Posted on

1964

I started 1964 at a musical four blocks away from me called The Athenian Touch. It was most famous for starring Butterfly McQueen. Famous for her role in the movie Gone With the Wind. It was done in a very campy style and somewhat entertaining. We may look for a CD to offer to you customers down the line.

The next show was a little more popular. Hello Dolly with Carol Channing. Of course everyone knew that title tune from the Louis Armstrong recording. I’m afraid that while I enjoyed the show the thing that I remember the most is that Natalie Wood was sitting a few rows in front of me and I was happy to look at her during the show. I never saw any of the later Dollies. I did see all the Channing revivals. But my best Dolly experience was a French production with Annie Cordy.

I went back to off-Broadway for the third show, Cabin in the Sky by Vernon Duke and John Latouche. It was another show that had an orchestra on the capital LP was in the theater but was only a few instruments. It was revived by encore and everyone was hoping that there would be a recording with a really big orchestra, but this never happened.

I had a little trouble with the next show, Rugantino. This was an Italian musical that was brought over by Alexander Cohen with the original cast with subtitles above the actors above the stage translating the lyrics into English. I bought the New York Times and found they were planning on closing the show so of course I had to see. I bought a ticket for the Saturday matinee of the closing weekend. I was sitting in my seat when another patron came and said “I think you’re sitting in my seat”. It turned out we both had a ticket for the Saturday matinee with the same seat location. The usher came and said that my ticket was not a real ticket. I said I bought it at the box office and I need to see this show because it’s closing. What they decided to do was to put a chair next to the seat and I set in the chair next to my original theater seat. There was an Italian LP which we now offer on CD. The music is well worth hearing.

The next show was Foxy by Johnny Mercer and Robert Emmett Dolan, starring Bert Lahr. I enjoyed the music and asked Don Tippin, a conductor who years later would be a good friend, whether RCA would really be recording the cast album. He said unfortunately they would not. Somebody took a reel to reel tape recorder in a briefcase and recorded the show and years later I put it out on LP. That LP is now a CD with bonus tracks of Johnny Mercer singing his score.

(Johnny Mercer)

Next came What Makes Sammy Run by Erwin Drake starring Steve Lawrence. The opening song was “I Got a New Pair of Shoes” which to this day I can not understand why he was singing about this. The only song I really like is “A Room Without Windows”.

Next came Funny Girl starring of course Barbra Streisand. I was forced to take a seat far away from my normal first ten rows as they said there were no such tickets available for months. It was enjoyable even from the mezzanine, but I don’t know why I never got a ticket to see it in my normal seat.

The next show, Anyone Can Whistle by Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, starring Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick. It got mixed reviews so I thought I might have to see it before the Columbia Cast Album came out. I was shocked to find that I bought the Monday paper of the following week saying that the show had already closed. I realized that the New York Times would tell me about a show closing only if they were told by probably Thursday which didn’t happen. I kept thinking to myself “They need to do it again for me!” That of course didn’t happen but I have seen the show four times the last being an encore with Donna Murphy and Sutton Foster. I love the songs but the show still is a little too avant-garde.

The next show was a hit High Spirits by Hugh Martin and Timothy Grey starring Tammy Grimes and Bea Lillie. This has always been one of my favorite scores.

The next show Café Crown by Albert Hague and Marty Brill was another problem in my trying to see everything. In this case, I chose not see it because they had no reduced price previews as all shows did in those days. I also read that the show had posted a closing notice BEFORE the opening. I thought I’m not going to pay $9.95 to see this show. Today, I would have seen it. The score though Is a big disappointment as Albert Hague was not in top form and I still wonder why Marty Brill was writing the lyrics when he had never done this before. A live recording does exist.

Fade Out Fade In by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, starring Carol Burnett was a much better show but not as good a book as some. Carol Burnett really didn’t want to stay in the show because she was offered a TV show.
Songs from Fade Out – Fade In are featured in Lost Broadway and More Vol. 5.

Next came the huge hit, Fiddler on the Roof by Bock and Harnick, starring Zero Mostel. This was most enjoyable but it was before Zero started amusing himself doing the show which caused the producers to ultimately fire him at the end of his one year contract. Sheldon Harnick, who I became friends with when I recorded the Body Beautiful a few years later, told me that the music publisher Tommy Valando who published the majority of Broadway shows, said that as much as he liked the scored he didn’t think anyone would record any of the songs as pop releases. He was pretty wrong.

Oh What a Lovely War which was a British hit with vintage songs directed by Joan Littlewood did not seem to me to be my kind of show. They made a movie with a lot of top English stars and I did enjoy that.

I had gone to Philadelphia because Harold Rome said there might be 10 inch records of his Call Me Mister show at a Philadelphia records store and I figured while I was there I would see the tryout of  Golden Boy by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams. There were a few songs, one of them being cut, but I was happy to see the show again as my next Broadway show. We sell an interesting demo where Sammy Davis sings most of the songs himself. We highly recommend this demo.

