RUNNING OUT OF REVIVALS?
As long as there are institutional theatres like the Roundabout, Circle in the Square, and the National Actors Theatre, there will be revivals of classic plays on Broadway. And that's not to mention the commercial straight play revivals which turn up each season, such as the recent An Ideal Husband and the current Present Laughter.
But there's no question that Broadway has been especially enlivened in recent years by an abundance of musical revivals which have, in several cases, proved to be events equal in excitement to the major new musicals. This writer counts at the top of the list the 1989 Gypsy starring Tyne Daly, and three Oscar Hammerstein II revivals: the Royal National Theatre/Lincoln Center Carousel, the Livent/Hal Prince Show Boat, and the current The King and I.
Other notable successes and long-runners in the field have included A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anything Goes, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Grease!, and Damn Yankees.
But will producers run out of shows to resuscitate? There are still many titles left, but for some of them, the right combination of talents has yet to present itself. This season's pre-Broadway tours of Applause and Funny Girl were halted after just a few engagements, indicating that there are certain musicals that, no matter how successful and acclaimed they were in their original productions, remain so identified with their original stars that a New York return may be out of the question until just the right performer comes along. One of the longest-running musicals still awaiting Broadway revival, the 1956 Judy Holliday vehicle Bells Are Ringing,"be another show that, in terms of revivability, falls into the same category as Funny Girl (both are Jule Styne musicals, although another Styne hit, Gypsy, has long since proven itself to be adaptable to stars other than the original).
By the time it comes to an end in May, this Broadway season will have welcomed four musical revivals: In order of appearance, they are Chicago, Once Upon A Mattress, Annie, and Candide. As of this writing, the only musical revivals set for the 1997-98 season are to be offered by the not-for-profit Roundabout, which is planning 1776 for July, Cabaret (in a production postponed from this season and presumably still headed our way), and Little Me starring Martin Short. But not a single commercial musical revival is set. There is talk of The Sound of Music starring Melissa Errico, who was Eliza Doolittle in the 1993 revival of My Fair Lady but who became much hotter after starring in last year's City Center Encores! concert version of One Touch of Venus (and Errico in a full scale Venus is also a revival possibility). In terms of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, I would say that South Pacific is more in need of revival (although more difficult to bring off) than The Sound of Music, and Errico might be even more interesting as Nellie Forbush than as Maria von Trapp. Easily the most acclaimed musical in Broadway history still awaiting revival, the 1948 show Kiss Me, Kate has had a couple of announced but aborted attempts; there can be little doubt, however, that it will eventually find its way back to Broadway. Livent is developing a revised Pal Joey, with Terrence McNally working on book alterations and Donna Murphy a possibility for a leading role. Patti LuPone is at the top of the list to star in Annie Get Your Gun, which hasn't been seen on Broadway since Ethel Merman recreated her original role in a limited-run Music Theatre of Lincoln Center revival in 1966.
This March, England's Royal National Theatre is presenting one of the more tantalizing titles, the 1941 Kurt Weill Ira Gershwin-Moss Hart Lady in the Dark, in a new production directed by opera stager Francesca Zambello; if it succeeds, it is a likely bet for Broadway transfer, just as the company's Carousel was. Many people would like to see Follies return, but its size and the fact that its original Broadway and London stagings were not financial successes may mean that the only possible New York venue would be City Opera. And Finian's Rainbow will open the season at the Goodspeed Opera House in April. So, if it's possible that the flow of musical revivals to Broadway may eventually slow somewhat, it would be unfair to conclude that the well is in danger of running dry.
Here's more information on the recent reading of the new version of High Society that this column was the first anywhere to note. As previously mentioned, this one has a book by Arthur Kopit and direction by Christopher Renshaw. Paul Gemignani served as musical director for the reading, and Susan Birkenhead has written some additional lyrics for the score, which otherwise consists entirely of Cole Porter songs. The cast included Melissa Errico, Howard McGillin, Jere Shea, Randy Graff, John McMartin, Marc Kudisch, Frank Converse, Linda Stephens, Lisbeth Ann Zelle, Nancy Opel, Donna Lee Marshall, Peter Flynn, and Christopher Yates. The reading was offered as part of this season's Friends of Roundabout Playreading Series, and if the show goes to full production, Roundabout could be involved as co-producer with Lauren Mitchell, the actress (City of Angels, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Into The Woods, Annie 2) developing the project.
As for the songs included in this version (at least at this stage): Held over from the High Society film are "True Love," "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?," "Little One," "I Love You, Samantha," "You're Sensational," and "Well, Did You Evah!," the latter originally from DuBarry Was A Lady.
