Friday, August 28, 2015

A Connecticut Yankee

Mark Twain's story was a cynical take down of modern greed. The musical settles for a love triangle. Legends say that Rodgers tried to save his partnership with the alcoholic Larry Hart by pitching a revisal for their Pal Joey star Vivienne Segal. Sadly Hart passed shortly after opening. His last song was a showstopping "To Keep My Love Alive."

The show is not favored for revival due to a dull book that the New York Times called "feeble" in 1943 and "quaint" in 2001. The songs "Thou Swell" and "My Heart Stood Still" were hits and "To Keep My Love Alive" has been recorded by the likes of Mary Testa, Ella Fitzgerald and Elaine Stritch.

The Bing Crosby film in 1949 used the same source story but a different (and in my opinion inferior) score.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Marilyn: An American Fable

The Smash producers are gauging interest for a full production of Bombshell. The Marilyn Monroe bio-musical has no book but some terrific power ballads. This has encouraged the theater blogs to re-examine past Marilyn Monroe musicals including the campy Marilyn: An American Fable.

Frank Rich, New York Times: "If you read all the fine print in the Playbill for ''Marilyn: An American Fable,'' you'll discover that the new musical at the Minskoff has 16 producers and 10 songwriters. If you mistakenly look up from the Playbill to watch the show itself, you may wonder whether those 26 persons were ever in the same rehearsal room - or even the same city - at the same time."

Ken Mandelbaum, Not Since Carrie: "More than ten numbers and forty-five minutes were dropped before opening night... The show seemed to be the work of eight-year-olds assigned to write a musical about Monroe, so dumb it was almost inspired."

Clips from the original production reveal some terrible songs, but the soaring ballad "You Are So Beyond" has been a breakout hit for earnest tenors.

Less footage remains of London's Marilyn! The Musical which opened the same year. Preliminary research suggests it was a sungthrough popera inspired by Evita. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Musical Theater vs. The Outsider

Hilton Als: "Difference is usually synonymous with danger: it’s the outsider or the outcast who introduces sex and violence into the musical’s relatively moral world. (American musicals almost always argue in favor of the status quo.)"

Scott Miller:  This is also a common device in many musicals, in which the protagonist must either assimilate into the community (as in The Music Man, Brigadoon, La Cage aux Folles, Hello, Dolly!) or be removed (as in Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, Man of La Mancha, Bat Boy, Urinetown).

Stephen Sondheim: "I remember how everyone goes off to the clambake at the end of Act One and Jigger just follows, and he was the only one walking on stage as the curtain came down. I was sobbing."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Panama Hattie

Class war is a staple of an Ethel Merman musical.

Disposable love interests are another. Poor Nick Bullet, the aristocrat, appears once on the song list in a duet with Hattie titled “MyMother Would Love You.” The featured duet in a Merman musical was  a friendship duet. Here it’s “Let’s Be Buddies” where Merman wins over Nick’s spoiled daughter.

The stakes are briefly raised with a terrorist attack (!?) but no mad bomber stands a chance against Ethel. 

Monday, August 10, 2015


Bob Fosse mocks Pippin's rehearsal process in the movie All ThatJazz. The perky composer has written a cheerful show that Fosse’s surrogate keeps twisting with erotic choreography. Pippin is often the least interesting person Pippin. It’s easy for Fosse's style and the flashy supporting roles to overshadow the Everyman plot. 

Scott Miller argues that there’s more to Pippin’s story than many realize see: “The show deals with the coming of age, the rites of passage, the lack of role models and guidelines for the young adults of today's society, and the hopelessness that has become more and more prevalent among young people. Because of its 1970's pop style score and a somewhat emasculated licensed version which is very different from the original Broadway production, the show has a reputation for being merely cute and harmlessly naughty; but if done the way director Bob Fosse envisioned it, the show is surreal and disturbing."

Friday, August 7, 2015

[title of show]

Me: How do we draw a comic about [title of show]?
Me: Well the show is meta. Maybe a meta comic where the characters complain about how they're drawn?
Me: That could be insufferable.
Me: No more time! That's what we're going with.
Me: We need a writing partner.

[title of show] is a deceptive creature. It starts as a Forbidden Broadway type spoof of musical conventions then morphs into a heartfelt look at the pains of being an artist when you fear no one wants your art. The creators left their characters thinly sketched allowing other artists to step into the roles in future productions. In 2012 they wrote a prequel of sorts, titled Now. Here. This. where they shared some stories from their personal backgrounds that led to the creation of nine people's favorite thing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Happy End

Legends say that Bertolt Brecht and his wife, Helene Weigel, sabotaged the opening of their own show to prevent the career of writing partner Elisabeth Hauptmann. Brecht scholars would debate the uncredited role she played in Brecht's prior work and whether she'd meant Happy End to launch an independent career. Helen Weigel staged a political protest in the middle of the performance, audiences booed, and Happy End was temporarily forgotten.

Several songs, including the Bilboa Song and Surabaya Johnny, gained some airplay on their own. The full show would find a new life in 1977 for a short lived Broadway production with Christopher Lloyd and Meryl Streep.

The slight gangsters vs. salvation army plot has been considered a sequel to The Threepenny Opera and a spiritual precursor to Guys and Dolls.