This is a blog of the owner of Footlight Records, Bruce Yeko. I have been going to the theater for 58 years. I have two Guinness type records. I have seen every new musical that opened on Broadway for the past 50 years. I have produced 124 cast albums, which is more than any other individual. I will be discussing my theater-going experiences and would be happy to talk about any particular show you are interested in.
We will be offering special deals to people who read this blog.
Bring Back Birdie, the sequel to Bye Bye Birdie, was originally only intended to be done in stock and amateur but the songs turned out so well that they decided that they would move it to Broadway. This was not a good idea. The book certainly had problems with it. They were able to get a top notch star in Donald O’Connor (who had turned down the original) and they brought back Chita Rivera from the original Birdie. But they did not go out of town and at the first preview one of the songs about necrophilia got booed and was cut. Donald O’Connor, at one point when he could not remember lyrics, even gave up and said “Oh, what difference does it make? It’s a lousy song anyway!” The show thus opened and closed. Because I had really enjoyed the music, I decided to do a cast album. O’Connor had not wanted to do that and quickly went back to LA. Rex Reed said “Donald, you’ve never had a Broadway cast album. You should really consider doing this!” So Donald came back and he worked really hard, particularly on his tap dance numbers.
After we finished the recording the book writer, Michael Stewart, who was in a terrible mood said “I was not consulted about what dialogue would be on the album.” When told we didn’t have dialogue on the album, he said “I want dialogue on the album” just to be ornery. So he wrote what is now at the top of the show – a fairy godmother says something to the effect of how smoothly the story went and that Albert and Rosie had settled into suburbia and had two wonderful children… until now – and then the wonderful overture by Ralph Burns starts. I find this to be wonderful.
Cats came to Broadway and stayed far too long. It ran for 18 years and had many people who went on a regular basis to see it, like you’d go to see a popular movie.
Chorus Line by Marvin Hamlisch and Ed Kleban came out of people talking about their stories about being Broadway musicals with Michael Bennett at the Public Theatre. It then was turned into a musical and was quite successful off-Broadway so moved to Broadway and had a long run (though not as long as Cats).
Copperfield by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn was based on the story by Dickens. But unlike Oliver, this did not lend itself to a popular musical. It was sadly lacking in almost every category. It closed after a few performances.
Dream Girls by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen tried in Boston and I did not find it to be initially appealing yet some people seem to be cheering for no particular reason… except for maybe the song “I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” which is loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes. It had a long run on Broadway and it was made into a successful movie musical.
The First (DEMO GOES HERE) by Bob Brush and Martin Charnin was about Jackie Robinson with a book by TV critic Joe Siegel. It starred David Grier as Jackie and Lonette McKee as his wife, Rachel. It had a great song called “There Are Days” that made me want to record the show after it’s few-week run. The music was published by Morris Music and Martin Charnin and I went to talk to the head of Morris to see if they would help in the financing of recording. They declined. I did eventually receive the demo that Bob Brush made from Martin Charnin and I’m happy to be able to share the music and lyrics with you – this is a true Footlight Exclusive! We also recorded a few songs on the Martin Charnin Album “Incurably Romantic”.
Lena Horne, the Lady and her music, was so good that it actually had a healthy run at the usually unpopular Billy Rose Theatre on 41st street. Lena worked hard doing the previews to get the very best songs and stories and the result was a two year run.
The Little Prince and the Aviator by John Barry and Don Black – This famous children’s story by the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been musicalized and performed in many versions through the years.
John Barry of movie background score fame said this is one of his favorite pieces. Unfortunately the score he wrote was not up to his usual standards.
This show was solely produced by a lawyer and by the end of the first week the word was not good on the show and the owners of the theatre decided to close the show before it even opened. The lawyer sued and collected the cost of the production which he used later to finance other musicals. But no cast album exists.
March of the Falsettos by William Finn was a sequel to In Trousers and achieved quite a bit of success compared to In Trousers.
Marlowe by Leo Rost and Jimmy Horowitz may have been the worst off-Broadway musical of our generation. It was based on Shakespeare’s contemporary. This is a musical about his life and was so amateurish that I could not think of another equally bad musical in all my theatre-going. It starred Chita Rivera’s daughter, Lisa Mordente, who was fairly good at the female lead. It was directed by Lisa’s father, Tony Mordente. It closed opening night and no recording exists.
