Evocative of its time, when socially-conscious musicals and plays were making inroads in commercial theatre, The Me Nobody Knows told the story of a handful of disenfranchised New York City kids, most of them African-American or Puerto Rican. The action was set in "New York's Ghetto."
The idea for the show was hatched by Mr. Schapiro and was based on the book of the same name, a collection of student writing by the teacher Stephen M. Joseph. Mr. Schapiro contributed lyrics to a score composed by Gary William Friedman (music) and Will Holt (lyrics) that combined elements of rock, jazz and classical music. The production opened at the Orpheum Theatre May 18, 1970, with a cast featuring a young Irene Cara. It was praised by critics and moved to Broadway in December of that year, where it ran for nearly a year.
"What I cherished about the show is the talent and vitality of the cast, the bubble of its playfulness, the raciness of its expression which, with or without the advantages of privileged training among the actors, is still the product of the streets in the dim and sequestered parts of our town," wrote critic Harold Clurman.
Two songs from the score were recorded by commercial artists: "Light Sings" (which the 5th Dimension recorded) and "This World" (recorded by the Staples Singers).
It was nominated for five Tony Awards, but won none. It did win an Obie Award for Best Musical. Thereafter, the show received many productions across the United States. In 1980, the musical was produced for Showtime as part of the "Broadway on Showtime" series. Herbert Schapiro was born Jan. 20, 1929, in Brooklyn. He was educated at NYU, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in literature. He served in the Army during the Korean War.