ON THE RECORD: "A Little Night Music" (Soundtrack) and the 1961 Revue Seven Come Eleven

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15 Sep 2013

According to the liner notes, Seven Come Eleven was received as the height of sophistication. Maybe so, but I am somewhat stunned by how decidedly unfunny I find it. Topical comedy dates quickly, yes, and perhaps that's part of the problem. But the other Monk revues I listened to, back in LP days, were far sharper than what we get here. What's more, much of the material in non-Monk topical revues — like the songs in the New Faces series and the comedy in "An Evening With Nichols & May" and "Beyond the Fringe" — holds up quite well today.

Seven Come Eleven includes a song about how unlivable modern New York is, with all those subway breakdowns; a song about new First Lady Jackie Kennedy; a song where the actors comport themselves like school kids, learning about big city scandals; a song about Henry Miller's scandalous novel "Tropic of Cancer," which had until 1961 been banned in the U.S.; a song about grand old hotels being torn down; a Pinafore take-off about a fellow who just loves to sew pinafores; a hymn about the newly-formed Peace Corps; a song about planes hijacked to Cuba; and a song about the John Birch Society.

The live audience at Monk's Upstairs at the Downstairs seems to be having a grand old time, but I don't find any of it funny — that is, except the line deliveries from Mary Louise Wilson. (Monk's revues included many young talents who went on to better things, but Wilson is the only discovery here.) The only out-of-the ordinary track is the one outright showtune in the revue, "I've Found Him." This was indeed a showtune, from All in Love, the Jack Urbont-Bruce Geller musicalization of The Rivals that opened Off-Broadway a month after Seven Come Eleven. (All in Love has a bright and enjoyable cast album on the Mercury label, which would please many listeners if only someone decided reissue it. And yes, lyricist Geller is the same guy who went to Hollywood and devised the hit TV series "Mission: Impossible." This is why the background music on "Mission: Impossible" sometimes intersperses themes from All in Love.) There are also two not-too-funny comedy sketches, one of them a take-off on Tennessee Williams.

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes" as well as “The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations,” “Second Act Trouble,” the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the “Opening Night on Broadway” books. He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)

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