiration as well as Jaime Lyn Bauer’s Lorie singing I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You while mourning her unrequited love for Lance.
During a retrospective event honoring the serial, an old scene was shown of John McCook and Victoria Mallory. In it, the couple didn’t speak but sang together in their minds. McCook reflects on the reaction of the audience watching the scene.
“The people laughed, and I understood that. I mean, I laughed too. It wasn’t funny to [YR creator] Bill Bell, though, because he believed in it at the time. And he was right to believe in it because it worked. So, as I looked back at it, it is funny. It was silly actually. But bottom line is that when it stopped working, they took it off. They knew when to stop.”
The end of the decade saw the end of the elaborate production numbers. Characters continued to sing, like rock star Danny Romalotti (Michael Damian), but the singing was done in concerts or in nightclubs. The inner monologues via song were a thing of the past. But for fans who experienced them, they hold a special place in their hearts and minds.