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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.