When Street Corner Symphony regularly took in less than $100,000 in weekly box office grosses at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, one began to worry about the show's fate. Then, with the news that Wait Until Dark had booked the Atkinson as its Broadway home, one really worried about the fate of Symphony.
And so the inevitable came: Street Corner Symphony posted a closing notice Jan. 15, and will end its run Feb. 1, after 25 previews and 79 regular performances.
A pop & soul music revue, Street Corner Symphony, initially rescheduled its opening from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24 after numerous changes were made in previews. The show is conceived, choreographed and staged by Marion J. Caffey.
The closing is especially bad news for cast-member Jose Llana, since he played the leading role of Gabey in the summer 1997 Central Park revival of On the Town and would have soon joined that cast -- had that show not postponed its spring Broadway move.
Also featured in Symphony are Victor Trent Cook, a Tony Award nominee for Smokey Joe's Cafe, and Carol Dennis, Stacy Francis, Catherine Morin, C.E. Smith, Debra Walton and Eugene Fleming. Kenneth Waissman, a co-producer of the original Grease, as well as Agnes Of God and Torch Song Trilogy, is producing the show with Bryan Bantry.
Street Corner Symphony first tried out in February at West Palm Beach's new Burt Reynolds Theatre Institute. Waissman caught the production there and immediately wanted in.
Waissman told Playbill On-Line (July 23) that the show was enthusiastically received and basically sold-out for its run. "I was sent reviews for the production in West Palm. It just hit my gut. I hopped on a plane and hit it off with Marion -- who was in the Jelly Roll! national tour and put together Blackbirds Of Broadway in New England. He sensed a re-fascination with the 60s and 70s."
"It's a very in-your-face retrospective," said Waissman, "from the innocent music of the early 60s to the more political late 60s, to the soul music of the 70s. Watching the baby boomers in the audience have this emotional response to the music made me realize this is an entertainment that could really work."
Waissman told Playbill On-Line, "the first half of the show is done more revue-style with some dialogue, so the characters have personality. The second is a glittering '70s rock concert."
Songs in the show include the early numbers, "He's So Fine" and "Baby Workout," as well as such kooky dances of the era as "The Mashed Potato," "The Swim," and "The Frug."
Waissman said later years will touch on Neil Young's "Ohio" (about the Kent State student massacre) and "a gospelly `American Pie.'" Then it's on to the 70s with "Soul Train," "Soul Man," and "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing." Tributes to soul legends will also fill the show, including a special section devoted to Morris King, who created the staging and choreography for many 1970s soul and/or Motown groups. "He had tremendous influence on what we look at in concerts," Waissman said.
Most musicals take years to get to Broadway, but Waissman is actually used to a quick journey from start-up to opening night: "When I produced Grease, it started in Chicago in the summer of '71, and within nine months we were on Broadway. You just have to go on instinct. When I announced I was producing Torch Song Trilogy, people told me no one would come to see it. But I figured the visceral response would turn people on."
For tickets or information, call (212) 307-4100.