Next came an off-Broadway shore called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This had been one of my favorite movies by Danny Kaye when I was 13 years old. The off-Broadway musical was a big disappointment. It was written by people who had never written a show and I was surprised Columbia records had bothered recording it.

Ben Franklin in Paris by Mark Sandrich JR. and Sidney Michaels starring Robert Preston. We have a demo that has many cut songs sung by the authors.

Something More! by Sammy Fain and the Bergmans with a couple guest tunes by Jule Styne and starring Barbara Cook and Arthur Hill. My. Hill Proved that not every actor could talk-sing the way Rex Harrison had. Anyone would have been better in his role. It has one song that I now love called “Better all the time”. We have the live recording and the demo (pictures here).

Ernest in Love by Lee Pockriss and Anne Crosswell off-Broadway is maybe my favorite off-broadway musical ever. It opened at the same time as The Fantastics getting better reviews than The Fantastics but it only ran a few weeks and The Fantastics have set records for the longest run ever musical. Go figure!

I Had a Ball, the score by Jack Lawrence and Stan Freeman, Starring Buddy Hacket and Karen Morrow. The songs by Karen Morrow are extraordinary. We feature the cast album and the demo.

The last show was Babes in the Wood, by Rick Besoyn this was not nearly as good as Student Gypsy. We do have a demo that was song by a number of cast members along with the demo of another show Chu Chem.

As our monthly special, we are offering:

Jolson the London musical which was a hit for $2.95 and

Jack by Will Holt and Tom Sawyer for $6.95,

Thank you for reading and we hope to see you next month!
– Bruce Yeko

 

Posted on

1963

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.

Hot Spot

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.

Related image

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.

Zenda by Duke and Charnin

For readers of the blog we offer a reduced price on Fly With Me.

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 originalcast@aol.com
-Bruce Yeko

Posted on

My First Year in New York

I now would like to have come to New York two years earlier to see two years of musicals that I didn’t get to see. I’m just going to list shows that I could have seen:

  • The Conquering Hero, January 1961, directed by Bob Fosse and Moose Charlop,
  • 13 Daughters by Eaton Magoon, March 1961, (we now sell the Hawaiian cast with the original Robert Russel Bennett Broadway orchestrations on our site).
  • The Happiest Girl in the World, March 1961. Lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Offenbach.
  • The Smiling Boy Fell Dead, April, 1961 by Sheldon Harnick (private cast album available on our site).
  • Donnybrook, May, 1961. by Johnny Burke and the wonderful Susan Johnson.
  • Sail Away, October, 1961, Noel Howard and Elaine Stritch.
  • Let it Ride, October, 1961, Livingston and Evans, starring George Gobel.
  • Another Evening with Harry Stoones, October, 1961.
  • The Introduction of Barbara Streisand, off-Broadway that closed opening night, a very big miss.
  • Kwamina, October 1961, Richard Adler
  • Kean, November, 1961, Wright and Forrest, Alfred Drake, yet again, a must hear score.
  • All in Love, November, 1961, off-broadway, another great score by Jacques Urbont.
  • The Gay Life, November, 1961, Deitz and Schwartz, Barbara Cook.
  • Madame Aphrodite, December, 1961, Jerry Herrman’s very first book musical, available on our site.
  • Family Affair, January, 1962, John Kandor’s first musical and Hal Prince’s first directing. (Demo available on Footlight)
  • All American, March, 1962, Strouse and Adams, Ray Bulger, Closed just a few weeks before I arrived.

New Musicals I did see in the first year:

  • Mr. President,  October, 1962, Irving Berlin – I waited in line for three hours only to be told that they could not give me my first ten rows of the orchestra until the end of the year. I reluctantly bought that ticket and took an early preview so I could see it twice. The show was so disappointing that I never used my good seat ticket.
  • Nowhere to Go But Up November 1962 James Lipton, Saul Berkowitz, another huge disappointment despite Dorothy Loudon. Only the title song seemed really good. The story, directed by Cindy Lumet, was not funny or interesting.
  • Little Me, November 1962, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, Sid Caesar starred. Great songs. But to me, not my cup of tea.
  • Riverwind, December 1962 – My first off-Broadway musical, by John Jennings (CD available at Footlight).
Posted on