Merrily We Roll Along by Stephen Sondheim has been talked about in many places. It was based on an unsuccessful play by George S. Koffman from the 40’s and takes place in reverse order so we see the end of the show and then we work our way backwards. Most of the characters were not likable and the show closed quickly. It certainly was not Stephen Sondheim’s fault, as he provided what many feel was his most tuneful score. So through the years it has been revised and revived till it’s performed more than some of Sondheim’s more successful shows.
Pump Boys and Dinettes by Jim Wann was a very lively country-concert type of show and had a moderate run and successful recording.
Sophisticated Ladies by Duke Ellington and various composers started as a book musical in Philadelphia but doing that run it was decided to get rid of the book and to do this as a big glamorous review. This is a very wise choice and Gregory Hines and the cast made a hit show.
Woman of the Year by Kander and Ebb was the second show that Lauren Becall did as a musical. It was based on a successful Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn movie of the 40’s about a woman sports writer, Harry Gardino. It did well in the Spencer Tracy role and Lauren Becall had almost as big of a hit in this as she did in Applause. The highlight of the show was the song she sang with Marilyn Cooper called The Grass Is Always Greener. It had a successful year or two run but closed after Raquel Welsh and Debbie Reynolds were unable to keep the box office going.
42nd Street was a big hit for David Merrick. The only sad part about the show was that director Gower Champion died just before the opening and David Merrick chose to announce this at the curtain call of opening night.
A Day In Hollywood, A Night In The Ukraine was by Frank Lazarus and Dick Vosburgh. The Day bit was a revue of new songs about Hollywood, including a few written just for New York by Jerry Herman. The Night was a parody of a Marx brothers movie with original songs. This was Tommy Tune’s first show to open on Broadway and it ran for a couple of years.
Barnum by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart was about the famous P.T. Barnum and opened directly on Broadway and ran for a few years. It originally starred Jim Dale and then Mike Burstyn.
Brigadoon was the first revival of the 50’s musical. It only had a moderate run.
Camelot, another revival, ran for a reasonable amount of time.
Charlie and Algernon was the American title for “Flowers for Algernon” (based on a novel of the same name by Daniel Keyes) which we sell. There was no recording of this not-so-good New York production.
Flowers for Algernon (Strouse-Rogers) 1979
1. His Name Is Charlie Gordon
2. I Got a Friend
3. Some Bright Morning
4. Our Boy Charlie
5. Hey Look at Me!
7. No Surprises
8. Midnight Riding
9. Dream Safe with Me
10. I Can’t Tell You
12. Charlie and Algernon
13. The Maze
14. Whatever Time There Is
16. I Really Loved You
Happy New Year took old Cole Porter songs and tried to make them into a new musical that unfortunately closed the opening night.
It’s So Nice To Be Civilized by Micki Grant was a nice, small revue that was unfortunately placed in the very large Martin Beck Theatre. The show could not succeed partially because the theatre was too big for a small show.
Musical Chairs by Tom Savage is next. This was a show that we recorded primarily for the orchestral arrangements by Dick Lieb. It had some nice stars, the biggest one being Susan Stroman. This was a play about the audience at a musical. Throughout the play, someone is looking for Sally and finally finds her at the end and we meet Susan Stroman as this Sally. The good thing for her is that Scott Ellis was in the show in a bigger part and the two of them shortly thereafter started teaming as choreographer and co-director and that led to her career. The show only ran for a couple of weeks but it does have some nice songs.
One Night Stand by Jule Styne and Herb Gardener. Originally Jule Styne wanted to make Mr. Gardener’s wonderful comedy “A Thousand Clowns” into a musical. Herb said he didn’t see it as a musical but had written a musical and was just looking for the music for it. Unfortunately his musical had little of the same charm that A Thousand Clowns had as it was primarily about a man who is telling us, friends of his in the audience, why he’s about to kill himself. Of course, it’s a musical comedy so he does not at the end (spoiler alert!). Jule Styne wrote a lot of pretty, upbeat songs for a musical somewhat to do with death. After the first preview, which I attended, the producer said to Styne and Gardener that the audience hated the show. There was almost no response at curtain call. To whom Herb replied, “I’m not changing a word.” And so they announced that the show would be closed if it wouldn’t be changed that Saturday after 8 previews and no official opening. I believe it to be the only completed work by a major composer to never officially open anywhere.
