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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.