Friday, November 21, 2014

Grand Hotel

The director and choreographer Tommy Tune may have the most extravagant imagination in the American musical theater right now, and there isn't a moment, or a square inch of stage space, that escapes its reach in ''Grand Hotel.'' The musical at the Martin Beck Theater is an uninterrupted two hours of continuous movement, all dedicated to creating the tumultuous atmosphere of the setting: an opulent way station at a distant crossroads of history in Berlin - that of 1928. ~ New York Times.1989.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wonderful Town - Quick Sketch

Wonderful Town
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Book by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov
Broadway 1953

Ruth Sherwood may have felt overshadowed by her sister Eileen but the stories she wrote about their life launched a successful franchise. My Sister Eileen was adapted into a hit Broadway play, a film, a TV series (starring Elaine Stritch!), and two competing musicals!

Columbia Pictures' film musical featured a sexy challenge dance between Eileen’s suitors, Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall, but Bernstein, Comden and Green’s Wonderful Town had the longer shelf life. The show rejuvenated the career of Rosalind Russell and boosted the profile of Donna Murphy in a successful revival.

10/25/2016 - Here is an updated comic:

Monday, November 17, 2014


“In early 1986 the Space Shuttle blew up and that’s when I realized that we still haven’t learned the lesson of not putting our unconditional faith in the infallibility of technology. Now we really need to tell the story so that we can live and learn from it... Now Peter had written the show 1776, and had taken an historic event, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and convinced the audience by the end of the play that they were not going to sign it! I said, Peter, you are the perfect man to write Titanic because you are somehow going to convince the audience that the ship is not going to sink or at least hope that it won’t." ~ Maury Yeston

"It's good to be reminded that most of those who perished were travelling to the US to make new and better lives for themselves." ~ Guardian. 2013.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Miss Liberty

Mary McCarty is best remembered today for originating the roles of Mama Morton in Chicago and Stella "Who's That Woman" in Follies. In 1949 she played the ill-treated third wheel in the love triangle of Irving Berlin's Miss Liberty. Her character was so poorly treated by the callow leading man that audiences turned against him and his new love.

Though an Irving Berlin score is always fun, the critics did not consider this work his best. Miss Liberty lasted 308 performances but has not been heard from since.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pal Joey - Quick Sketch

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Book by John O'Hara, based on his novel
1940 Broadway

"If it is possible to make an entertaining musical comedy out of an odious story, Pal Joey is it… Although Pal Joey is expertly done, can you draw sweet water from a foul well?” ~ Brooks Atkinson, New York Times, 1940.

"Joey as a person met with a great deal of resistance in 1940 when he was first presented to the American public, but I have an idea that this was due largely to the fact that nobody like Joey had ever been on the musical stage before… While Joey himself may have been fairly adolescent in his thinking and his morality, the show bearing his name certainly wore long pants, and in many respects forced the entire musical comedy theater to wear long pants for the first time. We were all pretty proud of this fact." ~ Richard Rogers, New York Times, 1951

Monday, November 10, 2014

Henry, Sweet Henry

The film The World of Henry Orient gave Peter Sellers a star turn as the frazzled musician. The stage adaptation gave Don Ameche considerably less to do in the title role, giving the lions share of the songs to Robin Wilson and Neva Small as the two school girls.

Clive Barnes at the New York Times was blasting all musicals that season that didn't have pop or rock scores and his review was blamed for the shows early demise, but the cast recording indicates that there were other problems. Bob Merrill's "youthful" lyrics can't decide how young the girls are supposed to be. At times they seem teenagers, at other times toddlers. He could get away with this sort of thing in Carnival for plot reasons, but it's problematic here.

Alice Playten received the lions share of the notices for her two belty songs as the school bully, Kafritz. Even cranky Clive Barnes praised her for "belting out the music like a toy Merman."

Friday, November 7, 2014


Alfred Uhry:  When I was a child, when anybody would mention Leo Frank, people of that generation would get up and walk out of the room... Then one time I told the story to Hal Prince, and he said, “My God! That’s the musical theatre piece I’ve been looking to do!”

Parade has an ambitious libretto. It contains pieces of a detective story, a courtroom drama and a romance yet refuses to focus on any one plot strand. By giving every member of the town a chance to weigh in on the court case, even in the scaled down 2007 revisal, Parade presents the mindset of an entire fragmented town that eventually joins together as a mob.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Pajama Game - Quick Sketch

Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell
based on the novel 7½ Cents by Richard Bissell.
1954 Broadway

Adler and Ross amazed audiences and critics with two Tony winning musicals back to back. Then Jerry Ross had the misfortune to die at the age of 29 of bronchiectasis. While we'll never know what they could have written their two hits, Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game were captured in faithful films and successful in revivals.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hot Spot

Judy Holliday had the misfortune to follow her hit musical Bells Are Ringing with the flop Hot Spot. The show closed after 4 months on Broadway and a disaster prone tryout.

No director was credited in the program… During the tryout, the show even lost its musical director… Hot Spot was in such disarray that the New York Times reported Holliday jokingly remarked that the musical would have to be frozen for a least the five mintues prior to the New York opening night curtain. ~ Dan Dietz. The Complete Book of 1960s BroadwayMusicals

During previews in New York a new opening number for Holliday, called “Don’t Laugh,” was added. Quite the best thing in the show it was mostly the work of Stephen Sondheim, a close friend of Mary Rodgers.’ ~ Kevin Mandelbaum, Not Since Carrie.

“It’s a shame. There’s a bright idea for a satire in Hot Spot, but it is still in crude outline form.” ~ Howard Taubman. New York Times.

“You can only live through one or two Hot Spots in your life.” ~ Judy Holliday

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bells Are Ringing

A musical comedy about a lovable stalker!

" Writing in The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson called the story “one of the most antiquated plots.”Yet the show ran for 924 performances on the strength of its sui generis star, Judy Holliday, a curvaceous but prurience-proof blonde with a foggy voice and a sunny mien. Comden and Green had performed with Holliday as part of a comic cabaret team, and they tailored the part of Ella the operator, stitch-by-stitch, with their friend in mind." ~ New York Times

Faith Prince had less success in a 2001 revival but Judy Holliday's performance has been captured on film for all to see why this show was a hit.