Four days before Christmas 1978, while his smash musical Annie was still in the second year of its long run, composer Charles Strouse watched his backstage show A Broadway Musical open and close on the same night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
Written with his longtime lyricist partner Lee Adams, the show was inspired by their experience working on the 1964 Sammy Davis musical Golden Boy. They collaborated with librettist Wiliam F. Brown, whose hit The Wiz was also still running, to tell the story of a black author whose serious play is turned into a highly commercialized vehicle for a Las Vegas star.
Despite a title that seemed to suggest the also still-running A Chorus Line, and a score that included the titles “Smashing, New York Times,” “You Gotta Have Dancing,” “Lawyers,” “Broadway, Broadway,” and “Yente Power,” A Broadway Musical suffered a tumultuous out-of-town tryout, the replacement of its director, and a set of punishing reviews. It closed after a single performance, Strouse & Adams’ shortest Broadway run. (Strouse endured another one-performance musical, Dance a Little Closer, with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner.)
This “lost” score by the composer of Bye Bye Birdie and Applause will get a rare public airing 7 and 9:30 PM July 16 when it is performed at Feinstein’s/54 Below cabaret in New York, with a cast that includes Major Attaway (the current Genie in Aladdin), Glory Crampton (Rothschild & Sons), and Jason Graae (Spamilton).
Original cast members Larry Marshall (Richie Taylor), Gwen Arment (Rehearsal Pianist), Maris Clement (Smoke & Fire Back-Up Singer/Ensemble), and Michael Kubala (Ensemble) will be on hand to recreate their roles.
The upcoming concert performance of A Broadway Musical will also feature Clifton Davis (Aladdin, Two Gentlemen of Verona), Sarah Routh Ellis (A Gentleman’’ Guide To Love & Murder), Larry Marshall (The Color Purple), Kyle Scatliffe (The Color Purple), and Neva Small (Henry, Sweet Henry). The ensemble will consist of Roger Dawley, Sean C Green Jr, Kyle Javon, Mychael Leverage, Lethabo Moffome, Paris Alexander Nesbitt, Ruby Shadley, Alexia Sielo, and Rebecca Spigelman.
Robert W. Schneider, of Behind the Curtain: Broadway’s Living Legends, is directing and producing the concert. Joshua Zecher Ross will be music director; Andrew Garrett Karl will serve as projections designer
Schneider said, “We are over the moon that such an incredible group of veterans and newcomers are joining forces to bring this score to life. Their dedication and enthusiasm are a testament to Mr. Strouse and Mr. Adams’ wonderful work.”
Tickets cost $30–$65, plus a food/beverage minimum of $25, and can be purchased at the box office, 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan, or ordered online at 54below.com.