My First Day in New York

After seeing “I can get it for you wholesale” I went to other theaters to purchase tickets for the upcoming days and in the evening I saw “Subways Are For Sleeping” which is good but not great. I then went to find my car and found that I had lost my parking receipt with the address. I realized I did not know where the car was!
So there was a slight chance that I would not find my car with all my worldly possessions. I walked up and down looking for a familiar site and after 30 or 40 minutes, I found a garage that looked like the one where I had parked my car.
I said, “I think you have my car, filled with LP’s and baseball cars from Wisconsin” and they said “Yes we do.”
I then proceeded to drive to the 63’rd street Y and asked for a room with air conditioning and television (as I planned to spend quite a few of my waking hours in the hotel room).
The hotel clerk said “You want AC and television, huh?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said “I’ll tell you where to go. Waldorf Astoria.”
I knew this was not a sincere attempt to help me.
“You mean the Y does not have AC and television? The Y in Chicago does!”
I suddenly thought that maybe New York is not as good as Chicago… which is not a pleasant thought.
But I had no other choice at 11:30 at night so I checked into the room he had available. The next morning, I walked onto Broadway around the corner from the Y and saw a flashing neon sign that said “Air Conditioning and Television” above a nearby hotel. This of course was what I wanted. I found the cost of the new hotel was the same as the cost had been at the Y so I immediately checked in. The hotel was not first class, but it had my air conditioning and television. I expected to only stay in the hotel for a few days, or even a week, but found that I could not find an affordable hotel and it wasn’t until November, five months later, that I found my eventual place on East 78th street.
I saw some shows over the summer “Camelot”, “Bravo Giovanni”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, and “How to Succeed in Business”.
The first show I saw in the fall, after I started work, was Irving Berlin’s “Mr. President”. I went to the box office of the St. Jame’s theater where I had seen “Subways are for Sleeping” and waited in line for over 2 hours. When I asked for my first ten rows of the orchestra, I was told that there were no seats in the first 10 rows of the orchestra for sale, that I could use mail order. But I wanted to see the show! So I broke my rule and took a seat in the balcony or the mezz.
I did mail in for a ticket in my first ten rows but after I used the balcony seat I decided that I didn’t want to see the show again so I never used my good seat for “Mr. President”.

For those of you who are looking for a good show at a good price and a good CD, we offer
One Night Stand by Jule Styne for $9.95

There will be more stories to follow and anyone who would like to discuss musicals, particularly unsuccessful ones, please feel free to call and talk to me at 203 544 8288.

Posted on

The Beginnings of Bruce Yeko

Bruce Yeko is proud of the fact that he has seen every new musical on Broadway over the last 50 years. He has produced 124 cast albums, more than any other individual in the history of cast albums. 

“I started to love music when I was about ten years old, in 1950. I inherited a 78 Victrola, which no one else in the family wanted. But we had no phonograph in the house so I took what I could get.

I inherited a collection of about 50 “78 records of which I took a like to the song “It’s a long, long way to Tipperary” and the “Basil Rathbone” Version of “Peter and the Wolf”. A few years later, after many chores, I saved enough money to buy my own phonograph that played 33 speed.
I bought Westside Story which seemed quite different from any music I had ever heard but ultimately I grew to love it. I also borrowed my best friend’s mother’s collection of perhaps 30 cast albums and a few soundtracks.
I played these so obsessively that to this day, 68 years later, I’m not particularly anxious to hear those particular recordings I played in 1958.

I did not go to theater or even know much about Broadway prior to 1948. I liked the popular songs of the day and did not realize how many of these came from Broadway and film. I then started to see movie musicals but had no way of seeing live theater. My mother, who had attended plays when she was a girl, had stopped going to the theater when she got married.
It was not until my junior year in college at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee that I was to attend Broadway shows on tour.

A fellow accounting student who I was helping tutor (in accounting) said he would like to repay me for the help I had given him and he offered me tickets to see Broadway shows at the Pabst Theater that he ushered.
No friends in school shared my interest, my love of Broadway, but I learned that there were many more shows and stars that went to do musicals in Chicago. Ethel Merman and Phil Silvers were never coming to Milwaukee so I went to Chicago, first by bus, then by car to see shows like “Gypsy” and “Do Re Mi”, and towards the end of my senior year I was so entranced with Broadway musicals that I decided I would go to New York and see every Broadway Musical.
I was hired by one of the big seven accounting firms, my only request was that they hired me for the New York office, not Milwaukee.
Only one was able to do this, but luckily there was one!
When they hired me, they said “You don’t need to come to NY until after labor day.”
I responded “But there are musicals that will close over the summer, I can’t wait until labor day!”

So on June 6th, 1962, I filled my car (a little VW sized car) with my LP’s, my clothing, and my baseball card collection.
I decided having just purchased “Subways are for Sleeping” that that would be my first show. It took me two and a half days to reach NY and during that time I decided if I was going to see every musical, I wanted to get a really good seat. I knew that I could see a matinee for $4.95.

Arriving in NY the morning of June 6, I went to the box office of the St. James theater and asked if you could get me a seat in the first ten rows of the center orchestra. I was told “no” but I could get that seat for that evening. I left the theater not knowing what I might see as my first show and across the street I saw the Schubert theater playing “I can get it for you wholesale” with Barbara Streisand and that was my introduction to NY.

For those of you who have read this blog. I would like to offer three titles that you may not have heard too much about at a very special price.
All three titles will be $8.95.
The titles are:
Brownstone” starring Liz Callaway, Debbie Gravitte, and Brian d’Arcy James.
A… My Name Will Always Be Alice
and
The Confidence Man” by Jim Steinman starring Norbert Leo Butz and a few other Broadway names. ”

– Bruce Yeko