What "Flawed" Musical Would You Like to See Revised? Playbill Readers Speak Up

Special Features   What "Flawed" Musical Would You Like to See Revised? Playbill Readers Speak Up The new "revisal" of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever prompted Playbill to reach out to Facebook and Twitter followers for suggestions of shows ripe for a rewrite and revival. Musicals by Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz, Tim Rice, Lerner & Loewe, Cy Coleman and more made the list.

John Cullum and Barbara Harris in the original On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
John Cullum and Barbara Harris in the original On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Photo by Bert Andrews Photography

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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, the 1965 Broadway musical recognized for its lush and melodic score and its bizarre plot about reincarnation, ESP and the human power to will plants to grow at an accelerated rate, has been reinvented by director Michael Mayer and playwright Peter Parnell for a current Broadway revival, using interpolated songs and new plot points.

"I know that the book needed something," original star John Cullum told Playbill.com recently. "It didn't work that well… The music was gorgeous. I tried to rewrite some of the lines and get the book a little straighter. It was long-winded, particularly for the part I played, but I didn't do anything nearly as drastic as these people are doing — and I hope it succeeds."

It got us wondering about other flawed musicals that might be ripe for rebirth, with some tinkering. (What does "flawed" mean? It's up for debate, of course. That's another story.) We reached out via Facebook and Twitter (@Playbill) to ask Playbill readers what shows with muscular scores would they like to see again, but with fresh elements — plot, creative teams, stars — attached.

Here are five suggestions from our readers:

Jill Paice and Euan Morton in Chess at Virginia's Signature Theatre, 2010.
photo by Scott Suchman

Adam Adolfo Yzaguirre from Dallas, TX, and Matt Orell from Randolph, MA, via Facebook, and @imsarahmoore on Twitter, picked the rock musical Chess by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. The original musical about the rivalry between two chess stars — an American and a Russian — and the woman they love, premiered in London and was later revised for its 1988 Broadway premiere (with a new book by Richard Nelson). The show, since seen in concert, regional and U.K. revival productions, spawned the songs "I Know Him So Well" and "One Night in Bangkok." Orell wrote, "I'd love to see a version of Chess that manages to A.) Stay faithful to the London score but B.) manages to resolve the issue of Florence's father."

Teresa Stratas and Larry Kert in Rags.
photo by Carol Rosegg

Via Twitter, @StevenCopp mentioned Rags, the short-lived 1986 musical by librettist Joseph Stein, lyricist Stephen Schwartz and composer Charles Strouse, which offered an original story of Eastern European immigrants making a home in New York City in 1910. The show played 18 previews and four regular performances, but has lived on in the imaginations of show fans due to its cast album (which featured guest artist Julia Migenes singing the role created by Teresa Stratas). The title was on Matt Orell's wish list, too: "That score is amazing! Let's get a book that does it justice, yeah?" As a matter of fact, Playbill.com recently reported about a revised version of the show.

Michael Rupert and Joy Franz in Pippin.

Colleen Hulse of Green Lane, PA, via Facebook, would like to see Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson's Pippin, the funky musical rumination on the human experience (touching on such universal question as parents, war, love, sex, freedom, purpose) featuring a Leading Player and a band of actors telling the story of medieval ruler Charlemagne's son, Pippin. The show had a healthy run of nearly 2,000 performances, so it apparently wasn't all that flawed in the minds of audiences of the 1970s. But its failure to surface commercially since then may have something to do with the perhaps dated loosely-goosey hippie-friendly performance style (Bob Fosse was the director and choreographer, and the TV ad he directed for the show helped feed the box office). "Pippin needs an update," wrote @DanielcJackson via Twitter. "A modern push would be nice." The musical is currently playing at London's Menier Chocolate Factory (in a "high-concept" version), and here's a report about a possible Broadway-aimed revival (with revisions!).

Meg Bussert in the 1980 revival of Brigadoon.

The wish of @thevonada on Twitter is a revised revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1947 musical fantasy Brigadoon, about two post-World War II pals who go hunting in Scotland and come across an ancient village lost in time. The lush score includes "The Heather on the Hill," "Almost Like Being in Love" and "There But For You Go I." A Broadway-aimed revisal under the direction of Rob Ashford (with a newly adapted book) fell apart in 2008. Some have noted an imbalance in the show's assignment of songs (lovesick Tommy gets choice material, but his jaded pal Jeff never sings), while other modern viewers question the logic of the show's magic spell. In 2010, the show's original cast album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Imogene Coca in On the 20th Century
photo by Martha Swope

The wish list of @antesky43402m via Twitter included On the 20th Century, the 1978 musical comedy that mixes Jazz Age musical muscle and comic opera to tell the story of a desperate producer wooing his ex-lover and Hollywood star to a project as the race across the country on the New York Central Railroad's 20th Century Limited. A style piece inspired by the play Twentieth Century, the show has book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Cy Coleman. The show may be "flawed" only in the sense that its ending seems abrupt and underwritten; devotees of the score, however, say its tone, muscular brass and consistent style make it worth the trip. Kristin Chenoweth has said she intends to star in a future Broadway revival. She played movie star Lily Garland in a recent Roundabout Theatre Company reading of the Tony Award-winning show (with Hugh Jackman and Andrea Martin). We say, "All aboard!"

Lauren Tom and Gary Beach rehearsing Doonesbury.
photo by Martha Swope

Here are some other titles that Playbill readers suggested as being in need of "revisal": Side Show, Mack and Mabel, Carmelina, The Grass Harp and 70, Girls, 70 (Jeff Geddes of Waukegan, IL, via Facebook); Minnie's Boys (John Scott Ross of Springfield, OH, via Facebook); Last of the Red Hot Mamas (Candice Stanton Chapman from Oregon, via Facebook); Anyone Can Whistle and Bye Bye Birdie (Andrew Hollis via Facebook); Fiorello! (Mitchell Maged of New Jersey and Christine Walsh via Facebook); Camelot (Lisa Dabbs via Facebook); Urban Cowboy (@jezemelody via Twitter); Dear World (@tennorman via Twitter); Cole Porter's Jubilee (@petricat666 via Twitter); Breakfast at Tiffany's (@Baltimore21201 via Twitter); Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (@StageCenterNow via Twitter); Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamlisch's Smile (@MLGiannini via Twitter); Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (@kevinddaly via Twitter); Jane Eyre and Baby (@Bflood28 via Twitter); Doonesbury or Alan Jay Lerner's Lolita, My Love (from our own @PlaybillMattB via Twitter); I Love My Wife and A Class Act (Jim Crowther from Cincinnati, OH, via Facebook); Side Show (Victoria Elizabeth Roberts via Facebook); Candide (Don G. Wilson of Pleasanton, CA, via Facebook); Mack and Mabel and Do I Hear a Waltz? (Jeremy Cole of San Francisco, CA, via Facebook); Ballroom and The Grand Tour (Peter Schmidt of Novi, MI, via Facebook); Allegro (Chip Eyers of Swarthmore, PA, via Facebook); The Baker's Wife and Fields of Ambrosia (Glenn Parker from Phoenix, AZ, via Facebook).

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Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.

Jeff McCarthy, Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley and Hugh Panaro in <i>Side Show</i>.
Jeff McCarthy, Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley and Hugh Panaro in Side Show. Photo by Joan Marcus
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