Also used: "I'm Throwing A Ball Tonight," "Ridin' High," "I Am Loved," "I Love Paris," "You've Got That Thing," "I Worship You," "I'm Getting Myself Ready For You," "Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye," "Let's Misbehave," "Once Upon A Time," "He's A Right Guy," and "Wild, Wild Wedding Bells."
Speaking of Arthur Kopit, he is also writing the book for the musical Zhivago, based on Doctor Zhivago, with music by Lucy Simon, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, to be directed by Jeremy Sams.
Greenwillow, the short-lived 1960 Broadway musical that had a lovely Frank Loesser score but a problematic book by Loesser and Lesser Samuels, gets another chance in a production running February 5-15 at the Florida State University School of Theatre. This production, directed by John Degen, features a revised book by Douglas Holmes and Walter Willison that augments the original, and a pair of restored songs.
Three performers in next week's Encores! production of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II show Sweet Adeline at City Center have recently been associated with another Kern-Hammerstein show. In the Livent/Hal Prince Show Boat, Dorothy Loudon, who will play Lulu in Adeline, played Parthy in the Chicago company, while Patti Cohenour (who will play Addie) and Hugh Panaro, the second Magnolia and Ravenal in the Toronto production of the same revival, have other leads. Adeline was written as a vehicle for Helen Morgan after her Show Boat success as Julie, which means that Cohenour, a Magnolia, will be playing a role written for the original Julie.
In addition to his lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Webber's music in Whistle Down The Wind, Jim Steinman is composing the music for Dance of the Vampires, a new rock opera based on the `67 Roman Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers, premiering in October at Vienna's Raimund Theatre. Michael Kunze is librettist, Polanski will direct, and Uwe Kroeger, star of Elisabeth in Vienna and Miss Saigon and Sunset Boulevard in Germany, has been announced for the leading role.
Speaking of Whistle Down The Wind, Andrew Lloyd Webber has recycled most of the melody of the Song and Dance song "English Girls" for the Whistle song "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts."
I've received a number of inquiries about the contents of the forthcoming Unsung Musicals III from Varese Sarabande. Included on the May release will be the opening number (music by Stephen Schwartz) from Personals, followed by numbers from Freaky Friday (music by Mary Rodgers), performed by Patrick Levis and Tammy Minoff; A Christmas Carol (Michel Legrand- Sheldon Harnick)/ Sal Viviano; A Wonderful Life (Harnick-Joe Raposo)/ Glory Crampton and Jason Graae/Brent Barrett; To Whom It May Concern (Carol Hall)/ Alet Oury; Smile (Marvin Hamlisch-Howard Ashman), Diana Canova in Maria's recipe song; Here's Where I Belong/ Glory Crampton; A Mother's Kisses (Richard Adler)/ Melissa Hart; The Bone Room (Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt)/ Guy Haines; Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen/ Patricia Ben Peterson; Brownstone/ Kristine Fraelich and Jolie Jenkins; Diamonds (Hundreds of Hats by Jonathan Sheffer and Howard Ashman)/ Jason Graae; Babe (Menken-Ashman)/ Debbie Gravitte; and Murder at the Vanities (Don Oliver and David Spencer)/ Harry Groener.
With the return of Julie Andrews to Victor/Victoria, the songs “Crazy World” (replaced for Liza Minnelli with “Who Can I Tell?”) and “If I Were A Man” have been restored. “Louis Says,” dropped even before Minnelli came in, is still out. But perhaps fans of the number can start a campaign to get it back on Broadway, albeit across the street from where it was originally performed. Could not “Louis Says,” the work of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse, be put into another musical by the same authors, Jekyll & Hyde? Leading lady Linda Eder does play a cabaret performer, after all, and “Louis Says” could be her second-act club number, to complement her first act “Bring On The Men.” Then again, perhaps it's best to leave those now-unused “Louis” costumes locked up at the Marquis.
In response to my recent question about a leading lady for a potential, major revival of Evita, I've received two votes for Judy Kuhn, one for Claire Moore, and one for Anne Runolfsson.
THEATRE CDs OF THE WEEK
It's nice to see that MCA has at last returned to reissuing show titles from the Decca catalogue and other labels under its jurisdiction. Last year, they gave us a four-CD box set of selections from everything in the MCA show vaults, followed by the Mary Martin combo of One Touch of Venus and Lute Song. Some might have preferred to see issued next the lon/g-promised CD transfers of the ABC-Paramount cast albums of Applause and Fade Out- Fade In, but I'm delighted that we have gotten Destry Rides Again before them. First of all, clean, playable LP copies of the Decca cast album of this 1959 David Merrick production, based on a story that had already been a fine James Stewart-Marlene Dietrich film, were hard to come by. Second, Harold Rome (Pins and Needles, Wish You Were Here, Fanny, I Can Get It For You Wholesale)'s score is extremely solid, entertaining, and too little known. Above all, though, it's star belter Dolores Gray's virtuoso singing that makes this recording a must. Listen to any one of her cuts here and be dazzled by her incomparable vocal prowess; program all her tracks for continuous play on your CD player, then sit back and wallow in one of Broadway's finest golden-age voices (I'd say it's the most attractive of them all). That's not to say, of course, that leading man Andy Griffith isn't absolutely perfect too. As a recent Music Theatre of Wichita revival (with Steel Pier's Alison Bevan and Big's Ray Wills in the leads) demonstrated, Destry deserves to get produced more often than it does. And please don't confuse MCA's Destry Rides Again with TER's CD of the 1982 small-scale London production, which doesn't come close.
