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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.