Herb Gardener did not attend the cast recording but about 15 years later after Jule Styne had died, he called me in Connecticut and asked if I had 10 copies of One Night Stand on CD. I wondered why he did not introduce himself as Herb Gardener until I asked for his credit card information to complete the transaction and he started to spell his name out for me. When I asked him about the show, he seemed friendly and upbeat.
I told him about the time we had met to discuss recording details with Jule Styne. We had decided not to use the original showgirls (who were much more accomplished as models than singers) and we hired professional singers, not actresses to complete the recording. After this meeting, Herb was going to be married that very day. Jule Styne got up, shook his hand, and gave him a congratulatory spiel about having a wonderful life with his new bride… but as soon as Herb left the large office at Chapel, Jule jumped up, pointed at the door and shouted: “THAT WAS THE MAN THAT RUINED MY MUSICAL!”
When I told herb that story, he said that it was funny because he and Jule were good friends until Jule died. They even talked about doing another musical! But that, my friends, is show business.
The opening (and simultaneously, the closing) night of Onward Victoria by Keith Hermann, Charlotte Ankers, and Irene Rosenberg was a mess especially concerning the plot about Victoria Woodhall, the famous suffragette who wanted to be president of the United States. It was made into a tawdry romance with a preacher and despite what we found to be very attractive songs, it certainly deserved to close the opening night. You can buy it from us here.
Onward Victoria – Original Broadway Cast – Herrman/Anker/Rosenberg
2. In New York, the Only Sin is Being Timid
3. Magnetic Healing
4. A Taste of Forever
5. I Depend on You
6. Onward Victoria
8. A Woman Like Beth
9. Unescorted Women
10. Love and Joy
11. Every Day I Do a Little Something for the Lord
But Never Jam Today was a musical with music by Bert Keyes and Bob Larimer, lyrics by Larimer, and a book by both Larimer and Vinnette Carroll. This was Vinnette Carrol’s new Broadway musical about Alice in Wonderland. Her previous one closed in Philadelphia so she turned to new writers and actors. However the results were not much better and it closed after a handful of performances with no recording.
Carmelina by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane was my first chance to do a recording with theater legends. I saw this show at a general public performance before the show went out of town. I then went out of town to see the show in Wilmington, Delaware. The show came to New York a few weeks later and got disappointing reviews.
I got a phone call from Chapel Music asking if I’d be interested in recording the show. I indicated that I would if I could record it under my financial terms and was told that that would be possible. I was given the actors’ names and telephone numbers and called everyone to inform them of the proposed recording. When I called Cesare Siepi, I was given an agent’s number. I called the agent and he told me that Mr. Siepi had a contract with the show’s producers that he would get $10,000 if a recording would be made. I told him that if I was Columbia Records and this was My Fair Lady, $10,000 would be fine. I told them that I had an idea of the possible sales of such a show that has so few performances. even with well known writers. and it is not possible to pay $10,000. I asked whether I could talk to Mr. Siepi. and was told that Mr. Siepi does not talk about money. And that was the end of Mr. Siepi.
I sometimes wonder if I had directly gotten ahold of Mr. Siepi if he would have had a different opinion than the agent. Burton Lane suggested Paul Sorvino whom I had worked with on The Baker’s Wife and Paul was quick to agree.
Burton did not get along with the orchestrator Hershy Kay. Burton said that although they disagreed on the way the music was arranged, he felt sure that Hershy would be willing to have the show recorded for a reasonable amount of money. However when I called Mr. Kay and he asked me if Burton was involved (to which I said “yes”), he then said, “If Burton is involved I’m going to charge YOU every penny I can because I hate that man.” I told him that Mr. Lane wasn’t paying me a dime but Hershy Kay didn’t change his tune.
I then met with Burton at his wonderful Central Park apartment – in the San Remo apartments – and suggested that Michael Starobin who had done In Trousers for me, would be a good pick. However, even though Michael Starobin had subsequently orchestrated many important musicals, he had not done so in 1979. I gave Burton a copy of In Trousers and warned him that he would not enjoy the subject matter but hoped that he would listen to the orchestrations. When I came back a week later, Burton indicated that he could not just hear the orchestrations and asked if I didn’t know anybody else. I mentioned Phil Lang who had been very kind and friendly to me but of course this would involve a lot of work and cost ten times as much as Michael Starobin might have requested. Burton didn’t care and just assumed that I would get Phil Lang.
