The first show of the 1963 season was Oliver which had an unbelievable score by Lionel Bart and the most incredible sets I had ever seen in a musical by Sean Kenny and the wonderful Georgia Brown.
Next was Tovarich starring the world famous Vivien Leigh. In the only musical of her career, she was quite wonderful. The show never really did all that well and she missed performances. As it turns out, she was in very bad health! The cast album was delayed and it appeared that maybe there would not be one. But there was! When she had to leave the show they brought in Eva Gabor and the show folded very quickly.
Next was Hot Spot!. Judy Holliday’s last musical which was a big disappointment. It was meant to be a hilarious spoof of a wacky girl in the peace corps but it was not really all that funny and she too it turns out was on the way to dying from cancer. The score by Mary Rodgers was certainly nothing like Once Upon a Mattress (the London cast recording of Once Upon a Mattress can be found here). I was so happy to see any Broadway musical that at one point decided I would sneak in and see the second act the day the show was closing at a Saturday matinee. I had no trouble walking in as the intermission was about to end but I found that there were no empty seats and no standing room so I had to leave and not see the second act for a second time.
Sophie, a musical about Sophie Tucker, it had songs by Steve Allen, who wrote and published a song almost every day of his adult life. Of this tremendous list of songs only two of them are worthwhile. This show contained one of them: “But I’ll Show Them All”. The other and only well known song by Steve Allen was “This Could Be The Start of Something Big”, made popular by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (Golden Rainbow). Outside of the rest of the score of Sophie being uninteresting but being well orchestrated by Sid Ramin.
The next musical was a much happier affair: She Loves Me, with the always wonderful Barbara Cook. The score by Bock and Harnick is just about perfect. The ending of the show, when the two people finally get together after being lonely heart’s club members, is so wonderful. They got off to a wrong foot in the store that they both worked, but they were really meant for each other and the show ends beautifully. I met Hal Prince, the director, a year or so later on the street and told him how I thought it was so sad that the musical had not had a longer run and he of course agreed. (Another London cast recording of this musical, She Loves Me, can be found here!)
The next musical was the worst of the season. It certainly did not belong on Broadway. It was called The Beast in Me, based on James Thurber stories. A Thurber Carnival, which is not a musical, had been successful, but this one certainly wasn’t. It starred the unlucky Kaye Ballard and was written by James Costigan and Don Elliot. Don had written a wonderful background score for A Thurber Carnival, but his songs were not very appealing in this. It just seemed like it did not belong on Broadway.
The next one is the Student Gypsy. Student Gypsy was a follow up to the successful Little Mary Sunshine by Rick Besoyan. I had been disappointed at Little Mary Sunshine because of the lack of an orchestra. Student Gypsy was a big Broadway show and had the orchestra I had expected. In my opinion, it had a much better score than Little Mary Sunshine. The problem was the book! The story was way too long and complicated and not very funny, so despite the excellent score the show closed after a few performances. We have a quite good tape of the entire show here.
Here’s Love was the third musical that Meredith Willson wrote and unfortunately every musical was a little less good. His final musical, being 1491, is available as a music demo sung by Meredith on our site. The problem in my opinion was the cast. Janice Paige and Craig Stevens were more like summer stock performers and the show while it ran somewhat like six months was somewhat disappointing.
Morning Sun by Fred Ebb (before John Kander) had music by Paul Kline and was more an opera than a musical. It starred Patricia Neway and Carole Demas (Grease and the Baker’s Wife). The main reason I saw this little off Broadway show was that it was four blocks from where I lived on East 78th street. It was extremely boring and had no memorable song. The lyrics were nothing like Fred Ebb would write a few years later with John Kander. We are hoping to record two songs from the score just to give an example of early Fred Ebb with Carole Demas.
Jennie was a big musical starring Mary Martin. This has a great score and again a weak book. I had the further difficulty of having too great a seat (in my first ten rows of the orchestra). The problem to me was that Mary Martin was pretending to be an 18 year old girl for a quite a bit of the beginning of the show, and it was apparent from the 4th row that she was 50. But the score is well worth trying if you have not.
Jennie 1963 Original Broadway Cast Album
The last Broadway musical of the year was The Girl Who Came to Supper by Noël Coward. It starred Florence Henderson and José Ferrer. It had a few excellent songs, particularly the one sung by Tessie O’shea, but the leads, particularly José, were disappointing. The show ran a few months.
Zenda by Martin Charnin and Vernon Duke was supposed to have come to Broadway by 1963 but closed in San Francisco rather than arriving.
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Thank you for reading! Would love to hear from you. If you’d like to chat about musicals, new or old, please feel free to call me, Bruce Yeko, at (203) 544-8288 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org