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1973: An Alphabetical Look at the Musicals of 1973

A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim I saw the premier performance in Boston at the Colonial Theatre and even from the opening chorus numbers I realized it was a very special evening. The music was that enjoyable to me. 

Cyrano is by Anthony Burgess and Michael J. Lewis. Christopher Plummer made this a memorable musical as he played a most convincing Cyrano. This was the only singing he did except for (of course) in the movie The Sound of Music. 

Gigi by Lerner and Loewe was, in my opinion, the best movie musical ever. It was not however the best Broadway musical as everything about the Broadway show paled in comparison to the movie. The Broadway Gigi, Karen Wolfe, had no particular charm or appeal. Alfred Drake played Maurice Chevalier’s character Honore LaChaisse unfortunately at the end of his singing career and lacked the charm that Maurice brought to the movie. Frederick Loewe, the composer, was unwilling to write any new material and a few unused melodies did not do much for this version and was an ultimate flop. 

Gone With The Wind by Harold Rome was scheduled to come to Broawday in 1973 but did not. We recommend the Japanese “Scarlett” available at Footlight over the now out of print Gone With the Wind from London. The English lyrics are subpar and the Japanse singing is very beautiful. 

Holiday by Cole Porter was a failed attempt to transfer to Broadway what again had been much more successful as a motion picture (this time a non-musical film movie). It was an early example of a jukebox musical where the songs do not particularly fit into the musical. It closed opening night with no recording.

Irene by Tierney and McCarthy was a revival of a 20’s musical that achieved more success in 1973 due to Debbie Reynolds and Gower Champion being cast. 

Molly by Jerry Livingston took so long to get to Broadway that one of the composers died along the way. The idea of a musical based on Molly Goldberg as originally performed by Gertrude Berg on radio and television. Gertrude was not a singer and so Kaye Ballard was chosen to replace her on stage in what was to be her only starring Broadway role. She did what she could with the part but the story they told was not very interesting and the music was in most cases disappointing. No recording was ever made of this musical.

Nash at Nine by Milton Rosenstock and Martin Charnin and Ogden Nash was an attempt to do a revue of verse mainly already written by Ogden Nash. It had a certain charm but was not a Broadway worthy musical especially with E.G. Marshal, a very good straight actor with no particular singing voice. Again no recording was ever made. 

Up next is Rachael Lily Rosenbloom written by disco writer Paul Jabara. Until the terrible 2016 musical “Disaster” appeared at the Nederlander Theatre, this musical was by far the worst musical I ever saw. It took 40 years to make a worse musical. I attended the first preview and after a few jokes about stupid Oscar movie titles there was nothing else entertaining about the entire show. The original idea had been to star Bette Midler. But even though she was a friend of the book writer she was not that good a friend that she wanted to stop her rising career and they were stuck with Ellen Greene. Ellen Greene has this distinction of appearing in two musicals that closed during previews. Ellen is only as good as her material. Paul Jabara called me and said, years later, “I hear you record every show” to which I replied, “Not the shows that I don’t like”. 

Raisin by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan was a terrific adaptation of the play Raisin in the Sun. The play continues to be performed to this day. The show had wonderful songs and touching performances and even won some awards but the musical has never been done again except for a few small regional productions. The demo is available here at Footlight.

Seesaw by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields was a fairly popular version of the play Seesaw. In Detroit it starred Lainie Kazan who was not a dancer. She was replaced by Michelle Lee who was quite charming in the part. This was a big Michael Bennett dance musical and featured Tommy Tune doing a big dance with balloons called “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish”. 

Smith by Dean Fuller and Matt Dubey started off-Broadway at the same theatre that starred “The Best Little WhoreHouse In Texas”. The plan was for this show to get good reviews and move to Broadway. It got decent reviews but not strong enough ones to raise the money to bring it to a Broadway house. It was orchestrated by Jonathon Tunick. I once spent a few hours talking to Mr. Tunick about his career and he expressed great love for the songs in this show. I loved the idea of the show. The hero, Don Morray, meets a pretty girl and attempts to talk to her and she responds in song saying that she will only talk to him if he sings everything. He initially finds this very difficult as he is just an ordinary man who is not used to singing ever but he is willing to do it to be part of this girls life. No recording exists of this. 