We had to change the keys for Paul Sorvino but in a new orchestration that was not a problem. Burton asked if we could get the orchestra to read through the new arrangements. I told him that there are no rehearsals for recordings and it would cost me expensive union rates to even play through the songs once. But I did tell him that if he let me use a non-union orchestra just to hear the music, I can provide that. He said that would be fine. And we played through the songs and he was very happy.
When I called Paul Sorvino close to the rehearsal, his wife indicated that he was in Italy making a movie. I asked if he would be back by the recording date but as it turned out, Burton gave him the wrong recording date and he would not. Burton told me not to worry and that he would sing the vocals in the studio so that the orchestra would be able to follow a singer and when Paul returned in a week or two he could add the vocals in place of Burton’s.
There had been two songs Burton had not heard an arrangement for because Phil Lang had yet to arrange them. When we came to the first of them he said after hearing the unheard arrangement that those were not his chords. I went to Phil Lang and Phil Lang said that he was under the presumption that he had the freedom to choose the chords that he did and that these chords could not be changed at this recording session so Burton looked angry but just walked away. We then completed most of the recording. We only had a reprise of one of the songs left and like 15 minutes left to record this 2 and a half minute song. The union representative told us not to let Burton stop us when he hears the music because we only if we played it three or four times all the way through we could get a good version for him.
Burton could not stop himself somehow, and we never completed a good take. So I told him that I could not afford the 30 minute minimum overtime fee for the reprise and that it was his fault. He did not feel that way and he threatened me that if I didn’t do the reprise, he would try to stop me from releasing the record. It might have been an empty threat but he had a lawyer and I had none and I had to pay thousands of dollars to record a reprise.
Burton was helpful in working with Paul Sorvino when he added his vocals. But kept saying I needed to bring back the orchestra which I ignored. Eventually he said it in a nasty way and I said the orchestra’s only going to come back if you pay for it. He told me, “I only know about writing music – I don’t know about making records”.
To which I replied, “It’s about writing a check. Which you, as the owner of an apartment in the San Remo, can do if you want to.”
He left the recording studio, the engineer and I finished a few numbers that had not been mixed, and the record came out. I never heard whst Burton thought of it but he asked for two boxes of it so I guess he enjoyed it. It has also become a record that many have thanked me for doing.
Comin’ Uptown by lyricist Peter Udell and composer Garry Sherman, was a black Christmas Carol that took place in Harlem. It starred Gregory Hines who was certainly good in the part of Scrooge. When I met with the composer he wanted to be paid for his arrangements which I was not willing to do so this short run musical was never recorded.
Evita by Weber and Rice was of course a big hit in London and on Broadway with Patti Lupone and has been made into a Madonna movie and been revived many, many times.
Got tu Go Disco was a terrible disco musical. I called up the producer and asked for free tickets and he never got back to me. I felt I should not have to pay to see the show so I went to the theater and asked for the producer. When I saw him, he was holding a stack of tickets and he said “I don’t know who the hell you are but here are two tickets.” The show closed opening night.
Home Again, Home Again by Cy Coleman and Barbara Fried started out of town in Stratford, Connecticut (about 30 minutes away from me) so I saw the world premier. I then read that the show which had gone up to and was now closing in Toronto. So I took a plane and saw the closing performance in Toronto and even came back on the plane with the entire cast. No recording was made but we have a quite an entertaining demo sung mainly by Cy Coleman.
I Remember Mama by Richard Rodgers and Martin Charnin premiered at the Shubert in Philadelphia and I sat a few rows behind Richard Rodgers at the first performance. The show came to town and received bad reviews and appeared to not have any chance of being recorded. I called up the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization and said I would be willing to pay for half of the cost of the show recording and Mr Rodgers or the organization would put up the other $20,000. I was told that Mr. Rogers felt that the recording industry owed him this recording. I said if I had recorded all his hit shows I would feel the same way – but he would not give me a penny. A few months later, an Ohklahoma revival came to Broadway and was a big hit. I asked who was paying to record that show and Mr. Rodgers’ representative said “Oh Mr. Rodgers is.” I then asked why Mr. Rogers would pay for a revival of Oklahoma and not what was likely to be his last show and was told that Mr. Rogers could make money off this one. He died within the year. Luckily the show was recorded by John Yap in England with some of the leads and we now sell that recording.
