Miss Spectacular, the Jerry Herman musical about a Las Vegas show-girl pageant, commissioned as a Tommy Tune directed attraction for a Vegas hotel-casino, will have its public premiere on a studio cast recording being released June 11 by DRG Records.
An all-star vocal company performs on what's billed as the "2002 studio cast recording" of the show. Miss Spectacular was written as a musical for Las Vegas, although the show has not yet found a home there. Stage producers will naturally prick up their ears to see if the material might be right for Broadway. This is the latest score from the master songwriter who penned Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux folles.
The disc was recorded in 1999 in Burbank, CA, and features a full orchestra, conducted by Don Pippin. The CD is produced by Herman, Pippin and Larry Blank.
Principal singers are veteran Vegas crooner Steve Lawrence, Michael Feinstein, Debbie Gravitte, Faith Prince, Christine Baranski, Davis Gaines and Karen Morrow, along with an ensemble. Songs were apparently not assigned to the performers based on the characters; it's more akin to Cy Coleman's concept album of The Life, which had Broadway and pop stars singing the score (before it was a sure thing as a Broadway show).
Larry Blank handled orchestrations and arrangements, Don Pippin is musical director, vocal arranger and conductor.
Miss Spectacular, the Jerry Herman-Robert Freedman musical, was expected to debut at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, but was postponed, apparently the victim of a buyout of the Mirage chain by the MGM-Grand corporation. This, according to Tommy Tune, who was scheduled to direct the brand-new musical, Herman's first stage work in over a decade.
In April 2001, Herman told a San Francisco-based website, "SFGate," the project was indefinitely tabled.
In an interview with Playbill On-Line, Tune said, regarding Miss Spectacular: "Steve Wynn [the entrepreneur behind Mirage, Inc., which included Vegas casinos Bellagio, Mirage and Treasure Island] was very passionate about it. Jerry's score certainly lives up to the title and I was very excited about directing it. Then something unexpected happened. MGM Grand, the corporation for whom I work, last month suddenly ate the entire Mirage empire, and I haven't heard anymore about it. Technically, MGM-Grand owns Miss Spectacular, but it was Steve's dream and Jerry's genius and, hopefully, my know-how that was to propel the production forward. I'd love to see the show realized. Jerry's score is simply sensational. It would be a spectacular winner."
Freedman penned the book for the highly-watched TV "Cinderella" that starred Brandy. He did the Spectacular libretto, while Herman, as always, wrote the music and lyrics.
Asked about the show's plot, Herman said, "It's about a girl from Indiana who's a finalist at a Las Vegas contest for 'Miss Spectacular.' It's a lovely story. It combines the spectacle expected from Las Vegas with a very human and very touching love story, which has never been done before. Most of the Vegas shows are these mindless revues, like Jubilee. This is Broadway-style musical with very lovely characters and big, big productions."
Continued Herman, "It's a very classy project. And it's one of those times when songs start to pour out of me, and I can't stop them. That's when I know I'm doing the right thing. It's happened twice in my career: with Mame and La Cage aux folles. I could not stop the music."
For years, Herman was tempted to work on an adaptation of the film "Pocketful of Miracles," but he eventually lost interest, and he hasn't done a new show since La Cage (though he scored the TV musical "Mrs. Santa Claus").
— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson, David Lefkowitz and Ellis Nassour