Also recommended is MCA's other new show reissue, Decca's cast recording of the short-lived 1954 Broadway revival of On Your Toes. While the successful 1983 Broadway revival (which remains, along with revivals I listed at the top of this column, one of the finest resuscitations of the last two decades) produced a TER/ Polydor cast recording that is not only well performed but more comprehensive and authentic (with the original, 1936 Hans Spialek orchestrations), the '54 set is delightful. Elaine Stritch is in peak vocal form, and her three tracks are the chief attraction. Bobby Van is a strong leading man, and Kay Coulter is pleasing in the ingenue part, although she doesn't equal Christine Andreas on the '83 set. Don Walker's orchestrations may not be the originals, but they're nonetheless nifty and reek of Broadway in the '50s, and it should go without saying that the Rodgers and Hart score is terrific.
QUIZ OF THE WEEK
Who starred in the British (non-London) premiere of Lady in the Dark in 1981? Answer to last week's quiz: In 1963, Julie Harris starred at the ANTA (now the Virginia) Theatre in June Havoc's Marathon '33, set, like Steel Pier, at a 1933 marathon dance competition.
Scott Whiteley Carter of Little Rock, Arkansas wonders: In preparation for the new musical Titanic opening (and an exhibit on the Titanic in Memphis), I have been thinking about other Titanic references. I know the Gigantic was in Little Me and the Titanic was in Cavalcade (which isn't really a musical) and was curious if the Titanic had been featured in musicals other than Hello Again and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
KM: I think your list is rather complete, but perhaps someone can suggest other musicals with at least a trace of the Titanic.
Dan Lega asks: Perhaps in your Playbill column you could tell us all what ever happened to the PBS recording of the musical A Secret Garden? It seems that I remember reading that the songs were recorded (to lipsynch against?) but then I never heard anymore! Where did it go?
KM: The Secret Garden was to have been taped four to five years ago. Although PBS announced dates for the telecast as part of its Great Performances series, the taping never took place. When I inquired about it subsequently, I was told that it was still a possibility, and that the recent Australian production starring Anthony Warlow, Philip Quast and Marina Prior might be the one preserved. That production is now closed, but it is to be the basis of a forthcoming London production. It's possible, therefore, that the taping could still happen, although, with six years having passed since the show's Broadway premiere, it looks less likely now. A similar situation happened with the New York City Opera production of 110 in the Shade, scheduled for taping during its fall 1992 run, but never actually taped. It looks like Sondheim musicals are now about the only ones that get taped for PBS.
Elliot Friedman wants to know: Given all the lousy shows that have been released on CD, there are two of my favorites (equally obscure) that are nowhere to be found: Golden Rainbow (Steve and Eydie's only Broadway show together) and Maggie Flynn (Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy never sounded better). Any ideas on who I can lobby to get these issued. I can't be the only one that would like to get them.
KM: In the case of Maggie Flynn,as with any other show title you would like to see released, you could try contacting the label. In most cases, the only solution is patience, and it's possible that RCA will eventually get around to reissuing titles like Maggie Flynn. In the case of Golden Rainbow, however, I believe that that album is owned by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme; they leased it as an LP to RCA Victor under the label Calendar, and I imagine they still control the rights to it. Golden Rainbow deserves reissue if only because it is trash fun of a high order (and Eydie's singing is luscious).
BloodRomeo writes: I dug out my video of the TV version of Mary Martin's Peter Pan, and I had a vague recollection of another TV version starring Mia Farrow. Was this the same musical, or was it even a musical at all? Good to see you and Mr. Filichia online.
KM: In December, 1976, Hallmark Hall of Fame aired a new TV musical version of Peter Pan, with Mia Farrow and Danny Kaye as Peter and Hook, Virginia McKenna as Mrs. Darling, and a new score by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. This version was probably created because the Mary Martin version had at the time ceased its periodic broadcasts; the new version had little to recommend it (its score was particularly dismal), and it quickly vanished. While it still exists on video, no LP of the score was released.