By Kenneth Jones
20 Jan 2004
The saucy musical revue of Ruth Wallis songs, subtitled The World According to Ruth Wallis, moved to Manhattan's midtown theatre district Dec. 19, 2003.
The Triad Theatre on 72nd Street was the show's home since May 8, 2003. It ended there Nov. 30 and now plays (with an all-new set by Eric Harriz and some new cast members) on West 54th Street, where producer and choreographer Lawrence Leritz told Playbill On-Line the show has enjoyed more walkup and theatre-crowd traffic.
Dillon's is the former home of Our Sinatra, at 245 W. 54th Street, across the street from Studio 54. The performance room in the back of the restaurant-bar Dillon's seats 99.
In December, Clyde Alves (2000 Astaire Award Winner for the Susan Stroman's revival of The Music Man), Alena Watters (Brooklyn), Stacey Scottie (Strictly Personal) and Katie Pees joined the earlyier 2003 cast members Leslie Ann Hendricks, Benji Randall, Tim Cross and David Villella.
For ticket information, call (212) 579-2155. For more information, visit www.boobsthemusical.com.
There is much regional and international interest in the musical revue, Leritz said. In her day, songwriter-singer Wallis' records were popular in England, Australia and New Zealand, even though her discs had a history of being confiscated in Australia, Leritz explained.
A cast album deal is in the works. A Chicago staging is expected for spring 2004.
What's the secret of success for the show with the naughtiest title in town? Leritz said it's the crossover appeal. Despite the dirty double entendre song titles and content, the staging is nice as can be.
"The songs are really pretty clean," Leritz said. "When people ask about buying tickets, they ask if there's any cussing. I say, 'No, all the dirtiness is in your mind.' It totally plays to a huge audience. We have 20-year-olds on dates and we have senior citizens who have Ruth Wallis records in their attic."
Kids attend the show and see a man wearing a costume of a little boat around him for "The Dinghy Song" (arguably songwriter-comedienne Wallis' best-known song). Their parents and grandparents like the song for another reason.
"He's got the cutest little dinghy in the Navy, and all the girlies know that it's so," goes the song. "Just for a lark he went and painted it green. It's the only green dinghy that the girls have ever seen."
Although there is a book to the show, by Steve Mackes and Michael Whaley, Leritz said the experience is essentially a musical revue (subtitled The World According to Ruth Wallis). It tells the story of Wallis and her career in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
The 20 or so numbers — presented by a company of six — are the focus of the show. It's the sort of production where the song, "Pizza," includes a girl wearing a dress shaped like a pizza pie.
"It's the hit every night, and she's chased around for a slice," Leritz said in summer 2003. "The costume designers made the front slice removable..."
Donna Drake directs the staging, which began May 8 and opened May 19 at The Triad. The cast (slightly changed from the spring) recently included Brad Bradley, Leslie Ann Hendricks, Tim Cross, J. Brandon Savage, Kelly Anne Wilson and Rebecca Young.
Wallis, who is now a widowed "sweet little grandmother living in Connecticut," according to Leritz, was a sensation overseas and in Canada, but her self-produced records were never played on the radio in the U.S.; they were considered smut in the era of postwar conformity.
A compilation disc of Wallis' original recordings was recently released under the title "Boobs: Ruth Wallis' Greatest Hits." The 19-track CD includes "Drill 'Em All," "Queer Things," "Marriage Jewish Style," "Freddie the Fisherman's Son," "The Pop-Up Song," "The Bell Song," "The Same Little Yo-Yo," "De Gay Young Lad," "Hawaiian Lei Song" and more. She is billed as "the queen of the party records."
The revue includes one serious song, "All the Clowns," which Leritz said is another highlight of the show because it's so unexpected.
Boobs! The Musical came about when Wallis made a call to the powerful agency ICM to pitch a musical using her songs. Mitch Douglas at ICM had been a longtime fan and gathered a creative team together. A workshop in 2000 was popular and led to the current staging, with wild costumes by Robert Pease (who is also a co-producer) and J. Kevin Draves. Stephen Bocchino handles musical direction and arrangements. Bobby Harrell is lighting designer. Wig design is by Corvette.
According to her show bio, "Ruth is a veteran of 10 comedy albums, which sold worldwide for over two decades. She traveled extensively, as an international star doing her own songs and appeared in top supper clubs in Las Vegas, Miami and was a sensation and sell out on her tours of Australia, London and New Zealand. In the '60s, her albums enjoyed great success and were released on her own Wallis Originals label. 'The Dinghy Song' sold 250,000 copies. She has also turned her vast talents to creating several scripts for the musical comedy stage."