Peter Allen’s Up in One was pretty much a one man show with a female singer to do duets with him. It was very entertaining and his energy made the evening a wonderful experience but for some reason no recording was ever made.
Peter Pan was a wonderful revival starring Sandy Duncan and ran much longer than the Mary Martin version but no record company seemed interested in recording a new Peter Pan at the time. There were several attempts to do an album but that never happened.
Saravá by Mitch Leigh (Man of La Mancha) and N. Richard Nash starred Tovah Feldshuh. It was a musical based on a Brazilian movie and the only recording that was made was a disco version of the title song. The show closed within a few weeks.
Sugar Babies was a Harry Rigby salute to old time burlesque with old burlesque sketches and Mickey Rooney and Anne Miller. It had a very successful run but was never made into a record until Robert Sher and I recorded the show after the show went on tour.
I saw the world premier of Sweeney Todd by Sondheim at the Uris Theatre. I took my daughter, who was about seven at the time, even though I knew it was probably not going to be something terribly appropriate. I did not know how many people would be killed or how the violence would be portrayed. My daughter at that age fell asleep after about 20 minutes (like in almost every show I took her to) but in this show, whenever there was a murder, a loud whistle shrieked and woke up my daughter. At the intermission we went into the lobby to get a candy for her to eat. I looked around and I did not see any other children. So I said to her, “You may not appreciate this today, but someday you can say that you were the only child who saw the world premier of Sweeny Todd.” My daughter survived and Mr. Sondheim had a big hit which has been revived and made into a movie.
The Grand Tour by Jerry Herman starred Joel Gray and was about a jew and a nazi who, over a period of time, learned to appreciate each other as human beings. This story did not please the critics or the audience and it only ran a few months but the songs on their own are quite nice.
The Most Happy Fella by Frank Loesser was a revival that did not have a really good run, despite a very good performance by Meg Bussart. It had a short run. The producer had made a video of the show when it was in Detroit and we now have that on a DVD.
The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall by Clark Gessner closed opening night. With the financial assistance of Clark, we made a somewhat popular recording of the cast. It is really an old fashioned operetta done tongue-in-cheek and it stars Celeste Holm. We have now also released the tryout from a college in California on DVD.
They’re Playing Our Song we believe that this has already been talked about in our 1978 blog.
Tricks was a musical from Louisville, Kentucky where it had a brief tryout and should never have come to Broadway. It of course closed opening night.
Whoopee! by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson tried out in the Goodspeed Opera House which led to a successful run at the Booth Theatre in New york.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ was a very successful musical that transferred to the Manhattan Theatre Club and has been revived numerous times since. The music is by Fats Waller.
Angel was an unsuccessful musical based on the popular book, play, and movie Look Homeward, Angel. It was not a good sign that rather than appear in a standard tryout theatre in Philadelphia or Boston, it tried out in North Port Long Island, home of Patti Lupone. The score was certainly above average, written by the team who had done Shenandoah very successfully, Gary Geld and Peter Udell. It starred Fred Gwynne from the Munsters, Francis Sternhagan, and Don Scardino (who also appeared in our recording of the King of Hearts). The show just did not catch on and only lasted a few weeks. It was however recorded by the producer Phil Rose, and we have made this LP into a CDR which is available for purchase. Click here to see our listing for Angel.
The Ballroom, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, was a followup to his Chorus Line. Written by the Bergmans and Billy Goldenberg, it starred Dorothy Loudon and was a tribute to ballroom dancing and older people who frequented dance halls in the 50s and 60s. It tried out in Stratford, Connecticut which is very near to where I live so I saw the first performance. It had been done successfully on television but the Broadway version was too much to me standard dancing and did not appeal to all generations.
The Bar Mitsvah Boy opened in London and was based on a popular tv straight play. It debuted in London and was written by Jule Styne and Don Black. Don Black, as usual, did not add anything appealing to this musical and even Jule did not show any great inspiration. So the show played a very brief occasion and did not come to New York as I’m sure Jule hoped it would.
Barbary Coast, was a musical that started in California and did not get sufficient reviews to arrive in New York as was originally scheduled.
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, by Carol Hall, started off-off-Broadway and within months opened on Broadway. The musical was really made successful by Tommy Tune in his first major directing role. It ran for several years and was made into a Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds movie.
