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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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Musicals of 1975

Chicago by Kander and Ebb. After seeing the show at the world premier in Philadelphia, we saw it a second time and it was even better. 

Chorus Line by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban. We saw this off-Broadway at the public theatre. It moved to the Shubert and became one of the biggest hits of all time. 

The Night That Made America Famous – A revue of Harry Chapin songs. Not exactly Broadway type material and although he had a following, it was not enough to ensure much of a run.

Philemon by Harvey Shmidt and Tom Jones was  a stirring, religious musical which has just been commercially released on CD for the first time. 

The Robber Bridegroom by Robert Waldman and Alfred Uhry. We recorded a version of four songs with Jerry Orbach and Virginia Vespa singing and in the early days of CD’s we made a deal to record the Broadway version starring Barry Boswick. This CD version has additional dialogue and small song samples and it was the concept to do it as a story cd plus all the original songs from the Broadway LP. 

The Wiz by Charlie Smalls.  I was sure this did not have much chance of success. I was afraid that everybody would think it was a bad idea to do a new version instead of the traditional movie version by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. The reviews were fairly good but I went to see it again and there were many empty seats in the orchestra. They turned the show around by getting black church groups to bus in to see the show and eventually it became a very successful musical that was made into a movie and revived everywhere. 

A Gala Tribute to Joshua Logan was a Sunday evening gala with stars from Mary Martin to Ethel Merman and everyone in between. We have made this into a two CD set. 

Rodgers and Hart was a revue but more like a summer stock show with moderately talented singers. It only ran a couple months despite some good songs.

Shenandoah by Gary Geld and Peter Udell was a wonderful civil war musical about a father whose sons go off to war. It starred the always talented John Collum. I saw this at the Goodspeed Opera House and was happy that it went to New York. It had at least a three year wonderful run.

The Lieutenant was a rock musical about the My Lai massacre. Well intentioned but did not belong on Broadway. 

Truckload by Louis St. Louis and Wes Harris. The book was written by Hugh Wheeler, the wonderful writer of A Little Night Music. This was not a wonderful musical however as it was just about people going around in trucks. It was intended to be something like Hair but did not have the music for it and closed without ever opening.

Very Good Eddie. This was a vintage Jerome Kern musical that started at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut and had a nice run at the Booth Theatre. It makes for a very listenable CD. 

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Musicals of 1976

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – this Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner musical made to celebrate the centennial was a good idea but never really came together. There were many problems in telling the story of being backstairs at the White House with the president and first ladies. It changed songs, directors, and even story lines… eventually limping into the Mark Hellinger Theatre and only lasting 7 performances. We have a demo of a few of the songs. 

The Baker’s Wife was a Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein show. A part was originally offered to Zero Mostel, who said he would only do it if he owned a part of the show. Producer David Merrick was the last person who would give an actor ownership of his show so Chaim Topol, from the movie Fiddler on the Roof, was chosen. Topol did not want to keep the story true to the original Baker’s Wife plot because he felt no woman would ever leave him for a younger man. Carol Demas was replaced by Patti LuPone and six months later Paul Sorvino replaced Topol. I very much liked the Paul Sorvino version and made it into my first Broadway cast album which I am very proud of. 

Bubbling Brown Sugar was a black revue originating from Rosetta LeNoire at her Harlem based amas repertory. It moved to Broadway and had a healthy run and was even done in London after that. 

Going Up by Louis Hirsch originally had a moderate run in 1919. It was revised and remounted at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1976 but only played four performances then transferred to New York. We sell the studio cast of the full original score.

Home Sweet Homer by Mitch Leigh originally had lyrics by Eric Siegel and was called Odyssey (both titles, of course, alluding to Homer’s Odyssey). It had a long tour because of Yul Brynner’s popularity but in California the show took a terrible wrong turn and was made into a farce… an unfunny farce. The revised lyrics were written by Charles Burr and Forman Brown. It closed opening night on Broadway but the version we have was of an early part of the tour and is quite interesting! 

Music Is, by Richard Adler, directed by George Abbot, started in Seattle and then played the Kennedy Center but closed quickly when it arrived in New York City. There are a few nice songs but it was not Broadway worthy.

Pacific Overtures by Sondheim tried out at the Colonial in Boston and came into New York. While it was liked by many, it was not a typical Broadway musical as it was about the Americans’ Admiral Perry going to Japan. There are fascinating songs in this and it is highly recommended.

Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart was originally offered to Alan Jay Lerner who unfortunately was not healthy enough to participate. The show with Michael Crawford who suddenly had gotten a much bigger voice than he had in the film Hello, Dolly! was a huge hit and arrived in New York and is still there. 

Side by Side by Sondheim was the first Sondheim revue and featured his best known songs with a small cast of well known actors. It has been done in other places very successfully. 

Rex by Richard Rodgers and Sheldon Harnick starred Nicole Williamson was about Henry the VIII. I saw the world premier in Wilmington, Deleware and then the New York production. I was sad to see that the critics did not like it well enough to let the show run. 

Rockabye Hamlet by Cliff Jones started in Charlottetown Canada where it was called Kronberg: 1582 and was done originally in a very classical way. Gower Champion took over the show and decided to turn it into a rock musical that featured an entirely different cast except for Beverly D’Angelo who had originated Ophelia during the Canadian tour. The rest of the cast included Larry Marshall as Hamlet, Alan Weeks as Claudius, Leata Galloway as Gertrude, Kim Milford as Laertes, Rory Dodd as Horatio, Meat Loaf as the Priest, and Christopher Chadman and Winston DeWitt Hemsley as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I really enjoyed both versions but the critics were appalled that the show had been turned into a rock musical. 

