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Musicals of 1977

Party with Comden and Green  was a slightly different version from “The Comden and Green Evening” from the 60’s. It still had lots of charm.

Annie by Strouse and Charnin went from Goodspeed to Kennedy Center to Broadway where it ran for seven years. This cast is still the best one, unlike many revivals.

Hair was revived this year and this cast had some good performers but none to match the magic of the original cast. It only had a moderate run.

Happy End by Brecht and Weill  came to Broadway with Meryl Streep and had a moderate run but didn’t have nearly the success that the Threepenny Opera had. 

I Love My Wife by Michael Stewart and Cy Coleman – I saw this show in Philadelphia and it was obviously a winner and had a healthy run on Broadway even with the Smothers Brothers eventually taking over.

Ipi Tombi was an African show from I believe South Africa and London and was certainly full of exciting dancing and singing.

Jesus Christ Superstar by Rice and Webber started as a concept album. Although I wanted to see every musical I was somewhat dubious about actually going to see this one. But when it was during the end of its run I thought I had to see it. I was pleasantly surprised as it was very theatrical and I could see why it had been a hit.

Man of LaMancha was also revived in 1977. I missed Richard Kiley in the original production (as he did not do matinees) and I did not return to see this production. I probably should have. We have the complete English recording that has all the dialogue and music.

Nefertiti by David Spangler and Christopher Gore was originally at Lamama with a different title and I was very impressed with the show there. David Spangler played piano on the album of the Baker’s Wife and when Nefertiti played the Blackstone theatre in Chicago I got a phone call from David asking me to come to Chicago. Sherwin Goldman, the producer, planned to close the show. David hoped I could convince Sherwin to keep the show open. I very much doubted that my opinion would change his mind but I was anxious to see the show in its revised form and so I drove to Chicago. I wound up loving the music even more with a full orchestra, which was orchestrated by Robert Freeman. The show did close in Chicago and David Spangler said that Sherwin wanted to pay for a recording of the Chicago cast with Andrea Marcovechi, Michael Nouri, and Robert Lupone (Patti’s brother). Sherwin had been told that I was going to pay for the recording but since we both wanted to do it, we agreed to split the cost. Sherwin said “I only want to do it if everyone contributes their services”. Unfortunately Andrea, who originally said she’d be thrilled to sing for the recording, signed a contract with Barry Manilow’s record label as a pop singer and they did not want her to record this album. We then tried to replace her with a new singer, Mary Clair Nelson, who had just arrived in town. We recorded all the music first and had her come in and spend over three hours recording one song and since she had no theatre experience, she could not put in any theatricality into the songs. They were just sung as words. We then had her sing the song, one line at a time, telling her what each line meant. But when all these individual lines were put together it did not sound the way we wanted. The next time we recorded other singers, we recorded it in Radio City, where Orsen Wells had recorded War of the Worlds. I went into a darkened lobby and Andrea got off the elevator. She did not know who I was (she had never met me), but looked right at me and said, “Everything was going to work out”. She was coming to record Nefertiti with us. And she did. Beautifully. This is still a favored recording and we recommend the cast album plus a live recording from Chicago. 

Side by Side was a revue of songs from various Sondheim shows that had been a hit in London, came over here, and had a very healthy run. 

The Act by Kander and Ebb was originally tried out in San Francisco as Shine it On. It played a couple other theaters and came to New York and it was really a musical for Liza Minnelli as all the songs are about her. Mary Nelson, who was her romantic interest, never sang a note. It was just an odd idea of a musical, to only have one person out of the whole cast sing, but Liza certainly did shine. 

The King and I was another revival. Yul Brynner came back as the King which was now the more important role compared to Anna. It was a tough ticket but when he went on vacation and they replaced him with Michael Kermoyan, with Anna played by Angela Lansbury, the tickets were much more easy to obtain. I loved Angela Lansbury in the role of Anna. 

Together on Broadway with Ethel Merman and Mary Martin  was the first time the two ladies sang together on the same stage. After they did their individual hits, they did indeed sing together. If there was a winner of the sort of competitive nature they had, Ethel Merman came across more than Mary Martin did. It was recorded live and sold as an LP for $100 to benefit the museum of the city of New York. We now have that same album on CD at a much more reasonable price.

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