The Me Nobody Knows, the hit 1970 musical nobody seems to know because its cast album has been out of circulation for decades, finds a spotlight again Sept. 5 with the CD reissue of the score.
The collection of songs inspired by the stories of inner-city kids was embraced Off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre in 1970 and transferred to Broadway to be a unique voice on the commercial landscape. Critics found it to be a breath of fresh air.
Nominated for five Tony Awards, the musical had a score by Gary William Friedman, lyrics by Will Holt and its material was adapted by Robert H. Livingston and Herb Shapiro, based on a 1969 book edited by Stephen M. Joseph. The musical won the 1969-70 Drama Desk and Obie awards for Best Musical.
Livingston directed a cast of fresh-faced kids, including Irene Cara, Northern J. Calloway, Hattie Winston, Beverly Ann Bremers, Gerri Dean, Jose Fernandez, Douglas Grant, Melanie Henderson, Kevin Lindsay, Paul Mace, Laura Michaels and Carl Thoma. Patricia Birch choreographed.
After 30 years, Atlantic Records licensed the rights for a CD re- release of the cast album to 150 Music. Songs from the score include "Light Sings" (which the 5th Dimension recorded) and "This World" (recorded by the Staples Singers). The topical revue has 12 young people singing about drugs, slums, poverty, religion and lighter subjects. The CD is available at specialty shops and Amazon.com, and a wider release it anticipated. An Off-Broadway staging of The Me Nobody Knows is in the works for 2002, according to composer Gary William Friedman (who, with Holt, would later write the musical, Platinum, starring Alexis Smith, and the senior-centered musical, Taking My Turn). Friedman also composed music for TV's "The Electric Company," the educational program that used cast members from The Me Nobody Knows as part of its ensemble.
Visit the 150 Music label at 150music.com.
— By Kenneth Jones