So Long, 174th Street by Stan Daniels was based on Stein’s play Enter Laughing, based on the Carl Reiner book of the same name. It had such appealing songs and great Luther Henderson orchestrations that I eventually made the cast album. Robert Morse was just too old to play a teenager (He was in his 40’s!) and the show closed within a week. They keep trying to get the show going again and it was recently done at the York Theatre for the third time but it would not succeed on Broadway in today’s world.

Something’s Afoot was an Agatha Christie type movie-murder/whodunnit. Where the majority of the cast is killed one by one. It starred Tesse O’shea who was great in the title role but the show only managed to run a couple months. John Yap has, after all these years, made a New English recording with well known English singers and it is scheduled to be available around Christmas-time. 

Your Arm’s Too Short To Box With God was a black revue that had a brief run and has not been revived since. 

Hellzapoppin’ was an attempt to bring Jerry Lewis to Broadway in a contemporary version of the movie Ole Olson and Chic Johnson had starred in in the 40’s. The score was mostly by Hank Beebe and Bill Heyer and unfortunately was somewhat lacking in Broadway appeal. The shows that I saw, the opening in Wilmington and the closing in Boston, would simply not have succeeded on Broadway.

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Musicals of 1974

Bruce Yeko, owner of Footlight Records, reflects on the musicals of 1974.

Brainchild by Michel Legrand and Hal David closed in Philadelphia. It took place in the mind of a woman and was very confusing. Tovah Feldshuh played one of the women. 

Candide by Leonard Bernstein and Richard Wilbur moved from a small Brooklyn theatre’s base to the 8 or 10 times as big Broadway theatre. It was still worth seeing even at the expense of taking out seats and other things as a result of the musical not returning it’s investment. 

Good News started in Boston where I saw it and found it was quite well done. Unfortunately, Alice Faye and the somewhat older cast were sent on a  nine month tour and by the time it finally arrived at the St. James Theatre, everyone was just tired. The recording we have was made by one of the cast members, Lane Bryant, as he toured with the show. It has many songs that were cut during the long tour. 

Gypsy by Styne and Sondheim starred Angela Lansbury. It was first done in London and a triumph there sent it up to Winter Garden in New York. 

Lorelie was a revival by Styne, Robin, and Comden and Green. It starred Carol Channing reprising her ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ role with additional material as she looked back upon her life. It too had a very long tour and was made into two LP’s: one was the out of town tour after many changes and the second LP was made to incorporate the new songs. It arrived on Broadway and had a moderate run.

Miss Moffat by Albert Hague and Emlyn Williams. This show was Bette Davis second and unfortunately last attempt at doing a musical. At the first preview in Philadelphia, she was given the task of riding a bicycle across the stage. Which was obviously something not easy for somebody at her age. The curtain came down and she started the show off the bicycle. This musical version of ‘The Corn Is Green’ takes place in the South where she is a teacher. She was only able to do a few performances in Philadelphia and they closed the show without going to New York.

Mack and Mabel by Jerry Herman was about Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, really early pioneers in the silent movies. The great score, one of the best Jerry Herman ever wrote, was sung by Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston. Unfortunately they felt compelled to tell the actual story which was not a musical comedy and it involved murder and cocaine and this was seemingly responsible for the show not having the run it deserved. It has been revived many times and the story gets a little better each time. 

Over Here by the Sherman brothers was a WWII musical starring the Andrews Sisters and introducing John Travolta and Ann Reinking. It had a successful run at the Shubert but by the end of the run the two remaining Andrew sisters were not talking to each other off-stage. The show has only been done infrequently since 1974. 

Rainbow Jones by Jill Williams was a musical but certainly did not belong on Broadway. It was written by an unknown person. Both music and lyrics. And I have no memory of anything that happened during the show. The music wasn’t the best, better suited for off-Broadway, and closed, I believe, opening night.

Ride the Wind by John Driver was a samurai philosophical musical that did not belong on broadway or anywhere. It too closed opening night.

Sheba (Come Back, Little Sheba) was intended for Broadway. Starring Kaye Ballard, it played a small theatre in Chicago and never reached New York. Many years later it played West Port County Playhouse where the fabulous Donna McKechnie took over the lead role. We were lucky to preserve this and we did it primarily because of Miss McKechnie and the wonderful Ralph Burns orchestrations. I believe this is the only small show he ever orchestrated. 

The Magic Show by Stephen Schwartz was quite popular with Doug Henning’s magic. I believe many tourists did not even know it was a musical. But it is an excellent score and we have a CDR that has been long out of print. 

Where’s Charley? by Frank Loesser was revived by the Circle in the Square theatre. It starred Raul Julia who was quite excellent in the lead role but it did not get extended past the initial run. We have found a very rare recording of the Where’s Charley score from a school in the 50’s with the original orchestrations. Look for this in future releases. 

Words and Music was basically an evening with Sammy Cahn. It moved from the 92nd Street Y after one performance to a Broadway show where it played a few months. It was also done I believe in London and Los Angeles. Sammy Cahn was always worth watching. 

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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.