Scandalous Troupers Record Broadway Cast Album

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05 Feb 2013

Carolee Carmello
Carolee Carmello
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The company of the short-lived 2012 Broadway musical Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson reunited to make a joyful — for a cast recording — on Feb. 1.

No label or release date have been announced for the album, which preserves the songs of lyricist Kathie Lee Gifford and composers David Friedman and David Pomeranz. The complete cast — including Carolee Carmello as Aimee, George Hearn as her father and Roz Ryan as a follower — participated in the session in a Manhattan studio.

The track listing is expected to include:

Stand Up!
Minnie's Prayer
Why Can't I?
He Will Be My Home
Come Whatever May
He Will Be My Home (Reprise)
That Sweet Lassie From Cork
Come Whatever May (Reprise)
How Could You?
He Will Be My Home (Reprise)/You Have a Fire
Follow Me (Part 1)
Revival Tent
Boxing Arena
A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do
Follow Me (Part II)
For Such a Time As This
Hollywood Aimee
Adam & Eve
Samson & Delilah
Moses & Pharaoh
It's Just You
Lost or Found?
What Does It Profit?
I Have a Fire

Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Joel Fram. Dance and incidental music arrangements are by Sam Davis. Orchestrations are by Tony Award winner Bruce Coughlin.



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Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, a musical passion project by writer Gifford, closed on Broadway Dec. 9, 2012, following the matinee performance. The biographical tale of McPherson — the famed American spiritual leader whose life was touched by sex, drugs, celebrity, mystery and romance — had been struggling at the box office.

The show opened Nov. 15 following previews from Oct. 13 at the Neil Simon Theatre. It played 31 previews and 29 regular performances. 

For the week ending Dec. 2, the show grossed $370,243, an uptick of more than $175,000 from the previous week's take, owing to a special ticket push by The New York Dream Center, which purchased tickets for area residents affected by Hurricane Sandy. The New York Dream Center is the local arm of The Los Angeles Dream Center, the charity organization founded by McPherson at the height of her fame in the 1920s. More than 1,600 tickets were bought and distributed to those in need the week of Nov. 26, but the theatre was filled only to 37.6 percent of capacity during the week.

Gifford's frequent tub-thumping for the show on NBC's "Today," for which she is a host, could not keep the show afloat. On Dec. 5, when she told her viewers about the show's imminent demise, she cited Hurricane Sandy as a factor in the shuttering, and mentioned that other Broadway shows (Chaplin and The Performers) were similarly impacted. (All three shows were not exactly embraced by critics, either.)

Two-time Tony Award nominee Carmello (Parade, Mamma Mia!, Sister Act) played Aimee her from her youth to her premature death from drugs in 1944 at age 53. She carried the show: Carmello was offstage for only 11 minutes in the entire evening, not counting intermission.

The mix of religious figures and musicals is not unusual on Broadway — think The Book of Mormon, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar and Leap of Faith — but a powerful woman at the center of such an experience is rare (Sister Act notwithstanding). McPherson, who loved to put on religious pageants to move an audience, was internationally known in the 1920s, '30s and '40s — for good deeds, her popular church and one specific public incident involving a purported kidnapping. 

"I've been fascinated since I first heard about her more than 40 years ago, but I've been obsessed for the last 12 years," Gifford told Playbill.com in a wide-ranging interview that touches on the fact that the foundation of McPherson's church is a lead producer of the musical. "I couldn't believe that anybody could've lived that much of a life, and she died at a young age. I was fascinated with her as a woman, a woman of faith, and a woman who accomplished what she did in that time period. She was a fearless, fierce force of nature in feminine form, and we haven't seen anyone like her before or since. If you put together five of the most unbelievable women in the world today, you still wouldn't have what Aimee was."

David Armstrong, artistic director of Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, directed the production, making his Broadway debut. The show appeared at 5th Avenue Theatre in fall 2011 under the title Saving Aimee. (It also had a developmental run at Arlington's Signature Theatre, where it was called Hurricane Aimee.)

Here's how the producers characterized the fact-inspired show: "Set in 1920s Los Angeles, holiness collides with Hollywood in this extraordinary tale of one remarkable woman's charismatic rise to fame amidst scandalous love affairs and growing controversy, inevitably ending in her much-publicized fall from grace."

Edward Watts and Carolee Carmello
photo by Jeremy Daniel

Scandalous also featured Candy Buckley (Cabaret, The Petrified Prince) as Aimee's mother, Minnie; two-time Tony Award winner George Hearn (Sunset Blvd., La Cage aux Folles, Sweeney Todd) in dual roles as James Kennedy and Brother Bob; Edward Watts (Finian's Rainbow) in dual roles as the love of Aimee's life Robert Semple and David Hutton; Roz Ryan (Chicago, Dreamgirls) as Emma Jo Schaeffer; and Andrew Samonsky in dual roles of Harold McPherson and Kenneth Ormiston.

The ensemble cast included Nick Cartell, Joseph Dellger, Erica Dorfler, Carlos L. Encinias, Hannah Florence, Corey Greenan, Benjamin Howes, Karen Hyland, Alison Luff, Jesse Nager, Sam Strasfeld, Betsy Struxness, Elizabeth Ward Land, Billie Wildrick, Dan'yelle Williamson and Matt Wolfe.

Lorin Latarro was the choreographer.

The creative team of Scandalous also includes scenic designer Walt Spangler (Desire Under the Elms), costume designer Gregory A. Poplyk (making his Broadway debut), Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz (Once, Aida) and sound designer Ken Travis (Newsies, Memphis).

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson was produced by Dick and Betsy DeVos, Foursquare Foundation (connected to the church McPherson founded) and in association with The 5th Avenue Theatre (David Armstrong, Executive Producer and Artistic Director; Bernadine Griffin, Managing Director; Bill Berry, Producing Director) and Jeffrey Finn, Executive Producer.

Foursquare Foundation, one of the producers, is affiliated with The Foursquare Church, which McPherson founded. Today, The Foursquare Church has more than 1,800 U.S. churches and almost 60,000 churches and meeting places in 140 countries. Read more about the history of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the organization's official name) here.

Carmello reprised the charismatic role that she played last fall in a Seattle tryout. The 20th-century evangelical superstar Aimee Semple McPherson was the American religious leader who staged provocative illustrated sermons, fed the hungry and famously vanished, claiming she was kidnapped.

Carmello is the versatile powerhouse actress-singer who was Tony Award-nominated for her work in Lestat and Parade. Gifford told Playbill.com that she originally wrote the show for two actresses, but when Carmello was cast, she told Gifford she was up for the challenge of playing the wide range of McPherson's life. This is Carmello's 12th Broadway show, following such titles as Sister Act, The Addams Family, Mamma Mia!, Urinetown and more.

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