Off-Off-Bway Concert Series, Musicals Tonight!, Will Revive My Favorite Year

News   Off-Off-Bway Concert Series, Musicals Tonight!, Will Revive My Favorite Year Musicals Tonight!, the scrappy Off-Off-Broadway company that presents obscure, lesser-known, cult or forgotten musicals in concert in the East Village, will present six shows in its 2002 2003 season, including My Favorite Year.

Musicals Tonight!, the scrappy Off-Off-Broadway company that presents obscure, lesser-known, cult or forgotten musicals in concert in the East Village, will present six shows in its 2002 2003 season, including My Favorite Year.

Producer Mel Miller announced the lineup at the benefit performances of So Long, 174th Street, Feb 24 25.

Musicals Tonight! will stage concerts of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd (1965) in October 2002; Rodgers and Hart's Chee-Chee (1928) November 2002; Irving Berlin's Stop! Look! Listen! (1915) December 2002; Cole Porter's The New Yorkers (1930) April 2003; Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's My Favorite Year (1992) May 2003; and George and Ira Gershwin's Lady be Good! (1924) June 2003.

Still remaining on the current season are Harold Rome's That's the Ticket (1948) April 9-21 and Irving Berlin's Face the Music (1932) June 11-23.

Single tickets are $19. Performances are in the 14th Street YMHA, 344 E. 14th St. between First and Second Avenues. For information, call (212) 362-5620. *

The not-for-profit Musicals Tonight! operates under an Actors' Equity-approved showcase contract. Artistic director Miller told Playbill On-Line he is a one-man band with a passion for musical theatre and plays, although he's got little background in producing. Armed with a degree in chemical engineering, Miller was a marketing consultant for years before plunging into the risky world of Off-Off-Broadway producing. He is the sole funder of each production, which, per Equity, has a budget limit of $15,000.

The mission of his troupe (for which he makes all the decisions, with the help of a lawyer, an accountant and a few friends he trusts) is to revive "neglected musicals," which, some have suggested to him, is euphemistic for "flops."

"'Neglected' is the eye of the beholder," said Miller, laughing. He admits his tastes may not be mainstream. Since starting in 1998 (presenting at the Lamb's, American Place Theatre and now the 14th Street YMHA), he's revived titles that are exactly chart burners: Let It Ride (1961), So Long, 174th Street (1976), By the Beautiful Sea (1954), Dearest Enemy (1925) and King of Hearts (1978).

But his followers — a mostly gay and elderly crowd, he said — devour the scores. "I'm not getting the Rent crowd, I'm not getting the Stomp crowd or the De La Guarda," he admitted.

He is able to offer twists on the original versions, too, which lure in a passionate musical theatre crowd eager to uncover historical gems or lost songs. For example, he unearthed and presented the King of Hearts script and score as originally envisioned Steve Tesich, before it was altered for Broadway. The Broadway production was a failure. (That script, incidentally, will get a full staging by Goodspeed Musicals in 2002.) When looking for a George S. Irving "type" for a concert revival of So Long, 174th Street, Miller ended up getting original star George S. Irving, who reprised his famous, naughty butler song about Delores Del Rio. (Musicals Tonight! revived its own 1999 concert version Feb. 24-25 as a benefit.) For Look, Ma, I'm Dancin'!, Miller added "lost" and cut songs.

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Manhattan's other concert musical revival series are Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, at City Center, and York Theatre Company's Musicals in Mufti.

— By Kenneth Jones