Friday, May 30, 2014

Me and Juliet

Me and Juliet was Rodgers and Hammerstein's sixth collaboration and their second commercial failure. Allegro had been Hammerstein's passion project, and Me and Juliet was Rodgers' baby. Juliet ran 10 months beating Allegro's nine.

The libretto uses a show within a show framework similar to 1948's Kiss Me Kate as a Chorus Girl juggles the affections of an Assistant Stage Manager and the Jud Fry-esque spotlight operator. 

Leading Lady Isabel Bigley had originated the role of Sarah Brown in 1950's Guys and Dolls. After the closing of Me and Juliet she left Broadway for television.

Read more about Me and Juliet here

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Rodgers and Hammerstein had great success with their first two musicals, Oklahoma and Carousel. While their scores would continue to innovate their librettos were less successful when dealing with contemporary urban settings.

Their third Broadway musical Allegro spiced up a simple story with an Our Town-esque bare stage and a large greek chorus of townsfolk. Critics and audiences weren't having it and the show closed in nine months. Hammerstein claimed audiences misunderstood his story about the perils of fame. His mentee Stephen Sondheim later wrote that Hammerstein was writing about his own life.

Read more about Allegro here. The production rights are available here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fade Out - Fade In

Fade Out Fade In was to be Carol Burnett’s second Broadway hit but pregnancy, a back injury and television stardom caused the show to open late and close early.

Chicago’s Porchlight Music Theatre just produced a fantastic concert reading of the show, revealing structural parallels to Carol’s other vehicle Once Upon a Mattress.

  • Top of Act One: Carol barges into a gated community. (Shy / It’s Good to be Back)
  • Mid Act One: Carol sings of her humble beginnings. (The Swamps of Home / The Usher from the Mezzanine).
  • Top of Act Two: Carol sings a defiant ballad when the chips are down (Happily Ever After / Go Home Train)
  • And then Carol disappears leaving her meek love interest (Prince / Nephew) to stand up to the antagonist (Queen / Studio Boss). 

In 2005 she graduated to the Queen in Mattress and someone finally wrote her a proper 11 o’clock number. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Taboo (Broadway Version)

Rosie O'Donnell loved Taboo in London and financed the transfer to Broadway. She hired Charles Busch to write a new libretto.

Charles removed the audience surrogate Billy, his girlfriend Kim and his squabbling parents. Boy George was promoted from supporting character to leading man for a Funny Girl style rise and fall. Critics agreed this was a good idea.

However by this point the real Boy George was playing the flashy supporting role of Leigh Bowery. The Broadway libretto beefed up Leigh's  role and gave him a love triangle of his own. Critics felt this was a bad idea. Boy George was once again being upstaged in his own musical, this time by Boy George.

When Taboo was revived in London in 2013 they brought back the old book, with Billy the ingenue, but stuffed in some of the Broadway songs. Read more about that production here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Taboo (London version)

Boy George composed a musical in which he played performance artist Leigh Bowery while another actor played a young Boy George. Things got meta.

Taboo showcases the real-life personalities of London's 80's club scene through the eyes of a fictional couple, Billy and Kim. Critics loved the party atmosphere but many felt the ingenues sucked a lot of fun out of things. This was despite a charismatic performance from Luke Evans, now widely known for the Hobbit films. When Taboo transferred to Broadway Billy and Kim were excised and Boy George was promoted from support to leading role. More about that in my next post.

Read more about Taboo here.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Rags the musical underwent many rewrites and subplots. Rebecca's every-woman continues to grow a social conscience while Bella's factory girl has progressively more to do in the latest published version. The fans still love it while the critics dismiss it as Fiddler on the Roof 2 meets Ragtime Lite.

Read more about Rags' history here and watch Judy Kuhn's fantastic performance on the Tony Awards here.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nymph Errant

Nymph Errant's structure is the polar opposite of an integrated Cole Porter show like Kiss Me Kate. Gertrude Lawrence and her "school chums" pop up at regular intervals to sing sassy specialty songs between skits with the various wacky suitors, and the plot sort of bumbles along when it must.

Here's Julie Andrews singing the fabulous "The Physician" in the less than fabulous Gertrude Lawrence biopic Star! 

You can read more about Nymph Errant here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Body Beautiful

Before ROCKY, before GOLDEN BOY, there was the boxing musical THE BODY BEAUTIFUL. It got Bock and Harnick together. They moved on to FIORELLO, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and many more.

