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.
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