The Pajama Game, by Adler and Ross, was a revival of the 50’s hit again directed by George Abbott with a cast of Hal Linden, Barbara McNair, and Cab Calloway. Cab wasn’t right for this particular part. Barbara McNair. None of them were particularly great for the parts and none of them were as good as the original people in the show from the 50’s had been. The show only ran a couple months. 

Tricks by Jon Jorey and Jerry Blatt was based on a Moliere play and started as a small regional production. It certainly should never have been booked into the huge Alvin Theatre and closed after 8 amount of performances. No recording exists. 

More Than You Deserve was a musical by Jim Steinman that played the Papp Public Theatre was like a M*A*S*H set to music and has some wonderful that Steinman used when he wrote his songs for Meatloaf. We feature another Jim Steinman show, The Confidence Man for sale here at Footlight. 

Shelter by Cryer and Ford was another show that should not have been at a Broadway house and it ran only a few performances. Shelter was revived along with songs from another Cryer-Ford musical, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac. We recorded the York Theatre production of this and highly recommend it. 

2 thoughts on “1973: An Alphabetical Look at the Musicals of 1973

  1. Hey, Bruce
    Sorry I haven’t been in better contact but some health issues have been rearing their ugly little heads
    Seems we were both at Night Music the same night: My first week living in Boston I saw Follies, my last Night and couldn’t agree more with your assessment
    Also saw Cyrano which was as good as a musical version could be. Problem is, some shows are ALREADY musicals and adding songs doesn’t help, it hurts. That being said, Plummer was, without doubt, the best Cyrano of the century, FAR outpacing Ferrer, and he was not a bad little singer within his limited range (Oh, for the record, in Sound of Mucus he was dubbed)
    I had Harold Rome on my show just befor GWTW opened and he was a delight (I hinted at the fact that some of the songs were a bit “reminiscent” and he smiled and shrugged… yes, you COULD hear the smile and shrug over the radio)
    Gigi was a disaster, and giving Drake “Blue” material to sing was horrendousIrene was just a way to cash in on 42nd Street’s success and even replacing the original director (JOHN GIELGUD!!!) with Gower Champion didn’t make it more than passable
    Why anyone though a musical version of The Goldbergs would work was anybody’s guess; after all, who would go to a show with such a Jewish theme, those things never work
    I know little about Rachel Lily Rosenbloom, but I will fight to the death your assertion of it’s position as long as the memory of 13 Daughters is in my head
    Both Raisin and Seesaw are scores worthy of reviving although neither work as well as musicals as they did “straight”
    FYI there was a recording of Shelter done but necer released: I had Gretchen Cryer on my show when she was touring with I’m getting my act… and she sent me a cassette of it
    Just a note on Tricks (well, 2 notes) Jon Jory was the son of hollywood B star Victor Jory and Jerry Blatt (Bette Midler’s first accompanist) was not only a very good composer but he orchestrated the greatest musical ever written to close before it opened The Very Thing (aka Tailor Maid written by Steve Posner and Yr Obt Svt
    That’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth (2 cents?)
    Good Luck with the podcast (or, as we used to call it Radio)
    More later as health permits

    1. I loved Raisin in the day, saw it twice or three times on Broadway, one when it went out on tour. Recently had a chance to see it again at West Coast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, FL. Listened to the cast album way before to see how well it stood up, and I was just as moved as I was years ago. When I saw it, it stands up well. The play has certain dramatic depth that the musical had to scuttle, of course, the musical takes the play to new EMOTIONAL places. Nothing in the play can match the electricity of “You Done Right” and “Measure the Valley.” I will fight to my grave that this musical rightly won Best Musical of 1972 and deserves to be revived. How about in about 5 years or so Audra as Lena?

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