Billy Bishop Goes To War had a little success in its Canadian production but again was not successful on Broadway.
A Broadway Musical, by Strouse and Adams, started inauspiciously. This musical did not have enough money or interest to open out of town, so they tried to do a downsized version at Riverside Church. It at least enabled them to raise money to do it at the Lunt-Fontanne and to get a new director, Gower Champion… but the material was not that worthwhile and the show closed opening night.
Dancin’ was a Bob Fosse musical of very appealing dance numbers and had a long and successful run.
Eubie started at AMAS. It was a musical tribute to Eubie Blake and starred Gregory Hines. It ran for one season.
Evita by Rice and Webber started as a concept album following Jesus Christ Superstar. It debuted in England and starred Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin. It was very excitingly directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Larry Fuller. It was an instant success and the start of Patti Lupone’s historic career. It was made into a not-so-great Madonna movie.
King of Hearts tried out in Westport, Connecticut, 20 minutes away from me, and starred Robbie Benson who did many teenage movie musicals and years later played the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. It was about a 19 year old boy who goes off to France and gets involved in the war against Germany. It had music by Peter Link and lyrics by Jacob Brackman, who wrote many pop songs including some of Carly Simon’s hits. Westport County Playhouse is probably a 400 seat theatre so they felt that Robbie Benson would not have a big enough voice to play Minskoff Theatre, which probably has 1800 seats. Since everybody on a Broadway stage is mic’d, this to me did not seem the best decision. He was replaced by Don Scardino, which did a good job with the part but he should not have played a 19 year old boy. I loved the music enough to approach Peter Link and he said we could record the album in his apartment. Intrigued, asked how. He told me that it wouldn’t be all at one time. We could record the instruments a few at a time and even bring the singers in different groups. This actually worked out nicely and I’m very proud of the final result. I highly recommend this for purchase.
On the Twentieth Century by Cy Coleman and Comden and Green, starred John Collum and Madeline Kahn. It tried out in Boston and on my way from CT to Boston there was unfortunately a big, sudden snow storm and I was in an accident. I had stopped my car and a grocery store delivery truck barreled into me. My wife Doris was somewhat injured and I was never able to complete the trip to Boston. But I did see the final production in NY. I thought the first part of the show was brilliant where they gave the impression that you were on a real train. But the music turned into a not-so-good operetta. Imogene Coca as a crazed evangelist was not my taste or at all amusing. The show did have a decent run and was even revived by Kristin Chenoweth.
My One and Only was a revival with changes in the book of an early Gershwin show. It was directed by Tommy Tune. It was in danger of closing after not getting great reviews in Boston but Tommy, Peter Stone, and Maury Yeston made major changes in the Gershwin songs and dance numbers, and when it opened in NY with Twiggy as Tommy’s costar it proved to be most delightful and had a successful two year run.
Platinum, by Gary William Friedman and Will Holt, started originally in Buffalo, and at that time was titled Sunset and directed by Tommy Tune. To get it to Broadway, they got involved with Paramount pictures and got Joe Layton as the director. Alexis Smith was really great as a former movie star trying to fit in with the 60’s pop scene but her rock-n-roll younger boyfriend was not at all appealing and I find it hard to believe that the real Alexis Smith would have had anything to do with him. Despite some very catchy songs, it had a short run in New York.
Runaways by Liz Swados, about young children who runaway from home, started at the Papp Theatre downtown. It probably should not have moved to Broadway where it had a very brief run.
They’re Playing Our Song, by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, was a musical written about the songwriters’ relationship. This had a very funny book by Neil Simon and starred Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein. The only other people in the show were backup singers. It ran for a couple years.
Timbuktu was a reworking of Kisbet by Wright and Forrest, making it into a black musical starring Eartha Kitt. The original book to Kisbet is not terribly strong but the songs and the original performers made it into a hit. Somehow the reworking lost quite a bit of its appeal and it ran at the Mark Hellinger for only about a month.
Working was written by Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, and Mary Rodgers. Stephen decided to take the Studs Terkel book where he interviewed people in the common, every day, blue-collar, occupations. These stories were made into songs that were not necessarily the actual stories that Studs Terkel told in the book. To me while some of the songs are very appealing, some of the stories are not as equally appealing. In recent times it has been revised and a few new songs have been written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and that makes people seem to be happier about remaking the show. It was redone recently in England and is usually done in high schools.
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.
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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