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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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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.