Read more about THE BODY BEAUTIFUL here.
The work is licensed by Samuel French.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Hunting

Legends say that "Happy Hunting's" failure is the reason Ethel refused to allow Stephen Sondheim to compose the music for Gypsy. She was done with untested composers.

The libretto is an odd mix of roles old and new, giving her an Annie Oakley childhood, a Sally Adams fortune, monologues to an Ephram Levi-esque ex husband, and some romance aboard an Anything Goes style cruise ship. Though she never played Mame it culminates with a Mame style fox hunt, making nearly everything about the show feel borrowed.

Still she kept her opening number, "Gee! But it's good to be here," in her concert repertoire.

Read more about Happy Hunting here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Let 'Em Eat Cake

In 1931 the Gershwin's wrote Of Thee I Sing, a musical about about the fictional Wintergreen's run for president. It was a hit. Two years later they wrote a musical about Wintergreen becoming a fascist dictator. It didn't go over so well.

Learn more about the show here!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Smile has many subplots but I focused on the two leads. Read a full synopsis here.

Jodi Benson sang a song in Smile about wanting to live at Disneyland. Three years later she voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid and has played the role in every commercial, sequel, prequel and video game tie-in since.

Smile is licensed by Samuel French Inc.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Irma La Douce

I wasn't happy with Nestor's face till the third panel. Then it was too late to go back and redraw. By contrast I prefer Irma's face in the first panel.

Encores is reviving Irma la Douce May 7-11, 2014.

Irma la Douce is licensed by Tams-Witmark Music Library.


 "When I'm Drunk I'm Beautiful" is a treat but "Prettybelle" is too offensive for Encores to ever revive.

Learn more about Prettybelle here.

The Boy From Oz

My second requested piece. Liza got a little smeared by my Sharpie but I had fun with Judy and a Gaston-esque Hugh Jackman.

Learn more about The Boy from Oz here.

The Rink

I told you I liked Chita Rivera flops. And look who joined her here. It's Liza!

The Rink is licensed by Samuel French Inc. Learn more here.

On Your Toes

My first request! I wasn't familiar with this show so I had to do some digging. The show is licensed by Rodgers and Hammerstein Co. Learn more here.

Raggedy Ann on Broadway

I'd grown up with the bizarre 1977 film "Raggedy Ann and Andy" but had read in Ken Mandelbaum's "Not Since Carrie" that it been made into a dark stage musical. The show toured Russia, then flopped on Broadway. After a little digging I decided it would be my next comic.

Lear more about the show here. 

Lady in the Dark

My first comic in the printed template. I caused quite a debate among my theater friends on Facebook when I snubbed this show for dated sexual politics. One of them rightly commented "the first show to use analysis as anything but a punchline, the first even remotely sympathetic gay character and the whole story is analogous (if coded) to Moss Hart's life."

Lady in the Dark is licensed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Co. Learn more here.

Bajour Concept Sketch

Tried sketching a comic without the dividing frames. Decided I prefer the frames.

The amazing Chita Rivera has had a career full of hits but her flop shows are no less fascinating to theater geeks like me.

Bajour is licensed by Dramatic Publishing Co. Learn more here.

Redhead Concept Sketch

Another free sketch. Once I found a layout I liked I was ready to print a template for future comics.

Redhead won the Best Musical Tony in 1959 and is virtually forgotten. It boosted the rising careers of Bob Fossee and Gwen Verdon who added enough razzle-dazzle to boost the simple story and score.

Redhead is currently licensed by Music Theatre International. Learn more about show here.

Flahooley Concept Sketch

My first sketch in the Three Panel Musical series.

I knew I'd want three panels, the author credits at the top, and a black and white, cartoony style. Something with enough detail to be amusing, but simple enough to draw on a lunch hour.

Learn more about Flahooley here! Anyone know who's got the producing rights to it these days?

An Introduction

Hello everyone!

The following blog will be a place for me to post my art, starting with the ongoing Three Panel Musicals series. I run a storefront theater company that produces obscure musicals and occasionally find it challenging to sum up their plots when pitching them to theater folk.

After seeing GoodTickleBrain's fantastic Three Panel Shakespeare series I decided to try something similar with some of the stranger musical theater librettos out there.

Have a look through my posts and share your thoughts!